(TimesOnline) Why diamonds don’t cut it any more
Only clever marketing has made the colourless stones so precious to us. Isn’t it time we fell out of love with diamonds?
It’s that moment. He’s on one knee, he opens the box, the ring twinkles in the light. Ah, a diamond! Does that mean it must be love? Or that your suitor has paid a massively overinflated price for a cheap and common stone, whose value is artificially manipulated by a single company founded by Britain’s greatest colonialist, a stone whose profits have recently funded the bloodiest of violent conflicts in Africa, and whose entire modern tradition was invented by an expensive marketing campaign in the mid-20th century?
Hint: if you want to keep the mood romantic, don’t answer b. But think for a while about this gem, which is so naturally abundant as to be, under normal circumstances, practically worthless, and which is hard for many to tell from imitation glass jewellery. Yet it has found itself on to the fingers, and into the most intimate love stories of millions of women. Why do 75 per cent of British grooms-to-be get suckered into buying their fiancées a diamond engagement ring, when before the 1930s, that practice was vanishingly rare?
How have these transparent lumps become so valuable, so contentious, that we learnt last week they may force the supermodel Naomi Campbell before a United Nations war crimes tribunal? She may or may not have been presented with a huge “blood diamond” from Charles Taylor, the former Liberian President now accused of crimes against humanity. She says not, and in quite forceful terms — if you need reminding what Campbell looks like in a strop, watch her storming out of an ABC television interview when cornered on the subject. War, marketing, and celebrity have been tangled up in a trinket that comes with saying “I do”. This piece of jewellery must rank as one of the greatest feats of industrial persuasion of modern times. Just what is it with diamonds?