Oy. I'm pissed.
I've said before that I love jewelry, and I do. I really love it. Most especially, I've always been a little overfond of that carbon deliciousness known as the diamond. The first time I saw the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian? I left a puddle of drool. It also happened to coincide with a traveling DeBeers exhibit, so the bling factor left me feeling a little breathless. A lot of women I know feel similarly afflicted when confronted with a beautiful diamond. I have a girlfriend who wears, steady yourself ladies, FIVE perfect carats in her ears (yeah, they're real and they are beyond fabulous). I feel like a crow whenever I talk to her; my eyes are always following the glint of her enormous studs as she moves her head. She is constantly being stopped by women and asked about her jewelry.
I have a beautiful wedding ring, too. Seriously, this ring is a stunner. And if I were to be perfectly honest with you, I don't just love it because of the way it looks. The dirty secret most women don't cop to, but I will, is that I also like my ring because of the statement it imparts. It's pathetic, but true. My ring says that my man has spending power. It announces our socio-economic status. It implies things about my marriage, true or not. "Ooh! Your man must want to keep you around, sugar," is my favorite, told to me at the Atlanta Zoo years ago by a woman who looked at my left hand in admiration at the panda exhibit. I used to thrive off of this, epecially in my twenties. And if most women were honest, they would admit that they want a big diamond or like their own big ring for reasons other than the sparkle. I get really tired of people who say they want a three carat ring because they like shiny things. Many, many substances are shiny. But few have the status of the diamond. Isn't status what the diamond is really all about? I have a $40 green peridot ring set in silver that is unique and glints marvelously in the sunlight. Does it rate the same response as my diamonds? Hell, no. I used to love the response my diamonds would elicit. Now, it just kind of makes me sick. I often leave the house with just a simple band, or none at all. Carting four kids around is statement enough of my commitment and status of "taken."
Then, a few nights ago, I finally did something I have been avoiding for months. I saw Blood Diamond.
Game over, folks.
Have you seen it? Are you, like I was, afraid to see it because of the brutal reality it depicts about the diamond trade? Are you afraid it will change your mind about your own ring? You're right. It will. I was numb after this movie. I have lived in my own bubble of what I wanted to know about where my stones may have come from, and the horror millions of people have endured because of a shiny stone. I spent the rest of the night willing myself not to throw up. I got up and researched online, and was amazed at the discrepancy between how the diamond industry spins the issue of conflict stones, and the reality of the millions of deaths, tortures, imprisonments and wars raged over this jewel.
I called the 800 number of the major jeweler that supplied us my own diamond. They happen to have a policy stating their compliance with the Kimberly Process, a start in the right direction to keep conflict stones out of the market. It's not foolproof, and it has only been in effect since 2003. My ring was purchased well before then, and even if it wasn't, they do not offer a guarantee that their diamonds are conflict-free. Very few places do, and when you can find a guaranteed conflict-free certified stone, (often out of Canada) it is more expensive. Watchdog groups like Amnesty International and Global Witness estimate that roughly 20% of the diamonds out there are conflict. There is no way of knowing. Like laundered money, it's hard to track a smuggled commodity. And like any trade dealing in the billions of dollars, not everyone is going to do the right thing.
My moral dilemma has been this: what to do about my own diamond jewelry. Sell it? Give it away? Keep it but stop wearing it? Throw it out?
Sadly, and I really am sad about this, I feel clear in my heart that I cannot wear diamonds anymore. It's not worth the risk that maybe someone died because of my own ring. And even if my own jewelry came from a conflict free zone, diamonds represent one true thing: millions of them come from places stained with blood. I do not buy into the bullshit line that states the diamond industry in Africa helps fuel the economy and provide health care for its workers. At less than a dollar a day in wages, in dangerous and filthy conditions, it's an insult to anyone's intelligence to accept this weak attempt at justification. I do not want to be a part of anything that funds wars, that is responsible for so much tragedy, and that paints me as a sheep who wants to be like everyone else. I just can't. I believe it is possible to live a life, live it well, and not contribute to the downfall of this world. Do I drive a car? Yes. Am I aware of the wars fueled by oil? You bet. And we're working right now on changing how and what our family consumes for survival. Stay tuned.
My decision is easy, although I know that it may be different for others. I won't wear them, and I won't keep them. My husband and I have found a private jeweler willing to buy my rings and I have chosen a simple, but truly lovely replacement. In case you're looking for something unique, I found my ring at the Sundance catalogue online. I spent less than $100 and I felt something I didn't anticipate: pride. I'm proud that I am at a place in my life where I care less and less what others think of me. I am proud that I want my accomplishments and personality to scream louder than the glint of my wedding band.
Think about it.