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Caveat emptor? Let “the free hand” of the market decide. Who are we to judge?

In the News

Caveat emptor? Let “the free hand” of the market decide. Who are we to judge?

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Diamond Industry

Caveat emptor? Let “the free hand” of the market decide. Who are we to judge?

January 1, 2016 BY Maarten de Witte IN In the News

Hey Rob Bates,

Re: An Open Letter to Leonardo DiCaprio

Fear is not a good plan.

I find it disingenuous that you raise the ghost of Nelson Mandela in the cause of thwarting change.  In fact, an old Xhosa saying is that “change does not roll in under the wheel of inevitability”.  Positive change requires action!

The great Madiba was imprisoned for his militant embrace of the African National Congress’ Freedom Charter, which clearly stated:

The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth!

The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;

The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry, shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.

Yet, even after years of brutal imprisonment, he gladly embraced the concept of Truth and Reconciliation. That is important to remember.

Bottom line: you don’t get to rewrite the past, but you can create a positive future.

For the record, earth-mining of diamonds is based on environmental destruction of vast dimension, particularly in open-pit operations. It literally leaves giant holes in the countryside. It uses big factories, big machinery and minimal labor.  Alluvial mining lays waste to entire indigenous communities, engaged in extremely ill-paid artisanal digging under conditions of duress and hardship. These are the very populations who today must beg for the charitable support you tout. 

Despite its vast resources and power, the earth-mined diamond industry is based on a seriously flawed business model.  Even though diamonds in the ground have no economic value (i.e. they are free for the taking) and, all things considered, are therefore cheap to produce, ultimately their trade is not sustainable.  Mother Earth quit making diamonds millions of years ago, they are non-renewable, and the supply is diminishing over time. 

That much is certain.

Lab-grown diamonds do not have to replace earth-mined diamonds to be beneficial. But, they are necessary to supplement the trade and keep it alive. They provide the means for mankind to enjoy the many benefits of diamond well into the foreseeable future.

Lab-grown diamonds have already been economically manufactured for over 50 years to the great benefit of the entire industrialized world.

Only in the past decade or so has the process been refined enough to produce gem-quality diamonds in sizes suitable for jewelry.  Even as this process is refined and improved, it is ludicrous to assume that it will become (too) cheap. Precisely to your point Rob, it requires large investment of capital, labor, machinery, and yes energy, to make beautiful diamonds – of any kind.

The market for lab-grown gem diamonds will grow and be defined by consumers.  For some who may have already left earth-mined diamonds behind it may be the just and moral choice.  That is OK!  For others, it may be the environmental and ethical right thing to do. And, for a select few it may represent complete magic, the highest form of alchemy, the epitome of scientific achievement, or the ultimate interaction of man and nature in creating  the most superlative of material known in the universe. 

Caveat emptor?  Let “the free hand” of the market decide. Who are we to judge?

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