These are the depths men will go to for diamonds. For many people diamonds represent wealth and for some they even represent love. But what many people don’t know is the history of this not so rare gem and how one diamond company’s ad campaign in the 1930s helped to manufacture the “tradition” of giving diamond engagement rings.

Thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, are spent for compressed carbon. Although De Beers doesn’t necessarily have as much of a monopoly on the diamond industry as they once did, the entire market is controlled by a few companies that manipulate the market completely arbitrarily by controlling the amount of diamonds on the market.

Diamonds were too rare and expensive for those of lesser means to afford until the discovery of African diamond mines in the 1870s. The De Beers Company was the sole owner and operator of these newly discovered mines in South Africa. In the 1930s, when demand for diamond rings declined in the U.S. during hard economic times, the De Beers Company began an aggressive marketing campaign using photographs of glamorous movie stars swathed in diamonds. Within three years, the sales of diamonds had increased by 50 percent.

In 1947, De Beers launched its now classic slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.” This spurred even more sales. The implied durability of a diamond conveyed the meaning in the American psyche that marriage is forever. A diamond’s purity and sparkle have now become symbols of the depth of a man’s commitment to the woman he loves in practically all corners of the world.
In 1992, the average cost of a diamond engagement ring was $1,500. Today, the average cost is closer to $5,000. [AGS]

This immense mine, the Mir mine, is one of the reasons De Beers doesn’t corner the market anymore. The Soviet Union and a couple of other countries where enormous diamond deposits were discovered allowed these companies to refuse to be a part of De Beers’ cartel and the deposits were large enough that De Beers couldn’t completely bully them out of the market.

The Mir mine (Russian: Кимберлитовая алмазная трубка «Мир» Kimberlitovaya Almaznaya Trubka “Mir”; English: kimberlite diamond pipe “World” or “Peace”), also called the Mirny mine, is a former open pit diamond mine, now inactive, located in Mirny, Eastern Siberia, Russia. The mine is 525 meters (1,722 ft) deep (4th in the world) and has a diameter of 1,200 m (3,900 ft), and is the second largest excavated hole in the world, after Bingham Canyon Mine. The airspace above the mine is closed for helicopters because of alleged incidents in which they fell in due to air temperature differences and unexpected currents.

The diamond-bearing deposits were discovered on June 13, 1955 by Soviet geologists Yuri Khabardin, Ekaterina Elagina and Viktor Avdeenko during the large Amakinsky Expedition in Yakut ASSR. They found traces of volcanic rock kimberlite which is usually associated with diamonds. This finding was the first success in the search for kimberlite in Russia, after numerous failed expeditions of the 1940s and 1950s. For this discovery, in 1957 Khabardin was given the Lenin Prize, which was one of the highest awards in the Soviet Union. [Wikipedia]

It’s the 21st century, we have the technology to produce synthetic diamonds that are virtually identical to mined diamonds at the fraction of the price. Isn’t it time we stop perpetuating this silly tradition that requires so many resources, so much pollution, so many health problems (to the miners) to get a few pieces of compressed charcoal?

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

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