Last night one of my friends announced that he was about to drop between 3 and 4 grand on an engagement ring for his fiancee. I bit my tongue for the first few minutes as he discussed it with my other friends, but eventually the SJW-side of me won out and I couldn’t hold back my thoughts any longer.
Let’s start with the basics of why it’s insane to spend that much money on an item that fits in your nostril:
-It’s smaller than your nose.
-You could lose it SO easily.
-What does something so small ADD to your life?
-You could have exponentially more fun/rich experiences for that much dinero.
-Read these all again because it really boggles my mind.
“Oh, but Ethan!” you may be protesting. “How will you show your wife how much she is WORTH to you if you don’t go all-out on a ring??”
Oh, I don’t know…loyalty, fidelity, time spent together, shared experiences, children, physical intimacy, encouragement toward spiritual maturation……
I knew a girl in college who told me that she wouldn’t marry someone without a diamond on her finger. As in, the center of her marriage was predicated on said small artifact which she could accidentally snort into her sinuses. THAT multi-thousand dollar artifact.
I hope that my wife-to-be will not be so myopic in her view of love and romance, and will see the value of a two-month trip to Asia which would cost about the same as a ring.
Here’s the wild thing: If every molecule inside you is revolting against the idea of a diamond-free wedding, get this. Diamonds were not so closely associated with marriage until a brilliant advertisement from De Beers Diamonds in 1947 which read “Diamonds are forever.”
That’s when diamonds became associated with longevity and romance.
This is not some ancient tradition I am upending and protesting here. It is a practice younger than my my grandparents, and a reflection of Western capitalism conflating THINGS with love, meaning and care. Are you another victim of brilliant advertising?
I’m an incredibly romantic guy, and my boycott of the diamond trade is not ‘anti-romance’ in the least. In fact, I haven’t even gotten to my main point yet.
The conflict diamond trade
You knew I was going here, so let me lay it out.
Many countries have gotten better at ethically sourcing their diamonds, but many have not. Some have such abysmal accountability for the sources of their diamonds that Westerners cannot get an accurate estimate. It is estimated that at its peak in the 1990’s, 10-15% of diamonds were conflict diamonds. That means they used slaves to unearth the stones, OR that the funds from the purchase went to violent militias who regularly chopped up enemy tribes, amputated children’s limbs, and dominated neighboring states.
That number can be misleading, as it makes it seem as if 85-90% of diamonds are just fine and dandy. In reality, the stones coming from violent countries may fund the majority of that country’s economy, meaning that there is an outsized effect from the purchase of a blood diamond.
“Wait, Ethan! Why can’t I just buy a verified diamond that didn’t come from the conflict trade?”
Good question. Presently, only 28% of retailers can verify with 100% certainty that their diamonds are conflict-free.
For the non-math majors, that means that 72% of diamonds CANNOT be verified to not support violence in Africa. 72% of retailers CANNOT verify that your pretty diamond didn’t get a little boy’s legs chopped off. Or put a gun in his hands. There has been an estimated 3.7 million lives lost as an indirect result of these diamond sales in the past century. It wasn’t until 2000 that the Kimberly Certification (which still has a plethora of issues with corruption and transparency) came into existence, which traces the origins of the stones. 20 years to reverse over 100 years of violent diamond trade.
No wonder the number of verified diamonds is so low.
On top of that, diamond-rich countries have seen a growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor, who are the ones mining the stones. In other words, the diamond trade perpetuates an economy built to keep the poor poor, and the wealthy wealthy. Westerners’ demand for diamonds ensures that this cycle continues.
“Yah, well, the way I see it,” said my friend who is about to make the purchase, “if I don’t buy a diamond, that won’t make a difference in the blood diamond trade. I won’t stop it by not buying one.” And he’s right; he won’t stop it alone.
But I believe that someday we will all be accountable for what we did with what we were given. Jesus seems to have said something similar, several times….
So with $3k of my own, I can decide if I want it to support an industry that may imprison children and force them to work in mines, or if I don’t. I can decide to put that money toward things which are not detrimental to the human race, spending falsely inflated prices (a century ago, De Beers also limited the number of diamonds excavated per year in order to keep prices high) on something infinitesimally tiny.
Think about it this way: If you’re a Democrat, would you give $5 to Trump’s campaign? Or on the other side, would you contribute $5 to Biden? Probably not. Why? Because we can vote with our money. Your money shows where your values are. Your five dollar bill won’t make or break the election, but you’re showing your support with your wallet.
By funding an industry which is only 28% verified NOT to continue violent massacres, you perpetuate the demand for diamonds to be sold and bought at inordinate prices. Which is more valuable to you: you (or your spouse) having a shiny little marble on your finger, or the lives of millions of human beings in Africa?
I can’t help but wonder if it is the geographic distance which makes this argument seem so ethereal. It doesn’t affect MY life, so why do I care? People stopped shopping at Target by the thousands when the store came out in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Why? Because we can SEE that with our own eyes, in our own culture. It’s harder to see the tribal villages which have been decimated in Africa thanks to the diamond trade. It’s so far away…
Regardless of whether or not my boycott shuts down the diamond trade, I will someday be able to tell God that I didn’t support it. That I tried to be responsible for where MY money went, and thousands of my dollars did NOT go to this industry. Who knows? Maybe you read this and share it, and together we create a community of people standing against violence as a result of the diamond trade. And maybe THAT can make an impact.
Does this mean I don’t care about my spouse? Does it mean I don’t see her as worthy of an expensive ring? Of course not, don’t be silly. But buying her a diamond ring is not how I will show that to her.