Thursday, October 25, 2007

Philanthropy Thursday

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.


Mrs. G. said...

Oh, I've thought about it. I'd like to say that my simple gold and lapis wedding band was born of my knowledge of the brutality and despair of the diamond mines, but, the truth is, we were broke and there were no family heirloom diamonds passed my way. However, as our income has grown, so has my knowledge and that gold lapis band is still right here on my left diamonds for me.

Sunshine said...

Hubby and I said the same thing when we watched that movie earlier this summer. Makes you never want to buy another diamond again. Leaves you with quite a pit in your stomach.

I understand your reaction, I felt the same way.

andi said...

This is why I love you. You actually DO something about your convictions.

I know I'm in the odd camp, but I've never been a big diamond fan. My engagement ring was a very simple band with tiny sapphires and a few diamonds, but I mostly bought it for the sapphires and it is the only piece of jewelry I own with diamonds.

Before I knew the truth about diamonds, I was against them mostly because of the way the diamond companies (hello, DeBeers) manipulate people into thinking that unless they spend a ridiculous amount on a diamond ring that their relationship is somehow not valid or loving.

painted maypole said...

this is a beautiful post, and I am moved by your passion. I have been wanting to see that movie, but first REALLY became concerned after reading The Poisonwood Bible.

I don't know that I will get rid of the few diamonds I have (one engagement ring, and then a few small stones set in other jewelry) but I definately will not buy any more. However, you have given me pause... to think about what is the right action for me to take.

Rimarama said...

I haven't seen Blood Diamond, and I must admit that before reading your post, I was painfully unaware of the extent of the brutality and injustice behind the diamond trade. I admire your honesty and the way you are doing something about your conviction. There is no way a person can read your post and not think twice about their own bling.

Philanthropy Thursdays Rock!

Nancy said...

I haven't seen the movie yet .... but I have heard, enough to turn my stomach.

I have never liked diamonds, ever.

I'm going to e-mail you, I have a diamond that is embarrassing, and I don't know how to get rid of it. I can't take it to the jeweler, it was special order via some NY jeweler, then set custom here. Maybe you can hook me up with your jeweler.

"I am proud that I want my accomplishments and personality to scream louder than the glint of my wedding band."

That is a beautiful and perfect statement.

painted maypole said...

i've done my own little philanthropy thursday post today, too :) you are inspiring!

Mary Alice said...

Jenn - you are a woman of passion. I love you for it. Do you remember our conversation way long years ago about how we would spend a windfall? I said I thought I might buy a handcrafted wooden canoe and you looked at me like I had completely lost my mind? I have never valued jewelry. I don't know why.

You love diamonds, I can attest to this. So I know this has been terribly disturbing for you. The thing I like best about you is that you don't just talk the talk you walk the walk, to live a life filled with integrity and humanity.
I am proud to call you my friend.

Crystal said...

Wonderful post. I haven't seen the movie, but I've done the research and it isn't pretty. I knew I didn't want a diamond and left the rest up to the hub. He bought me a little antique ring with a couple of sapphires. It is perfect for me and I am happy not to be in diamond-land.

I think it is amazing what you're doing--especially regarding a piece of jewelry that means so much to you. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Jennifer said...

My husband and I saw Blood Diamond early this summer. After the movie, we sat on our couch, staring down at my diamond ring and I started crying. I told him I couldn't wear it anymore and he nodded in agreement.

My wedding band and engagement ring are separate rings so I took the diamond ring off and I've been wearing only my simple wedding band ever since. I haven't worn my diamond earrings since either.

I haven't made the step to sell my diamond jewelry (yet?) but, even though I know it doesn't change anything, I feel so much better not wearing diamonds. And I admit I look at women with large diamond rings in an entirely new way now.

Thank you for such an important post. The whole trade is so awful and so few people know what's going on. I didn't, until so recently. :(

Jennifer said...

Oh, and I need to add: you should feel proud. You're doing amazing things and are such an inspiration. Go, you!

Kim said...

I need to see this movie....In college I came across a documentary about this very subject (don't recall the name) and I asked my husband for a birth stone engagement ring b/c of the lives lost over diamonds. I'm not apposed to Cubic Zirconia at this point....but in a way I guess that is still kind of supporting I guess I'll stick with Amethyst ....:)

Jen M. said...

Thank you so much for your comments - I was a little nervous about this post.

I thought about CZ, too, but then, just like you, Kim, I figured it was still supporting the concept of diamonds. Maybe someday agates will be the new bling - who knows.

Nancy - I'll check for your note.

jen said...

oh sister...good for you. i don't own a single diamond for this exact reason.

The Cube Monkey said...

My husband is a jeweler/goldsmith. Yes womens eyes glaze over when I tell them his occupation.
We both work for the largest "bling" retailer in the U.S. and U.K.
For my economics class last year my final project was on a "monopoly". My choice "DeBeers". I researched for weeks. I got a 100 on it and it was VERY interesting seeing the jaws drop. You would be absolutely, unbelievably amazed at the diamond market. ALL controlled by DeBeers. There is not enough room to tell you everything. The Kimberly process is a sham.
My wedding set is diamond. My center stone was my husbands grandmothers. I won't get rid of my wedding set, but I won't and haven't bought anything diamond in years.
Oh, by the aren't the only "conflict" stones. =(

Just Seeking said...

Jen, you are absolutely amazing. I'm speechless, I really am. I am so proud of you!
I haven't seen the movie so you know I wear my Sundance rings (love me the Sundance jewelry!)for reasons that are not political. And you know that I've been thinking about how I wanted my wedding rings reconfigured (read: add more bling---I am so guilty!)before I don them again---but now you have given me pause. Oh, and, you've probably saved my hubby a lot of money! :-)

Beck said...

I don't own any diamond jewelry - a concious decision. Great post.

Magpie said...

I have no diamonds...just happenstance...but more and more I'm glad not to be beholden to that trade.

Epic said...

I had tears in my eyes reading this. I'm not married...I don't own any diamonds and now I don't think I want to. I also feel... proud? Of you. Even though that seems weird to say. But I am. So... yeah.

Queeny said...

Bravo for you! I've never been into diamonds (any jewelry at all, really). Blame it on my humble upbringing. But I was also shocked by what the movie Blood Diamond revealed. It did leave me feeling sick, but my wedding ring is a mere half-carat (I think). And it's the only "diamond" I own, so I think I'll hang onto it. But again, kudos to you and your hubby for taking a stand.

crazymumma said...

It's like a remarriage. But with a world commitment.

Dorky Dad said...

Yeah, this is the entire reason why I gave my wife a small diamond in her engagement ring. Yup.

Actually, I saw that movie, and heard about the whole ordeal. But they've supposedly dealt with most of those problems since then. But it is rather sobering.

Christine said...

i've owned one diamond in my whole life. it was a tiny little diamond in the wedding ring that belonged to my mother and passed to me when i was married. it was small and modest and extremely cheap. this last spring it fell out and was lost. my heart broke not for the diamond but for the symbol of my marriage and my parent's lovely marriage. (i've never liked diamonds much or gold for that matter. i kind of dislike modern glitzy jewelry or executive rings)

we don't have the money to get a diamond replacement or any gem replacement for that matter. if we ever win the lottery or something we will likely replace it with a sapphire from a mine with fair employment practices. there are a number of such sapphire mines currently.

kittenpie said...

The solution - as you note - buy Canadian.They even have a wee polar bear etched on the girdle for identification, and many gems are number identified these days for tracking through the process now, which makes it easier to hide their origin. It's not perfect yet, by any means, but meanwhile, the frozen north is a good source.

As for gems you already have, I kind of look at it the same way I look at vintage furs. It's done. We can strive to do better and not support the buying of any more furs or diamonds from the industry as it is today, but buying or wearing ones from before is not supporting it. It needs economics to keep going.

I do take your point, though, about supporting the idea of it. I'm just not sure humans will ever not be entranced by diamonds. It's been going on for a very long time now that we value gems above other rocks, and diamonds most of all!

Great post. And wow, that's some commitment. As much as I say the above as more temperate ideas for some others, I am most certainly impressed.

Christine said...

in all of my ramblings i forgot to add:

Great Post!

mjd said...

I applaud your response of selling your beautiful and sentimental diamond ring.

I did see Blood Diamond after seeing a presentation in Indianapolis about rehabilitating Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. AJEDI-Ka/Projet Enfants Soldats is a agency in the DRC that successfully rehabilitates some of the children that have been forced into horrific militia.

Hearing of this practice of conscripting children wounds my heart. Hopefully, someday humans will find successfully find a way to live on this good Earth without warfare of any kind. Until that time each step towards peace, whether the step is refusing to wear a questionable diamond or rehabilitating child soldiers, those steps have an important impact.

Thank you and your husband for this generous response.

sara said...

Let me echo what others have commented~ Well done. You became aware of something new. You thought about it. You acted. WOW!

That is a true embodiment of my favorite all-time quotation:

I wear a plain white gold band that belonged to my husband's grandmother. We became engaged while serving as Peace Corps volunteers--- no diamonds here. I wore the band on my right hand during our engagement & switched it to my left hand upon our wedding (not unlike some European countries' traditions). I must admit that I never really 'got' people's obsessions with diamonds (but heck, some don't get my obsession with Wolky clogs so...). However, I, too, was incredibly moved by the film BLOOD DIAMOND & really cannot see myself ever wearing diamonds. I have some passed down from my mom who died a few years ago. They are sitting in a jewelry box & I will need to make some decision.

Do I notice other women's honking rings (including my own sisters')? I do, but do I think that my commitment with my husband is any less than others' because I have a simple band? No way.

theflyingmum said...

I'm not a big fan of the *bling* - but I do have a pretty good sized diamond engagement ring. I hardly ever wear it - it gets snagged on things and I always forget to take it off when I put on hand lotion. Ick. So, I just wear my plain-jane gold wedding band. But not for any political or moral reasons.
I have known about the diamond industry's dirty dealings for a while, but haven't seen the movie yet. Your post made me think about this issue on a personal level. Thank you.

KC said...

Wow- great post. I had no idea. Really.

My husband bought me my diamond engagement ring as a student with no income...modest and simple but it still meant the world to me coming from him.

I no longer wear it- more so because I can't be bothered with most of my jewelry anymore, but this post has totally given me a new perspective on diamonds.


Fairly Odd Mother said...

Wow, Jen, that is an amazingly powerful piece and I'm still stunned at your decision to act on your convictions. I know how important diamonds can be to people.

I didn't want or get an engagement ring b/c I had heard a bit about these issues and it bothered me. My wedding band does have some tiny diamond 'flecks' in it. Now I wish I had gone for some other stone.

Professor J said...

Wow. Thank you for this post. I've never been a diamond gal, but it makes me think about other ways my money goes to support cruelty or goes to fight it.

Al_Pal said...

Wow. I did know in general about diamonds, and I never really cared for them--I like colored stones.
It makes me feel bad about letting my mom buy me a piece of jewelry with a little diamond in it, though.
I will certainly make sure not to get any in the future.
Great post!