diamonds are for never

So, we all know that diamonds are intrinsically worthless stones whose popularity and value are a recent creation, the result of a concerted marketing efffort by a monopolist cartel whose control on its market makes Microsoft look like amateurs.

And even if one doesn’t disagree with the morality of a company that blithely funded the South African economy during the embargo-strained apartheid years, the fact that fifteen percent of the diamonds on the U.S. market are conflict diamonds that either helped fund, prolong, or motivate violence in Africa ought to give anyone pause when buying into the hype that’s been generated over a stone that’s far from the rarest gem on earth. Even diamond advocates concede that, once they’ve been cut, it’s virtually impossible to tell stones that are from areas of conflict apart from ones that were legitimately mined, making it unlikely that stores selling cut stones can have any way of guaranteeing that their diamonds didn’t originate in areas of conflict.

But you might not be convinced by all of that, so I’ll give you another reason to avoid them: The people selling them are fucking pigs. They’re heavily invested in selling a world where men are insensitive, thick-headed incompetents transparently trying to dupe women who are vain, superficial, materialistic fools. I typically tend to be on the "eh, it’s just a joke" side of things, but the sheer repetitive insistence of the cynical stereotypes in diamond advertising is astonishing.

I took a couple of pictures around town. The taglines range from creepy to blatantly misogynist. "Reduce the entire English language to three syllables. I love you." I suppose that’s trying to be romantic, but if your significant other finds that their expressions of love are only prompted by being handed a rock, it seems that one of the 4 Cs you might want to worry about is "communication".

There are some that are just pathetic. "Get ready to hear one more tearful acceptance speech." "Never have to plagiarize another poem as long as you live." Who are these guys? Who does this appeal to? What hapless, undemonstrative loser identifies with stealing poetry as a subsititute for romance? Who finds the effort of copying someone else’s sentiments so strenuous that he’d rather spend ten percent of his annual income on a pair of earrings?

Any one of these ads might be amusing, even charming, on its own. But there are dozens of them, all based on these same idiotic, dysfunctional archtypes. "Carve the turkey any way you damn well please." Think about the number of assumptions there. A shrill harpie of a wife, so overbearing that she’s prone to criticizing her husband’s turkey carving, yet so inept that she can’t carve the turkey herself because it’s a man’s job. A henpecked, spineless cad of a husband, so hapless that he accepts her orders to portion the poultry but then holds onto the resentment of her criticisms of his effort. A relationship so broken and twisted that his purchase of a blood-tainted rock from a monopolist cartel would appease her superficiality enough to get her to relent from her sniping at his performance of a trivial act. And this seems like a bargain because this man is so emotionally worthless that he couldn’t just say, "Hey, if you want me to carve the turkey, you should probably be less critical of how I do it."

Any guys who use that line can feel free to give me ten percent of their yearly income. Hell, I’ll settle for five percent, and send the rest to the Angolans to buy weapons.

I know what you’re thinking. "It’s not that bad." It’s just a joke, and I’m taking it too seriously. But how can you look at a list on the industry’s own marketing website and see "Of course there’s a return on your investment. We just can’t print it here." and not be aware that they’re selling, along with war and market dominance, dysfunction. Want your materialistic, easily-misled wife to stop being such a frigid bitch? Buy her a diamond! Did your husband decide to increase your consumer debt in order to buy you a pair of earrings that were mined at gunpoint by children in Africa? Reward him with grudging sex and a temporary cessation of your relentless nagging!

One of the few upsides to the whole ugly business is that such transparently offensive and annoying ads lend themselves to easy parody, such as the frequently-forwarded "She’ll pretty much have to…" ad that makes the rounds every few months, demonstrating a wife’s implicit fellatio obligation after the presentation of a diamond. (That link, needless to say, is not work-safe.) The same joke was featured in an episode of The Family Guy, as I understand it, proving the thought isn’t particularly original. But the fact that the parody is that obvious, because it lies so close to the reality, is the most damning indictment of the sheer misogyny and contempt for healthy relationships that the diamond industry has based its marketing upon.

I’m sure I’ll get a lot of grief from people who’ve given or received diamonds, arguing that the ads are cleverly playing on classic archetypes and that I have a stick up my ass, etc. But the reality is, this is a broken industry with a product whose very existence is absurd. If we look back at the efforts of the conquistadores in the Americas, and their monomaniacal focus on the pursuit of gold, even by members of the Catholic church, I think we’ll have a fairly decent idea what our culture’s association of romance with diamonds is going to look like to future generations.

In the meantime, don’t buy their hype. If you already have a diamond, or you must continue with the dying tradition of purchasing them, don’t fall for the De Beers cartel’s concerted efforts to encourage the burial of diamonds with one’s loved ones in order to perpetuate the artificial scarcity of the stones. I’m hoping that we see a stigmatization of diamonds, and a decrease in popularity and sales similar to the one suffered by the fur trade when the brutality of their industry was revealed. But if the moral issues aren’t compelling enough, perhaps their contempt for your emotional maturity, your partner’s character, and the solidity of your relationship would be enough to dissuade you.