That’s not a diamond ring!
No, it’s not. It’s an aquamarine. It’s my aquamarine engagement ring.
It reminds me of searching for seaglass by the Atlantic ocean, of my Italian grandmother’s blue crystal candy dish, of the coast of soon to be visited Santorini.
A week before Justin presented me with this beauty, he solicited some guidance on ring selection.
Simple, I said, but with something strange or different about it. Not a diamond.
Why did I ask for not a diamond?
For one thing, everyone else has them. And a lot of people have a lot of them. By that I mean that I see women of all economic stratas barely able to lift their hands to steer their cars or swipe their credit cards as rocks and rocks and dripping rocks anchor them down.And sometimes I don’t like to have the thing that everyone else has. Growing up within a half-time custody arrangement made me belong everywhere and nowhere, and vacillate between wanting to fit in and wanting to stick out. There are certain things that everyone has that I want too: an iPhone, a golden retriever, a honeycrisp apple. But there are certain trends I don’t want to perpetuate, like Uggs in the summer. And diamond engagement rings!
I call diamond engagement rings a trend, because they are not really FOREVER. They have not been worn as engagement rings for very long, and they do not always outlive other stones. I say that, but I can’t elaborate yet. Justin was grumbling about the crooked De Beers long before we were thinking about getting married, and I overheard but I didn’t delve.
Diamonds are expensive, and I’ve never felt right owning expensive items that nobody else benefits from but me. It feels selfish. And there are some other problems with diamonds. It has to do with AFRICA. There’s a movie depicting this called Blood Diamond that I still have not seen. My mom gave a copy of the DVD to Justin a few Christmases ago. Had she known that it portrayed the diamond as an evil character, I am not sure she would have given the gift. My mom wears many large diamonds upon her wedding finger, and she is polite about my aquamarine. We sat together at lunch once, our hands resting side by side, the contrast clear. I don’t criticize her sparkling loot, but I want to know more about why the alternative I’ve chosen is a fair one.
The person who knows is Justin, and not only is he knowledgeable, he is a great teacher. We have set a date to eat at Ethiopian Diamond, to dine by candlelight and discuss the dark side of this bright stone.
Justin waxes heretic on diamonds as we sip honey wine and rip injera apart. He provides many compelling reasons not to fuel the diamond trade. I test his convictions and his love for me when I ask him if he would have bought me a diamond had I wanted one. Does he hate diamonds more than he loves me? Will this date end with me hating diamonds too? Listen to find out.
After the date I was intellectually opposed to diamonds, and satisfied to marry a man with strong convictions. But the facts– though well researched, synthesized, and presented– didn’t move me. If you want to persuade me, you need to kick me where it counts. You need to get Leonardo DiCaprio to portray a diamond smuggler in Sierra Leone, and litter the landscape with some murdered children. Luckily, the producers of Blood Diamond made that happen for me, and it was after watching this cinematic depiction of human suffering that I really felt disgusted by the diamond trade.
The movie takes us to Sierre Leone in the late 1990s, where government soldiers fight rebels in a bloody civil war. A loving family is ripped apart when the father, Solomon, is captured from this village and enslaved in the diamond fields. Solomon finds an unusually large pink diamond and attempts to stow it away, but his captain witnesses this just as government troops invade and imprison them both. Meanwhile, Solomon’s young son, once a gentle mannered student, is stolen and brainwashed by rebel forces. We see how the Revolutionary United Front rebels are using diamonds to fund their war, trading them for arms. How within one family a son can become a cold killer while his father’s forced labor pays for the weapon.
The diamond trade becomes even seedier as we watch Danny (DiCaprio) smuggle diamonds to a South African mercenary who is employed by a diamond company executive. Landing himself in the same prison as Solomon and the captain, Danny overhears about the hidden pink diamond. He arranges for Solomon to be released from prison, and strikes a deal- he’ll help Solomon find his family if Solomon leads him to the valuable diamond’s burial spot. And why can Danny arrange a family reunion? What gives him the power? He is a white man in Africa.
The movie shows us the human cost of conflict or “blood” diamonds, and the interconnected corruption of the government, rebel forces, smugglers, mercenaries, and diamond companies. It closes with a reference to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, designed to certify the origin of rough diamonds from sources which are free of conflict and human rights abuses. Organizations such as Amnesty International question the impact of KPCS. Amnesty stated: “Until the diamond trade is subject to mandatory, impartial monitoring, there is still no effective guarantee that all conflict diamonds will be identified and removed from the market.”
Some “conflict free” diamond companies assure consumers that their diamonds originate from Canadian mines partnered with local indigenous people who benefit from the trade. The company Brilliant Earth advertises “ethical origin” diamonds from Namibia and Botswana, promising that in these countries “diamonds are helping to foster broadly-shared economic development “. Even if this is true, wearing a diamond perpetuates the consumption of diamonds overall, hence indirectly supporting traders of conflict diamonds. And don’t you know that there are other rocks that are beautiful and sparkly? Like this fool’s gold heart I gave to Justin.