Blood Diamonds

Posted by - - Politics.

‘Blood diamonds’ is a phrase that has slipped into the lexicon over the past decade or so. The associations that travel with the phrase suggest that blood diamonds are, if not evil solidified, something very close to it. Recently a curvaceous super model (unfortunately not a tautology), the ex-dictator of Liberia (unfortunately an oxymoron), and a dinner party at the home of Nelson Mandela (unfortunately true), the International Criminal Court (unfortunately nothing to parenthesise) and blood diamonds all came together as a tabloid sensation demanding attention.

Blood diamonds are ‘diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council’.

Diamonds, as we know, are forever. And, if de Beers has its way, they are forever expensive. For most of the past hundred years or so de Beers controlled the supply and distribution of the majority of gem quality diamonds throughout the world. It limits supply. At the same time, it creates demand by associating diamonds with glamour, wealth, quality, and permanence. The branding of diamonds has even co-opted marriage into its marketing. Short supply and high demand equals high price.

When a new supply of high quality diamonds becomes available, the natural response of the monopolist is to either control the new supply or, if that can’t be done, to eliminate it. And elimination is what has happened, albeit with the assistance of the United Nations.

The predominant methods of supply eradication were negative-branding and UN brokered treaties, both being addressed to the demand side of the equation. The negative-branding concept was brilliantly conceived, and brilliantly executed. A blood-diamond is the diametric of a ‘real’ diamond. The more negative connotations that one hangs onto blood diamonds, the better real diamonds become. And even more brilliantly, a diamond with a red hue is subconsciously, and erroneously, associated with blood diamonds.

The negative branding having commenced, lobbying was brought to bear on various NGOs, including the UN, arguing that the proceeds of diamonds mined in conflict zones were often used to fund wars. The argument was that the diamond itself was morally equivalent to the use to which those proceeds were put, and that same moral equivalence rubbed off on any subsequent owner of the diamond. The argument was accepted, and various UN Resolutions followed.

It is so nice when morality and money get engaged. That calls for a diamond.

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