Recently I ran across two enlightening articles in the New York Times: “When Gold isn?t Worth the Price”, and “A Seismic Shift in How People Eat.” The first article stressed the importance of corporations taking a responsible curator role in establishing the best practices for mining precious metals and gemstones. The second article related how big food manufacturers like General Mills, Tyson, Foster Farm, Kraft, and Hershey’s are now using ingredients labels that better reflect consumers demands for healthy foods that still taste great. As a nation we have learned the hard way that not everything we want is good for us. Big Food knew that we easily become addicted to products laced with sugar, salt, and fats so they fed them to us. Everyone has seen the consequences of allowing ourselves to eat high caloric foods with no nutritional value. Currently three out of every four of us are overweight or obese and for the first time, more of us are obese than overweight. Big Food finally figured out that it’s hard to keep profits up if the product is killing consumers.
These articles were they catalyst for me to think about diamonds and how they could be categorized as healthy or unhealthy.
WHAT DOES A HEALTHY DIAMOND LOOK LIKE?
Liquid: First and foremost, a healthy diamond is liquid. “Liquid” refers to two things; price transparency and cash liquidity. Price transparency allows the buyer to determine the diamond’s fair market price (FMP). Like a Kelley Blue Book evaluation, the FMP allows the buyer to shop intelligently and avoid price gouging. A fair premium to FMP runs about 10%. Hand in hand with price transparency is cash liquidity. The buyer must be able to know not only present-day cash value but future cash value. Healthy rocks are all bonded and the seller guarantees in writing that the diamond’s cash liquidation price is equal to price paid. The only prerequisites for the buyer are annual inspections and general maintenance.
Organic: A healthy diamond is organic, from Mother Earth with no preservatives. It might sound funny to you, but most diamonds sold to the public today are heavily processed. Fracture-filled rocks are diamonds with fillers. Annealed (heat-treated) diamonds are diamonds that have been baked to improve color. Then, add bleached, laser drilled, and irradiated diamonds and the number of overly processed diamonds for sale go through the roof! Now mix in the fakes (diamond simulants and synthetics) and it’s hard for the customer to really know what they are getting. Healthy diamonds have no synthetic sanitizers, no chemical fertilizers, irradiation, industrial solvents or additives. Healthy diamonds are 100% organic. Accept no substitutes.
Value: For any gemstone to be valuable it must possess three qualities: beauty, durability, and rarity. If it’s missing any one of these three it misses the boat on valuable. It we look deeper, the word intrinsic shows up. Some rare things have intrinsic value. Gold for example has an intrinsic value, not just because it is rare, but because people believe in it. What we believe matters. My father pointed out that if you add up all the ingredients that make up the human body, you find we are 61% H2O, 18% carbon, and a mix of other elements and minerals that when line-itemed add up to $160. Yet the value we place on human life is immeasurable. A healthy diamond isn’t intrinsically valuable because its ingredients are rare because they aren’t. Any chemist will tell you, the ingredients of a diamond are worth pennies. What makes a diamond mean something to us is the process, not the outcome. Man can make a diamond now in a few weeks. Soon in a few hours. The process is automated. But earth is another story. Hundreds of millions of years is quite the process, and we have always recognized that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. A healthy diamond is intrinsically valuable because it took the hard road, not a shortcut. We admire that. We cherish what we worked hard for, what didn’t come easy. A healthy diamond has intrinsic value because we believe in it; it is a reflection of us. We choose it as a symbol of our love because at the end of the day it is our relationships that matter to us most of all. If we didn’t take any shortcuts to get where we are, why would we choose a diamond that did? There is a quote I love and means a lot to me, “Better to die on my feet than to live on my knees.” What we stand for matters.
Environmentally Friendly: It cannot be overstated that the extraction of gemstones from Earth raises the possibility to cause harm to our environment unless it is carefully managed. According to The World Diamond Council the key challenge is land disturbance. The council states:
Diamond mining uses a variety of methods, some of which involve the removal of large quantities of soil from the Earth. However it must be remembered that it is economically beneficial to recover the greatest amount of diamonds while moving the least amount of other material. Therefore diamond mines seek to have the minimum sized footprint, and move only the necessary material (known as waste) efficiently.
Modern day best practice calls for a full review of the plans for removal, storage, and return of this topsoil/waste and the environmental impact it will have to allow the area to return to its previous state.
In addition to land disturbances there are a number of associated challenges.
- Energy use and emissions
- Waste and recycling
- Use of water
- Impact on biodiversity
Most importantly, green diamond mining will always be free of using hazardous material.
From exploration, open pit and underground mining, coastal and inland alluvial mining, marine mining, and even informal diamond digging, standards must be put into place to ensure the diamond you purchase is environmentally friendly.
Jewelry has always been a symbol of the love we share for each other. If we are going to continue those traditions we must be mindful of everything and that includes our environment. While unhealthy, non-environmentally friendly diamonds are now rampant in the marketplace, we can’t be lured by cheap prices and “bargains”. Remember: a bargain is something you don’t need at a price you can’t resist. If we continue to make poor choices that aren’t in line with our values, we will be doing nothing more than filling our junk drawers.
If jewelers expect to be trusted they have to be willing to tell us our diamond’s history with total transparency. We must demand guarantees (not worthless lab reports) that ensure the authenticity of our diamonds. A healthy diamond is Liquid, Organic, Valuable, and Environmentally-Friendly. L.O.V.E. Simply put, to the degree we love, we will be loved. Healthy diamonds are lovable.
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask The Diamond Guy