“I remember thinking as a child that diamonds were stars that fell from the sky as shooting stars. You can only imagine my disappointment at learning the truth of them. I still prefer stars.” – Barbara Lieberman
The truth is diamonds are not rare or intrinsically valuable. It is a big hoax exacted on the consumer. Take a look at the history. Cecil Rhodes had the biggest mine, originally looking for gold, in South Africa in 1889. He found diamonds and immediately decided to control the supply as well as the perception that they were valuable. Diamonds were and are not scarce! He formed the De Beers company.
Another massive mine was found and owned by Ernest Oppenheimer. Rhodes died in 1902 and in 1914 Oppenheimer merged with De Beers and they agreed to price fixing of diamonds. Diamonds are actually a really compressed variety of coal!! All the diamonds on earth were formed about a hundred miles below the earth’s surface about one billion years ago; there is probably an inconceivable amount still down there.
So, how did we get to this point; believing they are valuable and everyone has to have them? The diamond engagement ring has a great story… enhanced by DeBeers, of course.
In 1477 eighteen-year-old Archduke, (and later Holy Roman Emperor), Maximillian, proposed to his great love; Mary of Burgundy. He gave her father a ring for her with tiny diamonds in the shape of an ‘M.’ It was faceted, which had just been invented in Bruges. Mary’s father owned the land there and thought this was a great idea. When Maximillian married Mary, he bought the Low Lands which were most of Belgium and the Netherlands and gave it to her as a dowry.
Earlier the ancient Greeks and Romans gave betrothal rings; a circle which was a promise. In the eighth to eleventh centuries when the Vikings swore allegiance to their king or a vow they did it with a metal arm ring. In the Far East and especially in Hinduism a married woman always wore a bangle bracelet.
The Romans used the fourth finger of the left hand as the vein of love that went to the heart. The truth is all the fingers and veins lead to the heart!
Early on in Western culture men exchanged pledge rings of metal. The Catholic church then entered the picture and Pope Innocent III in 1215 decided to institute the law that there should be a waiting period before marriage and that became the ‘engagement.’ This was the beginning of real engagement rings. Both men and women wore them; Christian marriages had to take place in a church.
At this time, the wealthy could flaunt their status by the expense of the ring. Diamonds were not used often as they were not thought pretty.
New technology; like Mary’s ring, was invented recently and a diamond, called the Shawish Geneve, was cut by laser in Geneva and it cost seventy million and was cut from a single hundred and fifty carat stone. It took a year to do it. It has a hole in it where the finger fits; there is no metal on it.
In 1946, DeBeers did a study and hired N.W. Ayer advertising agency to market diamond engagement rings to the American public. The message was that a man had not proposed unless there was a diamond engagement ring. The size of your worth was seen in the size and cost of the stone!
Everyone wanted what everyone else wanted.
Ninety percent of brides here have such a ring and recently Americans spent seven billion dollars on these rings!! Now the rare diamonds are red. Few are seen. Pink ones are next. The yellow or canary are not rare. The brown or black are close to coal!!
Try to sell one and see what you get for it. The beauty may be in the design or a unusually fine one.
The celebrities who sport them at Oscar parties or other events have them on loan frequently to keep the allure and appeal going. It is all a game!!!
The association of diamonds and love made the case. Can you buy love?? Not on your life!
Most jewelers can’t tell a cubic zirconia from a diamond so maybe put your love in a better ‘thing’
and know that real love isn’t measured in stones!
This last quote is just for fun.
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” – Carol Channing in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’