And really, were they ever? They are, and have been, at the root of so many problems. Today, dealers in Zimbabwe began selling rough diamonds mined from a territory where human rights activists say soldiers killed 200 people, raped women and forced children into hard labor. But even these stark facts barely qualify as news, now that the blood diamond trade has been flourishing for years. In fact, it seems the world forgot about blood diamonds until Naomi Campbell was subpoenaed to testify against former Liberian President Charles Taylor for the “dirty little pebbles” he supposedly gave her at a charity dinner sponsored by Nelson Mandela. Funny how the media has always embraced ad campaigns for diamonds aimed at manipulating women, and then when the product appears to have a tarnished rep, uses a supermodel to shed light on the injustices of the diamond industry. Feel stereotyped yet? Yep, you should.
So the story comes around full circle; here is a little history lesson on the origin of the blood diamond (thank you for the research, Lisa).
In the late nineteenth century a fifteen year old boy found a diamond in (what was) Cape Colony that he then gave to his neighbor who was a stone collector. The stone was passed along, admired for its magnificence until it reached the World’s Fair in Paris, France where it was named the “Eureka” diamond. Years later, an 83k diamond was again found in the same place and was nicknamed “The Star of Africa.” This huge diamond was sold a few times, and then eventually reached such glory that it sparked the diamond rush in South Africa.
The next part gets a little confusing. De Beers (recognize that name?) came up with a new type of advertising marketed towards women, to increase the value of the diamond. They decided they would limit the amount of diamonds sold and that would therefore increase the value; hence the origin of the slogan “A Diamond is Forever.”
Not surprisingly, it was this slogan that deemed diamonds the perfect representational object for love, as they became immensely popular as engagement and anniversary gifts.
But, when the demand for diamonds went up and the supply went down, that’s when people outside of the diamond industry realized that they could turn quite a profit from them. When armies such as the Revolutionary United Front began mining and reaping the financial gain from the diamonds, they used the profits to purchase arms which then were used to murder and kidnap children and force them into the army. When it was time to vote, these rebel armies cut off the hands of civilians so they could not use their thumbprint to cast their vote. Moreover, armies took civilians as slaves and forced them to mine for diamonds or die. The violence was so bad that the U.N was called in to handle the situation, and in summary, established VOLUNTARY guidelines to regulate diamonds.
I remember several years ago driving past a billboard advertising a diamond around Christmas time. The billboard was a picture of a diamond ring in a box and the slogan said, “Your box so you can get into hers.” And what came before that ad? Rape? Murder? For a rock? For a socially-institutionalized idea of love? No thank you.
image from diamondboycott.com