Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Diamond In The Rough

Something in a conversation that I had today got me thinking about the subject of diamonds. Have no fear, this discussion had nothing to do with the contemplation of matrimony on my part (been there, done that twice, threw away the T-shirts). No, this was in regards to one of those endless commercials by jewelry stores making none too subtle hints that the only suitable gift for a woman is one of these pieces of compacted carbon. That the purchase of volcanically densely packed bits coal should be the only way to win or keep a woman's heart has often struck me as rather insulting to the intelligence of the fairer gender. 


That such blatant capitalism apparently works as well as it does should be considered a miracle of modern advertising. The whole thing got me thinking about the fact that one of the great scams of the modern world is the value of diamonds. While it is true that this is one of hardest substances known to man (harder in fact than a conservative's heart, or so they tell me), it is not nearly as rare a gem as was once thought. 


In fact, some 130 million carats (57,000 lbs) are mined, and over three times that are synthesized annually according to our friends at Wikipedia. (The carat, by the way, is a unit of weight based on the carob seed, or approximately 200 milligrams.) Rubies and emeralds are certainly more rare, as are sapphires and opals. Even pearls, though technically not a gemstone and also somewhat artificially produced, are more difficult to obtain. Regardless of the geologic facts of the matter however, the diamond remains the most prestigious of rocks. 


It simply struck a chord in me that while many are quick to vilify oil companies over the price of their product, their apparently scandalous methods of obtaining it, their exploitation of both their workforce and their consumers, and their apparently scandalous profitability; few realize the level of manipulation and the artificial value that is maintained over this particular gemstone. 


DeBeers, begun in 1888 and still one of the larger players in the diamond market (during the 20th Century having roughly 80% of the world's diamonds passed through their hands) still holds significant inventories of stones. That organization's inventory and that of their counterparts in the world diamond cartel, closely control the release of both the number of stones and the number of large stones, in order to artificially maintain the high price of diamonds in the world market. 


Yet in spite of this blatant manipulation, diamond producers are held in high esteem, diamond purveyors (jewelry stores) are considered palaces, and customers of these overprice baubles are considered intelligent and trendy. Quite frankly, the whole process is a sham, propped up by all of the worst excesses in both capitalism and consumerism. 


Perhaps this is the true meaning of "diamond in the rough", which phrase.org defines as, "Someone who is basically good-hearted but lacking social graces and respect for the law." Of course, they go on to list another definition as well, "This term is often used to describe people on the edge of the criminal fraternity who, while they may not commit serious crimes themselves, probably know people who do." 


Maybe that particular connection is why the whole thing got me so aggravated in the first place ... it reminds me of politics.

4 comments:

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Tim,

My son and his bride steered away from the diamond scam/trap by buying an unconventional engagement token.

She instead wanted a glider and she got it ;-)

As for reminding you of politics, you've got that right...

Roland Hansen said...

Diamonds like so many other "luxury" items are way overpriced and the purveyors of useless crapola gouge the usual susceptible and gullible consumer. Shame, shame, shame.

CZ is the way to go. Just like politics and politicians (me excluded, of course) -- on the surface it looks like the real thing, but upon close scrutiny, it's really a fake.

Tim Higgins said...

Somehow I should have known that mi amigos were far to savvy to be taken in by the scam.

Judy said...

CZ? Roland, ok by me, bring it on, spoil me!!!