Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Truth About Bling

I am absolutely infatuated with my wedding ring. Sounds a bit vain and worldly, I know. But the truth is, it's absolutely perfect for me.

Photo courtesy of Ashwood Photography

I also adore my jeweler, Kristy at JK Jewelers. Her and her employee Ashley were wonderful at making sure I got exactly what I wanted and weren't afraid to tell me no, or give me more information so I could make the best decision for me.

Lately I've been receiving lots of compliments about my ring, and getting lots of comments on it as well. Grandma will be so upset I'm telling the world, but it's not something I'm ashamed of; in fact, it's something I think more people should know. So here goes.

I love the fire of a diamond. The way the facets work together to create a brilliance that can be altogether breathtaking. But when it came to getting a ring I knew the cut I wanted was extremely expensive because it's unique and difficult to get right. My solitaire ring features a 7 trillion. Because of it's shape it looks like it could probably be a 1.5 carat, but they're measured differently (again because of the unique shape). I started developing the concept behind my ring when I was 15 years old. That's a story for another time and place. Suffice it to say I wanted a solitaire trillion on a by-pass band (the band doesn't form a complete circle, it passes by the two parts that would complete the band).

As I grew up I was exposed to some seriously disconcerting information. First, I read the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (you can read more about that here). I also watched the film Blood Diamond . What I read and heard stuck with me. So I did more research. 

Blood Diamond is not just a catchy movie title, it's a literal object.

The U.N. has some information, but you can see it hasn't been updated since 2001, and reads somewhat like ancient history. The truth is, the issues with blood diamonds are prevalent today, and are just as much a threat to peace and stability as they have always been. In spite of the Kimberley Certification Process Scheme (you can read more about that in this article on Wikipedia, as well as the on-going history of blood diamonds) of 2000 the blood has not ceased flowing for the sake of diamonds.

If you've bothered following any of these links you have learned that purchasing diamonds from non-certified countries supports drug and war lords who, in turn, run armies of children, cut off the limbs of individuals who will not help them, and use sexual abuse against children and women to gain their goals. Many of them seek for power and use vast stores of weapons and drugs to achieve their means.

You may think, "But I bought my jewelry from _______(insert national chain here)." They verify that their diamonds are conflict free." The sad fact is, diamonds are smuggled across borders from non-certified countries to certified countries, exported as their own (even though the numbers clearly do not add up for numbers mined versus numbers exported), are mixed with the conflict-free stones, and sold on the market. Congratulations, the drug/war-lord has been financed.

I am not saying that jewelers are the enemy, nor are people who purchase and like to wear diamonds. The enemy is greed and power. The enemy is a corrupt system which is willing to sacrifice human lives to line it's pockets with even more money. There are some  articles, like this one, dedicated to helping the concerned consumer try to purchase conflict-free diamonds. Yet there is no guarantee unless you mine the stone yourself (good luck with that).

After I learned all this I could not, in good conscience, buy a diamond ring. So I opted for the truly conflict-free alternative. My ring is set with a cubic zirconia. To any trained jeweler's eye it is easily recognizable. But most people who look at my ring would never know the difference. They are cost effective, they are conflict-free, and they are, for all intents and purposes, a spot on match for a real diamond. My stone has perfect cut, color, and clarity. Not to mention I was able to go big without breaking the bank. A real diamond with a slight inclusion, less-than perfect coloring, and half the size of mine costs over $6,000 USD.

Instead I have a virtually flawless copy that I can replace every one to two years for maybe $40 USD. I could replace it every year for the rest of my life and still not spend a fraction of what a real one would cost. And I know that nobody had to die so I could enjoy my sparkle. There is the age-old retort, "But it's not real." 

Well, here's what's real to me:

I work in a fairly global community. The English Village where I work in South Korea represents at least nine different countries. One co-worker, from a country rife with diamond conflict, overheard me talking about this and seemed surprised that I knew what I do, and cared enough to do something about it.

No. It's not real. And I can sleep with that.