Friday, February 15, 2008

Girl's Best Friends

That’s how the Marilyn Monroe cliché goes anyway. About diamonds. To me, they may not be the best friends, but they do make for some good friends. Some really, really good friends. That being said, let me confess. I am crazy about diamonds. I remember the exact day when these shimmering stones cast their spell over me. It was many, many years ago. In my small, dusty hometown. In the corner of a dark, narrow cobbled lane. In a little jeweler’s shop. Grimy. With mattresses strewn on the concrete floor in front of locked glass cases and hidden safes. The jeweler sitting cross legged behind his worn out, vintage desk. Propped up by rolled cushions. Pictures of gods and goddesses, bathed in cheap agarbatti smoke, on the lime washed wall, looking down on each and every transaction in what could only have been an implicit approval.

My mother and I held on to a frayed rope and climbed the steps to the jeweler gingerly, and were greeted by the large man. My mother, in hopes of getting a discount, told him her maiden name and pointed out their fathers or uncles or someone knew each other. The man, surprisingly, made the connection. Or he was a really good salesman. After sitting down on the streaked mattresses, my mother explained the job. It was a ring. For me. I was a seventeen year old tomboy, who refused to wear any jewelry but had agreed to wear a ring. Set in gold and garnets. My mother had wasted no time. And on a cool, sunny Saturday morning we sat in an auto rickshaw and went to the jeweler’s to pick the design and order the ring.

We chose the garnets, settled on a design and were about to leave, when the jeweler asked if we would like the ring set in diamonds instead. My mother shook her head. Not today, she mumbled. There really was no money for diamond rings. Just take a look at the diamonds. He persisted. I just got a shipment yesterday of some really nice ones. What’s the harm in looking? He smiled though his thick glasses. He reached in a safe under the desk and pulled out a small steel box. He opened it with yet another key and nestled inside, amidst rustling, pink paper were many exquisite diamonds. Shining coldly like a white campfire. Their brilliance took me by surprise. He was telling me to stretch out my hand. He adroitly picked a large stone with tiny pincers and placed it on my palm. A little more than two carats. He said through his tobacco stained teeth. I brought the palm close to my face and peered and was taken aback by what I saw. The stone had infinite depth. It was bottomless. You could see the shining light from within it. The more I looked, the more I was pulled by this beautiful glow that seemed to radiate from somewhere deep inside the diamond. It was hypnotic. This is what true love must feel like. I thought to myself. I stretched my palm once again, reluctantly this time and the stone went back in the little box and then to the little safe. We left the store but I could not get the diamond out of my mind. I had never seen anything like it before and gradually comprehended why so many people worshipped diamonds. I had become one of them.

And I was fortunate enough to be given diamonds. Later, by mom, when I turned twenty-five. Then BigGeek when we were engaged. Then my grand mom when I got married. Then BigGeek on an anniversary. And I have been gleeful – there is no other word – gleeful to get these stones and wear them.

And then came a movie. Blood Diamond. BigGeek and I watched it and it left a huge impact on me. The diamond trade is ugly. Who knew? I didn’t. Along the west coast of Africa, in countries that only seem to exist only in high school geography books and 120 second BBC news clips, countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia. The diamond trade thrives here. Diamonds are mined in forced labor camps, smuggled and sold, the money used to fund despotic governments who torture their own people, chop off arms of small children (so thy cannot vote when they grow up) and send able bodied men to forced labor camps and the cycle continues. Two hours later, I told BigGeek I had sworn off diamonds. The images of 6-7 year old kids with chopped arms haunted me. It could have been us. I thought. Had we had the misfortune of being born there. The next day, I looked it up, in the hope that this would be just another Hollywood creation. That things like this happen only in movies. Not in real life. But they do. Everyday.

I understand diamonds are just another commodity. Had that part of the world been rich in say, oil, they would have smuggled and traded oil or whatever other natural resources to fund their despots. But I can’t, despite rationalizations, come to buy diamonds any more. I cannot buy a diamond to wear it on my finger knowing, somewhere, someone gave up an arm for it. Literally. And then I saw the DeBeers documentary. I still love diamonds, but I refuse so buy them. There are labs that create synthetic diamonds. Not zirconia, but real diamonds. Chemically identical – carbon under pressure and heat. The diamonds are not cheap. They cost as much as mined ones, but are humane. The diamonds haven’t really come to the Zales store in your mall yet, but they should soon, if they can stand the pressure from the mined diamond lobby. Until then, I’ll bide my time and wait patiently.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hats off to you!
Similar reaction after watching Blood Diamond.

mumbaigirl said...

Absolutely agree with you. Own a few very small ones but have sworn off them too after Blood Diamond.

DotMom said...

anon: thanks!

mumbaigirl: Films like these do have an impact. BigGeek thinks the efect is short lived.. but I am glad to see another person following her heart.

B o o said...

The movie had a huge impact. Hd thinks the effect is short lived too. But I have to convince myself first before convincing him. Sigh! Why are things NEVER easy?

Beautiful post. I remembered fondly the day my grandpa asked the goldsmith to come home and gave his antic ring and asked him to set the diamonds on ear studs for me. I was around 10 years and used to rush home from school to see the goldsmith at work. I wore those ear studs or the first time before my wedding. But my grandpa was nt around to see that. Memories! I like them more than diamonds! :)

Preethi said...

such a beautiful story with a tragic end.. I have not seen the movie blood diamond but read a book once about the diamond trade... yeah we have to swear off diamonds .. reminds me of the fireworks from Sivakasi.. I swore off that due to child labor and it has been years since. As for diamonds, I hardly ever buy jewelery..

The TAAMommy said...

Girl, now I have to give up my diamonds ???!!! :)
But I am forever to jump in a bandwagon that has an anti-issue and economical on the pocket, But it is really hard to ocnvince TAADad. I swore to him i do not want to have a leather interior but I had to, cuz the options came with it and i was weakwilled to stage a huge fight !!. The one day i deemed i am not going to wear silk anymore and he said it is going to cost more to replace my 'party wardrobe' and easier to wear silk !! (sigh)

Usha said...

Beautiful post dotmom. I have not watched the film and had no idea about these inhuman practices in the diamond trade.
I have never loved diamonds - rubies are my favorite. I truly hope the red on the rubies is not so from the blood of some poor children.

dipali said...

Haven't watched the movie yet but heard about it. But what will folks do with the diamonds they already have?

~nm said...

I haven't seen the movie but now I want to see it.

I always used to crib to hubby that I don't have even one piece of diamond jewelery yet and now hearing what you wrote about diamond mines, I feel a bit relieved that I'm not a party to such heinous acts even if indirectly.

Its Our Space said...

Didn't know this is what the movie is about. Shows how far away I am from the movie scene . Have never been a fan of any jewelery,so staying off diamonds will come easy now . Thanks for the pointer ,DM.Loved the narrative here . You ROCK !:)

Tharini said...

Thank God thank god thank god, that you turned out to be the person that watched that movie and that it changed you. My blood went cold when I started reading the post abotu your love for diamonds. I can;;t explain my reaction, and I told myself...don't judge, but it was so hard and i kept saying, not you dotmom, not you, please, not you.

I know it seems rather intense a comment, but that movie affected me as well and very deeply. I have never been captivated by diamonds, but I do own some, and by God I will not buy another one.

I know it sounds sytrange to say....but in some odd way, I feel proud to know you.

Orchid said...

the movies is powerful, it is but I have to admit, I still give into my weakness wish I had your conviction :(

Shobana said...

Have you seen the movie, "Sometimes in April". It has nothing to do with diamonds, but the kind of movie which leaves an impact on you. Also Hotel Rwanda? It is a good one too...

DotMom said...

b o o : I guess all men are cynical.. or realistic.. that is such a beautiful memory.. it deserves more than a few lines.. do write a post.

preethi: we swore off fireworks too when we were kids...and we felt so proud of it.

taamommy: you don't have to.. there are humane alternatives on the market.

usha: oh! you so must watch the movie. i don't know were rubies come from.. but my mom had some that were from Burma.

dipali: I own diamonds and wear them.. I am just not buying more. I had no idea how ugly the diamond trade.. do watch the movie.

~nm: there are other alternatives.. I am not lobbying here.. just presenting a not so well known fact.

Its our space: Thanks :)

Tharini: hahahaha. it such an awsome movie.I don't think people like us who buy a few carats over their life time really fuel the industry.. even then, like I said I just can't!

orchid: it was a powerful movie.. left me very raw.

shobana: no I haven't seen that movie. thanks for the tip. will add it to my netflix queue.Have seem Hotel Rawands though. Another very powerful movie.

Vinita said...

Had no idea about this. Diamonds weren.t really my thing anyway. Won't be able to watch that movie too. It gets very hard for me to forget such images. Even reading your post made me sad.

Vinita

Mona said...

omg, i watched blood diamond recently too and it made me so sad. luckily, i never cared for diamonds though i own some.
except for the engagement ring, i don't wear any on a daily basis.

The TAAMommy said...

Guys, Guys and Guys : there is atrocities happening everywhere. These movies help us understand some of the inner workings of different industries. The meat industry, the cow industry, the egg industry, coffee, cocoa, sivakasi child labors, etc etc etc. So now, are we going to give up on meat, milk, eggs ? What we can do is try to raise the awareness of the inner workings and help in all ways possible, eliminate the ugliness of the situation. Diamonds themselves are not bad, unlike meat which is a direct product of killing of an animal. Unless you switch to tofu chicken, you are killing a chicken here. Fortunately, to obtain diamonds, we do not have to kill anyone !!. I havent seen this movie, but this movie brought back memories of 'Master Of The Game' , read so long back !!

DotMom said...

vinita: the movie does leave you raw.

mona: its not about wearing diamons.. its about fuelling despots.

taa mommy: there are atrocities everywhere. no doubt. you raise several points in your comment. about the meat and milk and poultry industry, I have so say this, I do place a human's life to be more valuable than a chicken's. I do. That being said, there ARE humane alternatives to all these. child labor is a differnt story altogether and I have written about it in a post. Also, I don't understand what you mean by this line-
//
Fortunately, to obtain diamonds, we do not have to kill anyone
//

we, as in you and me personally?

The TAAMommy said...

We - as in humans, all humans. Do humans have to be killed to obtain diamonds ?

raindrop said...

My mom offered to buy me diamonds, and I refused and went off into a tirade about mining conditions at De Beers. Right at the jewelry store. I'm glad to see there are plenty of others with a conscience.

Besides, carbon's a very common element. And the only way you can tell a lab produced diamond from a real one is from the fact that lab diamonds are perfectly flawless. I foresee a huge drop in diamond prices. You're better off with gold, it's an element, and cannot be produced outside a star/supernova.

rayshma said...

am not really into diamonds... but i do wear my engagement ring... and yeah, blood diamond made me swear off diamonds!!! haven't seen the de beers documentary yet....

DotMom said...

taa mommy: I don't understand when you say..Maybe I am missing the point you are trying to make when you say-
//Do humans have to be killed to obtain diamonds ?//

Well.. that don't HAVE to be killed. that's how the trade is. people die as both a direct and an indirect result of the diamond trade.

raindrop: don't even get me started on debeers. did you know that the man-made diamond were supposed to be marketed as cultred diamonds.. borrowing the term from the pearl industry. debeers is suing the labs that they cannot use the word diamond. and the fact that it is manmade has to be in someway engraved in laser on the stones so that they can be told part from the moned ones.. If I remeber right, there is only 2 (spectroscopy??) machines in the world that can discern the difference between mined and man-made diamonds and they are both owned by debeers.. the machines are just too expensive for your local jeweller to invest in. and you are absolutely correct.. the man made diamonds don't have any flaws typically seen in mined diamonds.

rayshma: I wear my engagement ring too everyday! you have to see the documentary.. I think you can get it on netflix.

Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but you've said enough to grab my attention.

Of course, there are too many atrocities and you can't stop all of them...but you gotta start somewhere, right? Don't they say something about tiny drops of water???

After hearing about something this heinous, it's not going to be easy
to turn a deaf ear.

As always, it was an excellent narrative!

Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

Wanted to add that the "Kimberley Process Certification Scheme" has evolved as a result of this movie to certify diamonds. It may not solve everything, but a definite beginning!

Parul said...

Hi DM,

I had no idea! Like all movies released in the last year and a half, I didn't get to see Blood Diamond. Now I am feeling guilty about all the bling that is on me. I hope the lab bling comes out soon. I think I will make a switch too.

noon said...

I have not watched the movie - but I don't have diamonds other than the traditional ear rings and finger ring that is given as part of the wedding gifts...I don't intend to buy any either. To me, it is not just about buying diamonds per se...Different issues with different things - I stopped buying any new silk sarees - it was a huge battle during my wedding - finally I did ended accepting a silk Sari gift - so now I have stopped with wearing the ones I have, no new ones...Same with fire crackers. And thankfully I grew up being a vegetarian, so no battles with myself there... I feel at every level I have to bribe my conscience and make compromises with it - it is also about the money being spent on such things that could be put to better use...sometimes I control myself from needless indulgence, sometimes I give into some impulses to buy pretty but needless things...If I had millions to spend, I would still feel guilty about driving a Beamer...I don't know if I can resist the impulse of a car that I think is really cool to look at - if I had all that extra money to throw around...but at least I cannot do so without guilt...an Accord, yes, I need it - a safe good car...a Beamer? No, I don't need* it...Well anyway - I feel at every level there is injustice. In the clothes we wear, even in buying things that are cheap here (some poor laborer is paying the price), in just accepting some injustices and going on with our lives...we have to draw our own lines and keep fighting the battles within us - there will always be inconsistencies, but what can you do but to keep trying...
Nice post - enjoyed the description of how you went to get the ring...

Sue said...

Me too. After reading 'The Gardener's Song'.

I love the ones I have but I'm not buying any more.

The TAAMommy said...

Now, the title 'Blood Diamond' is making sense, as in blood loss. What i wanted to convey is, diamonds itself is a natural harmless commodity which in obtaining is creating much harm. So the process is to be blamed. And if man can fly people to the moon, he can hopefully find ways to attain it in a humane way !! Again, might be misinformed as I am hardly familiar with the movie.

DotMom said...

gnd: you haven't? that's surprising.. you have to see it now.. the amount of diamonds I can afford to buy in a ife time pale in comparison with what the hollywoord starlets will buy in one season.. but as you say..baby steps. It's certainly important to raise awareness.. thanks for the kimberly process scheme info. will look it up. this is quite heartening.

parul: I don't think you should feel guilty about wearing it... but yes... I am glad you are thinking of making the switch.

noon: Like I said earlier in my comments, I do place human life above any animal's. I just do. Which does not mean other animals should be needlessly tortured.. but just ask anyone conducting animal trials for pharmaceutical drugs. Sometimes you cannot help these things. Better a rat than my son. I would not place bonded labor on par with child labor. I have thoughts on (humane) child labor.. I don't think there is anything wrong with it if it helps the child feed himself. As to you comment about on every level there is injustice.. I don't think so. Not if you are buying cheap things amde in china. no. that's how economics works... This is a seperate issue and I'll prolly do a post on it because I feel very strongly about it too.

sue: I have to get that book now!

taamommy: human nature changes at glacial speed. I don't think we have changed much in terms of nature in the past 1000 years. Also don't you think money is a very persuasive reason to change oneself? :)

noon said...

Hi Dotmom - sure some things you can't help...I can't help consuming drugs - research has progressed thus far because of animals used in experimentation...I just meant each of us tries to draw lines where we feel comfortable. I am a vegetarian and continue to be so because I would rather not eat something that has been particularly killed for my consumption - but I am not denying that I am not being consistent totally - many animals are being subject to harsh conditions in the diary industry - but I am not able to and cannot imagine myself becoming a vegan for that reason. I draw my line here because I am not able to/willing try as hard as my friend who became a vegan for this reason...
And as far cheap clothes etc - it's just economics, sure. No denials there. But that doesn't negate the fact that we are part of that economics - the one that doesn't question the plight of the lowest laborer while the CEO's make 1000 times more...some things are hidden. I see a good pair of jeans on sale - I am not thinking about the whole ecomonic structure at the moment I swipe my credit card - I just think about the good deal I got at that moment! This is me I am talking about - but I can be fairly sure a lot of others are this way too...We are all a part of it and every one of us tries in our own way to make it better...
OK well I think I shd just write a post than hog up your comment space - sorry - ended up being a long comment. Hope you don't mind..need time to make a coherent post about this topic.

Mona said...

hi you.
i didn't mean that not wearing helps :/ i'm just saying that i don't care about them enough to not even wear them on a daily basis.
and to be honest, i stopped buying diamonds long before i even watched blood diamond. but all the more reason not to, since i watched it.
and dude, i've been craving pecan pie for a year now. i'm hoping to run into someone who can make it the way i remember it.

DotMom said...

noon: are you seriously wondering why the laborer gets less money than the CEO? Really? You seriously feel everybody should get paid equal no matter what the talent/skill/responsibility? That a doctor should get paid as much as the janitor? I think not. But, please do a post. Its really refreshing to see another point of view. Looking forward to reading it.

Mona: ah.. how can a girl not like diamonds :) surely you must be from Mars? I can make a killer pecan pie. I'll mail you one if you are craving it and see if it the way you remember it :D

noon said...

Hi Dotmom - I am surprised to see you make such extrapolations from my comment. Did I say anywhere that I expect the CEO and laborer or doctor and janitor to make the same amount of money? That would amount to saying something outrightly stupid on my part - if that's what you think I have said here! I am talking about "What is", not "What should be" even! I am saying that we don't think about the economics of it all when we go to buy something good at a cheap price. I am talking about the disproportionately high incomes of CEOs compared to the lowest workers at least in garment factories and such...the income distribution is definitely not equitable and we cannot deny that...we don't go and stage protests to question that injustice when we are getting good deals at the front end! This is my opinion. My post may be a repetition of such sentiments that I feel anyways...

DotMom said...

What does this statement exactly mean then??
//
am talking about the disproportionately high incomes of CEOs compared to the lowest workers at least in garment factories and such...
//

they are disproportionate for a reason.

noon said...

Hi dotmom - Posted comments in my "Income disparity" post again.

Squiggles Mom said...

Oh dear... I just bought some diamonds. I haven't watched the movie but will go find it now.

On a completely different note and I know that just coz he is called a Big Geek doesn't mean he knows everything.... but does he know how to hack a dvd player so I can make mine region free. Just bought some DVDs and can't watch them because I bought my player in the UK. I'm so pissed off. I spent 2 hours last night trying to find a solution online and I guess I'm still thinking about it :)

DotMom said...

squiggles mom: I am laughing sooo hard. BigGeek is not in town. Will ask him when he gets back. But this is what I found-
http://www.dvdexploder.com/multihacks.htm

bird's eye view said...

I loved the first part, where you wrote about discovering diamonds - really evocative.
As far as the second goes...yeah, I think more of us need to exercise our power as consumers and fight for the issues we believe in, so more power to you!