diamondsDiamonds.   They sparkle.   They tantalize.   They lie.   Yes, that’s right.  Diamonds are the most guileful gem on the market. I don’t trust them and you shouldn’t either.

Yes, this is a bold condemnation of a girl’s best friend, but I’m sharing the awful truth because diamonds are no friend at all.  They are costly only because they are controlled by a cartel.  DeBeers has effectively controlled the world’s diamond market by restricting supply and aggressively marketing this stone as something that every woman needs to have.   The romance of the diamond stems back to the late 1930s when the De Beers diamond cartel lifted its business out of financial difficulties by selling diamonds as engagement rings.  DeBeers advertised heavily and worked with Hollywood to promote the status of diamonds in movies.   It worked.  When DeBeers launched its “A Diamond is Forever” campaign in 1947, it established a tradition with baby boomers where diamonds became a proxy for love.

“Diamonds are forever”?  Well, perhaps the interest payments that you’ll be making on the financed purchase last forever.   But last I checked, any gemstone has a lifespan that exceeds the average human lifespan by a factor of 100.

In fact, diamonds are far more common than many other gemstones yet sell at a substantial premium.   Opals, rubies and emeralds are far more rare, yet sell at a more modest premium compared to diamonds.

Now here’s the really infuriating part about diamonds….they are great impersonators.   Try to tell the difference between cubic zirconia, moissanite and diamonds.   It isn’t an easy task for experts armed with magnifying lenses, let alone those with untrained eyes.

In fact, valuing diamonds are a consumer’s worst nightmare;  Unless you are a diamond expert, you can never be certain about the identification or quality of a stone.

And don’t even get us started on the morality of a company that blithely funded the South African economy during the embargo-strained apartheid years or the fact that fifteen percent of the diamonds on the U.S. market either helped fund, prolong, or motivate violence in Africa.   Even diamond advocates concede that, once they’ve been cut, it’s virtually impossible to differentiate stones of South African exploitation from ones that were legitimately mined.

So how does one explain the allure of diamonds?   Unfortunately, they’ve become the conventional means of quantifying man’s love for a woman.   In some cultures, it is the dowry; in America, it is a diamond.  Why not another gem?   Namely because De Beers understood the power of marketing and monopolization.  Even though DeBeers control of the market has slipped in the past decade,  it still uses its formidable inventory and sales contracts to dominate the market.

So if you are gripped by the need to buy from a cartel, I suggest you fill up your car with gasoline.  Currently, it costs a little less than buying a diamond….although that may change, the way things are going.