Made In The U.S.A.

Diamonds, pt. 3

In Adventures on June 20, 2009 at 12:45 am

You’ve done your research and discovered that while you can’t buy an American-made diamond, you can buy a diamond with a conscience. So far so good.

So you head off to a local jeweler and look for rings that don’t incorporate blood diamonds. Things go downhill quickly from there.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I focused my attention in this process on the center diamond, the solitaire, in Shelley’s ring. I quickly learned that it was very difficult to determine where rings were actually made, and decided that in this instance it was most important that I choose the perfect ring for her, and that she know that her diamond was mined responsibly. It turns out that the company that made her ring is based in Los Angeles, is a prominent jewelry designer, and makes handmade rings. What I don’t know is where the rings are handmade. Lots of searching and still nothing. Like I said–I’ll focus on ensuring the major portion of the purchase is as responsible as possible. I’m now satisfied, but getting there wasn’t easy. Back to our story.

Armed with the knowledge that a Canadian or Kimberley Certified diamond should cost me no more than any other diamond, I started asking questions.

The first jeweler was tremendously helpful. He had a minimal selection, but suggested ordering a stone to meet my needs of color, cut, clarity, etcetera. He even offered to search for the sixth C–conscience. He didn’t have any Kimberley Certified stones in stock, but he would be able to find them. It would limit the selection, but it was possible.

So that’s good news. But not great news. There’s still a very clear distinction between Kimberley Certified diamonds and just any ol’ diamonds. Puzzling, and a bit disconcerting.

The next jeweler was Tiffany. I’d read that Tiffany was a leader in using certified diamonds and providing assurance by way of documentation. Turns out that seemed to be true, based on my visit to the store. Problem was, they didn’t have a ring I loved. And anybody who says you don’t pay a premium at Tiffany is crazy.

The next jeweler was another long-time local presence. It was a slow Saturday afternoon when I walked in, so two employees helped me. The young one was nice and helpful. The older one lost the sale. Here’s why: I asked about certification, and she said, sternly, as if waving off a pest: “Yes, the movie. Well we don’t sell any blood diamonds.”

This is the pat answer that you will find at every jeweler. It’s interesting that all retailers claim that they don’t sell blood diamonds, yet so far nobody could prove it with anything more meaningful than those empty words. Funny how nobody sells blood diamonds, but lots of third-world countries supply them.

That jeweler actually stayed in contact with me via email, and the young one’s follow-up actually reassured me that she could get what I was after. Even though they seemed stumped in the store, she must have done her research and figured out the right answer. Though I don’t think she could guarantee to order a Kimberley Certified diamond, they could in some instances. They could also supply diamonds stamped on the GIA certificate that they are NOT BLOOD DIAMONDS. This is nice. But I could get a stamp too. Mine would say I’M A SUPER-AWESOME ASTRONAUT. But I would not be, just because it is stamped so. Besides, the stone she’d shown me in the store was an older stone and didn’t have any of these stamps or certifications. Bummer.

The next jeweler was another staple in a swanky part of town. Though the selection was nice, the salesman wasn’t familiar with the Kimberley Certification process. He was, however, experienced enough to tell me that Kimberley is a large African mine. This is the sort of thing that will take the wind out of your sails. At this point, it’s starting to seem impossible to get a diamond that probably didn’t kill someone.

So at this point you do the prudent thing and take a week off from your search to gather your thoughts.

Eventually you visit another jeweler. You find a ring you love. You inquire about policies, and they answer without blinking. “Not only do we not sell blood diamonds, we only buy Kimberley Certified diamonds. Every diamond comes with a ‘birth certificate’ that accompanied it all the way from the mine.” Wow. Not only did she know the right answers, she answered them without missing a beat. And she went above and beyond with both Kimberley Certification and a birth certificate. The fact that that certificate is in storage and not available for immediate review didn’t bother me. The fact that she knew so much about what I wanted set my mind at ease. A colleague of hers even congratulated me for specifically seeking out a conscientious diamond.

Guess who I bought a diamond from.

It’s always darkest before the dawn. I was feeling like it was going to be impossible to buy a diamond that met my needs. Thankfully, one jeweler knew exactly what I was shopping for, and even understood why. That’s important stuff, especially with an important purchase like this.

The takeaway seems to be that if you know what the right thing is to do, if you persevere you can find it.

But what’s still bothering me is how clearly so many people aren’t even asking their jewelers about diamond origins. These retailers have so much business that doesn’t seem to care about it they don’t even bother to know the answers to the questions–much less to stock the diamonds in the store. It just goes to show how it’s going to take our demands, our outrage, and our voting with our dollars to change behaviors–whether we’re talking about diamonds or lawn mowers or underpants.

I, for one, am glad to have been able to reward with a purchase the only retailer I visited who cared enough to provide me with the product that met my, all things considered, relatively basic needs.

I suppose we’ve got bigger problems than buying American if as a society we don’t even care about buying a diamond that might have been mined as a way to oppress an entire population.

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