Diamonds: Pulling the wool over love’s eyes

Last week I read an article that summarized all that is wrong with the diamond industry fairly well. Dhar wrote “Diamonds are a sham and it’s time we stop getting engaged with them,” for Business Insider, where the lack of investment of this refined rock was explored, as well as the history of its ride into the limelight and wedding “necessity”.

Workers at government-run mine in Sierra Leone panning for diamonds in water/river.

Workers pan for diamonds at a government-run mine in Sierra Leone. Al Qaeda is known to have made millions of dollars from the sale of diamonds mined illegally by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone. Chris Hondros/Getty Images (From http://money.howstuffworks.com/african-diamond-trade.htm)

However, one of the most convincing arguments against a diamond, in my opinion, is that the preservation of life is worth far more. Blood Diamonds, a book by Campbell (2002), explored the history of De Beers’ exploit of Sierra Leone diamonds and the resulting “conflict diamonds”. People literally die in order to bring diamonds to a jewelry store near you. Somehow the concept of a death rock does not say, “I love you,” to me.  I cannot wrap my head around those two concepts (death and love) peacefully coexisting. (I do know several people who have opted to purchase used rings or stones. To be more socially responsible, I’m much more comfortable with that option. None of this is to say that if you like diamonds that you’re a bad person. It’s not that simple and, ultimately, it’s a choice.)

Provided that the tradition that goes along with marriage and diamond rings also dovetails with the history of a privileged (redundant much?) upperclass heterosexual patriarchy, the expectation of buying a diamond that costs “two months’ salary” – which in some cases the expectation is three or more?! – there are a lot of embedded expectations for men and masculinity coupled with that rock. I was happy to read that Dhar explored the “status symbol” of a diamond and how De Beers created a marketing campaign to manipulate men’s sense of diminishing masculinity during the Great Depression. A diamond isn’t a symbol of love, it’s a token of capitalism and marketing genius on behalf of Madison Avenue and De Beers.

I reject the notions that accompany “normative masculinity” and, even more so, those of “hyper-masculinity”: that men should be the “breadwinner”, that men should buy pretty things for women (and not the other way around, ever), that men should be willing to spend outlandish amounts of money on women (also not the other way around, ever), and that money and love are interchangeable. And we wonder why women are fooled into believing that men who hit them are truly sorry and love them if they buy “their little woman” something pretty? (This notion of masculinity and its relation to diamonds is expanded upon exponentially and in a very scary way in several common ads/incentives to buy diamonds in the South – as a means to get a free shotgun.) It seems that purchasing power is the bedrock of love according to De Beers and other jewelry stores, and men (and woman) have bought it hook, line, and sinker.

I reject the notion that commitment must come with a ring. I reject the notion that love can be measured by income and (un)willingness to purchase a stone that will cost as much or more than a car, house downpayment, or useful savings for unforeseeable life events. I reject the notion that stones are ever worth the sacrifice of human life. Any diamond I own was given or willed to me by family and I’d like to keep it that way. I have no intention to expand my collection. When it comes to love, I prefer creativity over following the crowd, though I’d still like the proposal (or to propose).

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