Some full disclosure: I love diamonds. They mesmerize me. I have caught myself staring at a random woman's ring finger many a time. I love how diamonds sparkle in the lowest of light (the lower light, the better, actually). I love how little rainbows almost zoom out and about - in my mind's eye, it is almost magical. Really.
Although the modern obsession with diamonds was, as is often told, created by DeBeers in a really impressive marketing campaign in the 1940s, diamonds have been valued for many centuries all over the world. I recently bought a Russian language book (getting in touch with my cultural heritage) about the treasures of the czars in Russia. Holy Toledo, did they have some sparkly things!
This is a great website for more information on famous diamonds throughout history.
Alas, we all have heard about the problem with diamonds - Leonardo DiCaprio's movie, Blood Diamond, brought mainstream attention to the issue of "conflict diamonds". Specifically, the issue is that diamonds have been used as currency to fund brutal conflicts - esp. in Africa. The Kimberley Process, which has been promoted as a way to make sure that consumers get conflict-free gems, is actually a process that is regulated by the diamond industry itself - by people who profit off of diamond sales. On one hand, it makes sense for them to focus on this process - many activists and organizations have called on the diamond industry to take more responsibility for the impacts of the diamond industry on mining countries. But, then again, many consumers could care less. Most people don't even think about it and jewelry sellers respond in kind. If you walked into a local jewelry store and asked them what proof they had about the origin of their diamonds, most stores wouldn't give you a good answer. However, the process is a great start toward using diamonds to help the people who mine them. But, many say that it is almost impossible to guarantee where a diamond is coming from b/c many are smuggled out of countries to be sold on the world market. It kind of makes sense. They are small, easily hidden.
What do you think? I am not comfortable with the situation enough to feel good about purchasing a new diamond (and I am hoping to be purchasing a diamond soon . . . cross my fingers). Although, I might be swayed by Brilliant Earth, a company that sells only conflict-free diamonds — mining them from Canada, where a third party regulates, monitors, and tracks the gems.
Also, I thought a post from Wendy Brandes, a jewelry designer who writes a very entertaining blog, was informative on the whole issue (but remember, she is a jewelry designer who uses diamonds in her designs). Find it here. The one thing that I disagree with her about is the issue of "vintage" diamonds. If you buy a vintage diamond, you are not fueling any new conflict or war. Plus, although there were probably many atrocities happening in diamond mining 25 years ago, they didn't have the kind of guns they do now. And definitely not 45 years ago. Or 70 years ago. (Although we must remember that the simple machete created lasting damage in the Sierra Leone war.)
On to happier thoughts. So what are you going to do if you love pretty, sparkly diamond things, but your conscience is telling you "no, no. no!"? Well, I just came across the Ross Simmons Estate Jewelry site and it is great. There are some beautiful pieces from a range of decades - 1900s to 1990s - and a wide range of prices. You can click on any of the pictures for a close-up. And the best part - they are all pre-owned, so no new resources are going into the mining and manufacturing of your ring (and no new conlficts being funded). Very green chic. Here are some of my favorites:
C. 1980 1.35 Carat Sapphire and .65 ct. t.w. Diamond Ring In 18kt Yellow Gold Size 6.75