Thursday, July 07, 2016

A kiss on the hand may be quite continental…

Attention all you single ladies (all you single ladies): Sotheby’s failed to unload the 1,109-carat Lesidi La Rona diamond at last week’s auction. Alas, no bidder came up with the $70M reserve price. So if there’s someone in your life who shoulda put a ring on it, he may still be able to get his hands on it. After all, nothing says “somebody out there wants me” more than an engagement ring on your hand with a stone as big as a tennis ball.

To put it mildly, I am not a bling kind of girl. And although I was married, I was never exactly engaged. So there’s no sparkler on my ring finger. And if I’d wanted an engagement ring, it wouldn’t have been a diamond. Just not a me kind of thing. And the days when someone could sing with a straight face that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” are well in the rear view mirror. At least I hope so.

I do have plenty of friends and relations who do have engagement rings, but I will note that, for most of those my age, these were a rather modest affair. They weren’t obsessed with size, shape, and spend. They were engaged, but were practical. Those who sport more dazzling rings got them as a way-later-on anniversary gift.

But somewhere along the way (post the era when most of my peers were getting married), the diamond industry began encouraging more spending on the all important engagement ring.

So with very little googling, you can find all sorts of sites that contain guidance on how to find your magic number. Twenty percent of gross salary. Thirty percent of net. The same amount that you spend on a car. I even found a site with an elaborate calculator that factors in education level (both parties), rent-own-live-with-parents (both parties), looks (both parties), hotness (her alone), and frequency of sex. When I read these things I have to ask myself: is this why I subscribed to Ms. Magazine and (metaphorically) burned my bra?

Anyway, the diamond industry – which, I believe, invented the idea of the engagement ring – has troubles beyond not being able to find a buyer for the Lesedi La Rona. A lot of people have decided that diamonds are not only not a girl’s best friend, they’re considered down right evil. After all, they are often used to finance brutal and bloody conflicts in Africa:

That reek of notoriety has clung to the industry in recent years, especially among the millennial generation that came of age as evidence of “blood diamonds” emerged from the war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.” (Source: The Economist)

Add to the “blood diamond” problem has been the decline in demand from China.

That has dragged prices of top-quality cut diamonds down from about $12,000 per carat to $7,400 in five years.

But the biggest threat may be the emergence of the cultivated diamond industry, which produces synthetic diamonds in a lab environment, rather than 100 miles below ground. And those lab diamonds don’t take 1 billion years to form. (Or a Superman to crush a lump of coal into a diamond, as occurred in one of my favorite Superman episodes.) Lab-grown diamonds are now “almost indistinguishable from those dug up from the ground.” They’re only a bit cheaper than “natural” diamonds, but they don’t come with any of the ethical sourcing baggage.

To counter the threat from synthetic diamonds, the Diamond Producers’ Association, has begun using the slogan “Real is rare.”

While they’re called synthetic diamonds, I don’t see how something created from carbon using an accelerated, technology-base process is any less real than something that’s been sitting there being heated and crushed for a billion years. One just took longer. It’s not like a synthetic diamond is a cubic zirconium. Just like their “rare real” counterparts, whether “square-cut or pear shaped, these rocks don’t lose their shape,” either.

I will not be losing any sleep over the (mis)fortunes of the diamond industry. Any sympathies I have will go to the brutalized miners, and the victims of brutal warfare in Africa.

And I will most certainly not shed any tears that Sotheby’s couldn’t find a buyer for the Lesedi La Rona. (Ha! I say ha, ha!)

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