My birthday is today. Danny and I went out with some good friends last night, the kids and grandbaby came over tonight, and it was a really lovely, easygoing weekend. It was not without a little controversy, however!
On Friday afternoon, before our dinner date, my husband of thirty years presented me with a birthday gift that was as surprising as it was beautiful. He gave me a pair of rose colored gold teardrop earrings, the center filled with clusters of little diamonds. And as amazing as they are, and as thoughtful as my husband was trying to be, I’ve decided that I cannot accept them, and have asked him to take them back. When I told this to my friends on Friday night, their mouths dropped open and they looked at me like I’m crazy. My kids think I’m crazy, but they also say they aren’t surprised, and Danny, while he was a little pissed off at first, now says he totally understands….I’m hoping that’s true!
So why am I not accepting such a loving gift? Well, I hate to admit it, but this is truly a political position; its a position I also have to admit that I’m sort of surprised that I feel so strongly about. But if you know anything about diamonds, and the diamond industry, those shiny little pieces of rock tend to lose their luster when you realize how enmeshed they are in violence, war, greed, and unbelieveable crimes against humanity. Just a few pictures edited together by a young woman I found on youtube:
While jewelers in the U.S. are quick to reassure consumers of diamonds that the war in Sierra Leone is over, and that they have all signed an agreement not to traffic in blood/conflict diamonds, the watchdog group Global Witness, which has been monitoring the diamond trade since the year 2000, counters:
From GLOBAL WITNESS on Feb. 8, 2010
Tainted Love: blood diamonds still cast shadow over Valentines Day
“Consumer pressure will be vital to ensure that the diamond industry finally acts to eliminate conflict diamonds once and for all,” said Elly Harrowell, campaigner at Global Witness. “Some progress has been made in recent years but the unpalatable truth is that around the world civilians are still suffering terribly as a consequence of the diamond trade.”
In 2003, following a global outcry about the problem of conflict diamonds, an international certification scheme was established to monitor the trade. Countries who signed up to the Kimberley Process were obliged to demonstrate that their diamonds were not bankrolling brutality and conflict.
The polished and retail sectors of the diamond industry opposed stringent government regulation when the Kimberley Process was being negotiated, and the industry was left to police itself.
International diamond trade bodies have issued countless press releases and statements claiming that the problem has been solved, but have provided little information on what they have actually done to fix it and fulfill their promises. Despite vast profits made by many in the diamond industry ( – in 2005 diamond jewelry sales were over US $60 billion -) little has been invested to ensure that blood diamonds will not be able to enter the legitimate trade. (By the way, NONE of the money gathered by the diamond merchants has made it to the people who spend their lives digging up the diamonds. As a matter of fact, almost none of the men, women and children who work in the diamond mining industry has ever even seen a polished diamond!)
From The Diamond High Council (HRD) (the official representative of the Belgian diamond industry)
“Experts agree that today it is scientifically not possible to determine the exact origin of an individual diamond. Although projects are in development, it will take several years before a technique will be operational for commercial purposes.
In order to respect the embargo and end the conflicts, workable and immediately applicable solutions had to be found. That was done through a system of certifications, established by the legitimate governments. As it appears that certificates can also be forged and diamonds could be commercialised through third countries, a more global solution has to be found.”
The HRD Conclusion:
“One cannot blame the diamond industry not to be able to prevent every small scale smuggling across the African borders and at the same time close the eyes for tanks and aircrafts full of weapons crossing that same border in the opposite direction. And a conflict needs oil, if it isn’t in the ground as natural resource then to fuel military machinery. The only difference between a diamond and a conflict diamond is the conflict. End the conflict and there are only diamonds, diamonds that bring prosperity for producing countries.”
Hmmm….yes, well, for me, that means there will be no diamonds.