Econ-Atrocity: Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone, Under Any Circumstances, Even If They Really Want to Give You One

By Liz Stanton, CPE Staff Economist

  1. You’ve Been Psychologically Conditioned To Want a Diamond. The diamond engagement ring is a 63-year-old invention of N.W.Ayer advertising agency. The De Beers diamond cartel contracted N.W.Ayer to create a demand for what are, essentially, useless hunks of rock.
  2. Diamonds are Priced Well Above Their Value. The De Beers cartel has systematically held diamond prices at levels far greater than their abundance would generate under anything even remotely resembling perfect competition. All diamonds not already under its control are bought by the cartel, and then the De Beers cartel carefully managed world diamond supply in order to keep prices steadily high.
  3. Diamonds Have No Resale or Investment Value. Any diamond that you buy or receive will indeed be yours forever: De Beers’ advertising deliberately brain-washed women not to sell; the steady price is a tool to prevent speculation in diamonds; and no dealer will buy a diamond from you. You can only sell it at a diamond purchasing center or a pawn shop where you will receive a tiny fraction of its original “value.”
  4. Diamond Miners are Disproportionately Exposed to HIV/AIDS. Many diamond mining camps enforce all-male, no-family rules. Men contract HIV/AIDS from camp sex-workers, while women married to miners have no access to employment, no income outside of their husbands and no bargaining power for negotiating safe sex, and thus are at extremely high risk of contracting HIV.
  5. Open-Pit Diamond Mines Pose Environmental Threats. Diamond mines are open pits where salts, heavy minerals, organisms, oil, and chemicals from mining equipment freely leach into ground-water, endangering people in nearby mining camps and villages, as well as downstream plants and animals.
  6. Diamond Mine-Owners Violate Indigenous People’s Rights. Diamond mines in Australia, Canada, India and many countries in Africa are situated on lands traditionally associated with indigenous peoples. Many of these communities have been displaced, while others remain, often at great cost to their health, livelihoods and traditional cultures.
  7. Slave Laborers Cut and Polish Diamonds. More than one-half of the world’s diamonds are processed in India where many of the cutters and polishers are bonded child laborers. Bonded children work to pay off the debts of their relatives, often unsuccessfully. When they reach adulthood their debt is passed on to their younger siblings or to their own children.
  8. Conflict Diamonds Fund Civil Wars in Africa. There is no reliable way to insure that your diamond was not mined or stolen by government or rebel military forces in order to finance civil conflict. Conflict diamonds are traded either for guns or for cash to pay and feed soldiers.
  9. Diamond Wars are Fought Using Child Warriors. Many diamond producing governments and rebel forces use children as soldiers, laborers in military camps, and sex slaves. Child soldiers are given drugs to overcome their fear and reluctance to participate in atrocities.
  10. Small Arms Trade is Intimately Related to Diamond Smuggling. Illicit diamonds inflame the clandestine trade of small arms. There are 500 million small arms in the world today which are used to kill 500,000 people annually, the vast majority of whom are non-combatants.


© 2002 Center for Popular Economics

Econ-Atrocities are a periodic publication of the Center for Popular Economics. They are the work of their authors and reflect their author’s opinions and analyses. CPE does not necessarily endorse any particular idea expressed in these articles.


  • “Diamond mines in Australia, Canada, India and many countries in Africa are situated on lands traditionally associated with indigenous peoples. Many of these communities have been displaced, while others remain, often at great cost to their health, livelihoods and traditional cultures”

    Do some research [irrelevant insult deleted].. the native people of canada do NOTHING BUT BENEFIT from the mines in Canada, creating Jobs, building schools and putting millions of dollars through the yellowknife economy due to trade laws that state the amount of Aboriginal workers and rules that all materials purchased must come from yellowknife and local lsources. The remote regions of Canada where the mines are are completley uninhabited.

    Diamond mines in Canada are operated under the strictest environmental laws in the world, ensuring there is ZERO impact to the environment outside of the site

    [irrelevant insult deleted].

  • What a load of CRAP!

    “Diamond Miners are Disproportionately Exposed to HIV/AIDS” Are you kidding me?? So their employers are forcing them to have unprotected sex?

    [ad hominem attack deleted]

    By the way, engagement have been around far more than 63 years. Check your facts; the first recorded incidence of a diamond engagement ring was that given to Mary of Burgundy by the Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg in 1477.

  • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

    Nanteske, I don’t see how one ring given by the Archduke in 1477 invalidates Liz’s description. To quote Wikipedia, which may have been your source as well: “The first recorded diamond engagement ring was presented by the Archduke Maximillian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy as a betrothal gift in 1477. However, the diamond engagement ring did not become the standard it is considered today until after an extensive marketing campaign by De Beers in the middle of the 20th century.”

  • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

    In response to Tim: my older brother and sister-in-law actually work for the native diamond company in Nunavut Territory, and my impression through them is that Canadian diamonds are mined responsibly (to their knowledge–they work in the prospecting end of the business, not on site at existing mines).

    Now, I doubt that they’d say that the diamond industry in Canada is exclusively 100% positive in its impact, and I think you are wrong that all the mining takes place in uninhabited regions, also, “zero impact on the environment” is something I find hard to believe, but in general I think you are right that Canadian diamonds are not something to worry about nearly as much as diamonds from other parts of the world.

    However, please realize that when the article was written (five years ago) it was not as easy as it is today for a customer to choose a Canadian diamond that could be trusted to be free of the problems that have plagued the industry in the 20th century. It is only in these past few years that there has been awareness of the problems of diamonds among merchants and customers, and the development of the marketing chanels that allow a customer to trust that they are getting a good diamond. In fact, I think it is critical articles like Liz’s that have helped to embarass the industry into doing things to clean up its act. And frankly, I think most people who buy diamonds today still have no idea that there are problems with some diamonds, and make no effort to seek out the better ones, like the Canadian ones.

    By the way, just because Canada has strict environmental laws on its books doesn’t mean that aboriginal peoples and their lands are always protected properly. See the debate over the Northgate Minerals Corporation’s proposed ‘Kemess North’ mine. It’s not a diamond mine, but it does suggest that money and influence can get in the way of environmental and human protection even in Glorious Canada. Here’s another example taken from the Turtle Island discussion board on Protecting Mother Earth and Natural Resources.

  • This is my feedback to
    Econ-Atrocity Bulletin: Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone, Under Any Circumstances, Even If They Really Want to Give You One (2/14/02)
    By Liz Stanton, CPE Staff Economist

    Although I support most of your issues, I am somewhat against 3. “Diamonds Have No Resale or Investment Value.”

    Although it is true for most cases, it is certainly not true in my case. I have been working for the past four years in my father’s jewellery firm. Its is one of the highly respected and reputed jewellery firms in India. We have an exchange policy unlike most other jewellers. In my limited experience, I have seen our customers exchanging diamonds sold by us, being as cheap as $2 to as expensive as $100,000, for stones of a higher value countless times. We deduct only 6-8%(being our profit) from the existing increased market value of their diamonds and either hand over cash, or adjust the value in their next purchase.

    (For example, say in 2000 you bought a diamond of $1000. In 2002 you want to buy a larger stone worth $2000. If the value of the $1000 stone is 1500, he gets to pay $590 only) This is however, only in cases older than 6 to 8 months. Before that, we don’t deduct anything.

    More importantly, we provide a facility seconded by none, i.e. we offer the client’s full money back to her is she is not satisfied of the worth of our diamonds.

    Hope this will help.

  • A friend recently forwarded me the page Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone, Under Any Circumstances, Even If They Really Want to Give You One which is overall excellent. But I disagree with the title. These are reasons to never accept a NEW diamond. But clearly the only positive current value is sentimental — thus RE-USE of diamonds already in existence (such as having belonged to a grandmother or such) seems reasonable to me. Am I off-base?

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  • In response to Nanlouise’s comment on the used/heirloom diamond or jewel, I’d say that, if a ring or other jewelry item has garnered sentimental value over many years, by way of meaning in regards to a familial, loving relationship, then yes, a diamond is worth keeping. It’s unfortunate that you must remember its true origin: that of slavery and exploitation (not to mention torturous treatment of said peoples). In the case of someone selling a diamond, then it has lost ALL of its ‘value’. And since most of the points made in the topic are generally true, though some ideas are slightly out of proportion, the diamond industry, in addition to many other jeweling industries, are really taking advantage, in many nasty ways, of the people of these regions. They have been exploited by rich greed-mongers for many decades, as have those who believe in the monetary and social value of these rocks (which aren’t very rare at all).

    In the case that you have a piece of jewelry that you don’t feel the neccesity to keep, feel free to sell it to the first schmuck who will pay a decent price for it, and use that money to contribute to an organization that aids the people that have been exploited by this outrageous, evil industry. I might suggest Amnesty International:
    or also:

  • Seems opinion here says protect the worthless stone. It does nothing but make he White man richer (I capitalized ‘white’ to be kind)….white seems to bleed to dark {blood}….$$ blinds. I truly wish to know what drives diamond people to drain that particular resource to the very end…

    On that note, I am enjoying seeing the pros and cons fight. Thanks for destroying the planet!!

  • so maybe people should just stop being so materialistic. diamonds are basically just coal anyway. nothing lasts forever because we die, then our body just rots. so i don’t understand why engagement rings (and anything else, for that matter) are so important to people. People these days are just looking for all sorts of nonverbal ways to say, “HEY I HAVE MONEY LOOK AT ME.” it’s so stupid. there are people who have nothing.

  • Your number 4 is absolute bunk. Only INDIVIDUALS themselves are wholly responsible for the consequences of having sex. Outside forces cannot be held responsible in any way for the incidence of HIV/AIDS among these minors.

    And, I get the impression that this article was written by someone who is more against the giving of diamonds as engagement gifts than anything else. They are, after all, expensive, and most women have been socialized to expect a diamond once the question is popped. I would love to know what the writer would suggest as an alternative symbol of the promise of marriage.

    (I bet the writer doesn’t believe in marriage at all. . .)

  • @brensgrrl:
    You don’t seem to understand the concept of marriage. It is not something that requires a “symbol”. Nor should it ever. If you aren’t willing to marry someone because they won’t give you a dowry of some kind, then that’s rather telling of your love for said person.

    Nor is marriage even a requirement for any sort of long-term relationship. You imply that it is wrong to not give your loved one an expensive symbol or sign yourself into an unnecessary contractual agreement. I think you’re fairly narrow-minded in this respect.

    There is more to a relationship than “Hook up, get engaged, [get diamond ring], get married, have children.” While the ultimate goal of relationships is procreation, that does not necessitate either marriage OR a symbol of adoration. Just sex. Marriage and Dowries are merely societal shackles on a relationship. That’s not to say marriage is a bad thing, but I think you really ought to do some homework on the whole concept of marriage, as well as keep in mind that it really, truly, isn’t necessary for a successful long-term relationship. [No, really!]

  • “Your number 4 is absolute bunk. Only INDIVIDUALS themselves are wholly responsible for the consequences of having sex. Outside forces cannot be held responsible in any way for the incidence of HIV/AIDS among these minors.”

    You obviously have no knowledge of how South African mines are run. Despite “modern” security and benefits, minors are sexually abused by older miners, mostly miners in higher positions. These practices were extremely prevalent in South African mines up until a few decades ago – young boys were practically sold to black miners in high positions as literal “boy brides.”

    If I were you, I wouldn’t make uneducated and high-moralled guesses to what conditions are like in mines. The companies, De Beers included, do nothing to improve conditions in the mines. The mines have a responsibility as an employer to grant their employees a safe working environment.

  • In response to:
    “7.Slave Laborers Cut and Polish Diamonds. More than one-half of the world’s diamonds are processed in India where many of the cutters and polishers are bonded child laborers.”

    This was the story of a few decade ago…(when India was a British colony) now the things have changed.

    Get the facts right & keep them up-to-date.
    Surat, A city in India processes ~80% of the diamonds.

  • “Your number 4 is absolute bunk. Only INDIVIDUALS themselves are wholly responsible for the consequences of having sex. Outside forces cannot be held responsible in any way for the incidence of HIV/AIDS among these minors.”

    Sounds like somebody’s a virgin or totally ignorant. You don’t know how humans work, do you?

  • About 10 years ago I took a course in African history. My jaw was on the floor for nearly the entire semester. There is so much going on that I never knew to even look into before that class (which I mention only because I think it is that way for most high school graduates in the United States, unless they’ve done independent study or lucked out with a particular teacher).
    One thing that stuck with me through all the years was how artificial the diamond market prices are. There is no reason for it–and it sure isn’t going to the mine workers (in Africa–I have no knowledge of Canadian mines).
    I think this summary of points is great–a wonderful starting point for people to do reasearch on their own.

  • Have you seen Blood Diamond? I thought its portrayal of the diamond trade and of child soldiers was extremely powerful.

  • The article has many points- some very emotional while others are objective. I would like to focus on the objective ones- as an economics major, I hate to help in any way to an artificially controlled demand. Why should we support a company that controls demand by limiting supply?? On a more personal note, I recently got engaged and absolutely refused a “rock” which he could very easily afford. Trust me, there are better ways to spend your money :). As for the “princess” out there that wants hers 2 carat D color VVS1 clarity radiant cuts (I used to sell pricey and large loose diamonds) – chances are in the long run IT WILL NOT WORK OUT!! There is more to it then that.

  • I think it’s reasonable to protest the sale of diamonds as a way of improving working conditions and environmental laws. It’s not going to make the industry go away if anything it will make diamonds even more expensive and valuable.

  • I agree with Harry Jules, by restricting the sale it will become even more profitable, like Oil prices have gone up becouse of “environmentalists” prevent use of additional sources.

    Those companies mining at unacceptable conditions should be exposed and prosecuted, while you should not buy from sources you cant be sure are safe.

  • Look at what happens with coffee in south america, Tennis shoes in Asia. OIL, every product has a sob story. Take a look at what happens to 3rd world people with the computer & electronics waste industry. Landfills polluting entire watersheds… pick your poison, we are all guilty.

  • I’d like to respond to the issue of what to do in place of a diamond engagement ring. It’s true that many women are brought up to expect some sort of symbol, and I don’t think that idea is completely wrong. If materialism gets out of hand it can be dangerous, but asking every woman in the world to give up any dream of a symbol of their future loved one’s love is a large step. I include myself in the crowd of women that are concerned about those affected by diamond mining and selling, but I still have a love for jewelry and for the symbol of an engagement. I think there’s no problem with substituting a diamond with an alternative. Moissanite is a great choice – it’s so close to a diamond that jewelers had to create a new diamond testing machine in order to identify it. It shares almost every quality a diamond has (hardness, brilliance, durability, etc) but costs MUCH less and doesn’t harm anyone. While this may not solve the problem that many of you have with our NEED for something shiny in order to get married or feel worth something, it is certainly a step. Of course many other stones could be used in place of a diamond – moissanite is just a personal favorite. It’s becoming VERY popular and I hope it helps with this diamond crisis that we’re facing.

    I want to go ahead and say that I’m aware that most moissanites are made by one company (Charles and Colvard) and aren’t cheap. However, I’m all about coming up with small steps that the average person can take in order to help the world. Slowly steering the public away from something as harmful as diamonds can be much easier than asking for an abrubt change. Many are taking this approach (think about PETA asking meat eaters to just try to eat less meat or find it from distributers that are less likely to abuse animals rather than asking everyone to go vegan).

    These are just my thoughts…you can’t change everything horrible we do to this world and the people in it, but the easier you make it for others to make the change, the more likely they are to do it.

  • Diamond sales are a horrible institution. Good article Liz

  • The movie blood diamond really opened up my eyes, its crazy to think about that kind of stuff, and even tho it was a movie, it was still quite nuts.

    nice post, i love the blog.

  • Human’s have been adorning themselves since the beginning, that’s unlikely to change. Perhaps changing the vision of what is high in value romantically speaking IS the answer.

    Does a man respect the woman that will follow him anywhere if he tempts her with a bag of peanuts? Not likely. Even assuming, of course, that willingness doesn’t mean the woman will leave a man for another that has bigger peanuts. Would you want your sister to be known as a “peanut whor*”? Connecting the material with the romantic may just be a neccessity to soothe the insecure human heart.

    Finally, I must challenge the idea that diamonds have no value. Don’t they serve industry fairly well? Drill bits and the like?

  • I’ll keep this post brief. As somebody who has lived and worked in the diamond zones of southern Africa and west Africa, the concept of a “conflict free” or “certified conflict free” or “kimberley certified” diamond is a joke. Other than gems from a very very small handfull of Canadian and South African mines, the vast majority of diamonds are produced under horrific conditions and continue to fund war and crime, yes, even your precious “conflict free” stones. I have seen many opperations: there is no oversight in the kimberley process, no funding for inspectors, no personel to verify mine origin. It’s a well intentioned joke of a process. And, to the poster above, industrial applications of diamonds relies not on mined stones, but rather on lab produced material.

  • Apparently the “Center for Popular Economics” is actually the center for liberal economics. Don’t buy diamonds, folks — they cause brain damage, poor health care, and global warming….

    1) True for all gemstones and jewelry, not just diamonds.
    2) Somewhat true, but also somewhat true for most gemstones, such as tanzanite.
    3) False. All gemstones sold at retail are sold at a markup averaging five times cost, sometimes more. So trying to resell it immediately of course will yield much less than you paid. However, after a few years, most quality gemstones will have increased in value enough to yield a profit. In addition, many resellers offer a guarantee to buy the stone back at the same price paid after a specific number of years. They know the value is going to increase.
    4) Where is the cite for this factoid? Disproportionate to what?
    5) The same thing liberals say about any type of mining. Apparently we should only use trees for all our industrial needs. Oh wait… we can’t use those either.
    6) Bringing prosperity to the tribes. This author apparently has no complaint about casinos on tribal land, though.
    7) Actually, only the junk stones are polished in India, where gemstone polishing is a major industry supporting thousands and thousands of families. Quality diamonds are cut only in Israel, Germany and rarely in the U.S.
    8) Oh come on! What commodity is NOT used to fund war?
    9) Now there is some logic: some of the same countries that have diamond mines also are involved with wars, so obviously one causes the other. Yeah, right.
    10) Let’s not forget to link everything to firearms. Firearms also cause brain damage, poor health care, global warming ….

    Largest diamond-producing countries: Botswana, Russia, Canada. ( [] ) As of 2003, Canada already produced 15% of the world’s supply of diamonds. Must be all that child slave labor and gun financing….

    Note that most of the “sources” given are actually from liberal-oriented publications. Now they will be referencing THIS article in future publications to “prove” what THEY say….

  • Hey Liz,
    I want to state briefly on your article.
    When I read “Diamond Ring” I automatically had all the assiciations with young women, engagement ring, symbol of marriage etc in my mind. It never came up to me, that there is more about a simple ring, like the miners and their bad living conditions. In some way I have to admit that I am totally coined by the marketing campaign. My feelings about Diamonds are completely positive.

    In my eyes your article is kind of radical and one-sided. Of course nearly everything has a good side and a bad side. If you see nice sneakers in a store, do you really think about its production? About young children working on that sneaker suffering very bad working conditions?
    If you think of Christmas, could you explain your children, that they will get no presents at all, because the hype of Christmas and all the stuff with the presents is just based on commercialization? That Santa Claus is a marketing campaign?

    I don’t want to say: Hey, let’s ignore the bad conditions of that miners (btw: you are not serious about the fact 4, are you??), but maybe it is important to find a middle course, kind of a compromise?!

    If you know that sneakers are produced by little childs, don’t buy them!
    If you don’t want to support commercialization, explain your children, why self-made cookies are more valuable than any doll of his favorite action hero.
    If you don’t want to be involved in animals kept in mass stocks, than buy your meat from the farmer next to you…

    Maybe there is a way to find out, where your Daimond Ring comes from? If you can afford a Diamon Ring, you also could afford a donation for a diamond mine and the workers there?!

    Sometimes it is not always easy to do the right and deny the wrong. You can not change the whole world. Just start with your nearest environment, that will be maximize happiness and you will have got your hands full. I am referring to the Utilitarianism, which says, that you should not overburden yourself.

    Although I am always trying to do the ethical right action, I probably would never spend a thought to those poor workers,
    when my dearest boyfriend stands in front of me,
    asking me with his twinkling eyes if I want to marry him…

    …holding a sparkling diamond ring in his hands.

  • On the topic of an alternative to a diamond…you could purchase another gemstone but don’t forget that it was still mined somewhere and it is probably not conflict free. See this article on a sapphire mine in Madagascar:

    In place of a diamond or gemstone engagement ring I got a lab crated sapphire, which has the exact same composition and properties (hardness, etc.) of a natural sapphire, but it has no flaws, costs about 1/10th of the price of a natural sapphire, and looks just as beautiful. I don’t understand the idea of paying 2-3 months salary…wouldn’t it be better to save that money for your future together? Isn’t it hard enough of save up to pay for the wedding without going into debt? After all, financial issues are the number one reason for divorce.

  • This article really opened my eyes. To be honest, I do not have the time to track down cites and debate the finer points of this article, as others have. I can only say that if the mining of diamonds hurts the innocent and fuels war in any proven way, I cannot possibly fuel the industry with my money. I’m only 17, but when I find the right guy, I’ll let him know that I’ll accept a symbol of our love, but diamonds just aren’t this girl’s best friend 😉

    Also: dan-z: You don’t have to bring politics into everything. Sources aren’t “liberal” or “conservative”. And vying for change is okay, especially if you’re trying to make the world a better place. Open your mind a bit and try for some empathy.

  • atheislibertariancriminalasshole

    o.k canada has begun micro-etching their diamonds to identify their origin and distinguish them fr. blood diamonds and they probably do have the more eco- & socio- responsible mining industry. that being said diamonds are only as valuable as debeers wants them to be. if you’re are a woman and you know this and you still think that your beau should buy you a stone worth three months of his salary which is inherently worthless then you are a manipulative insecure b***h and should seek counseling. if, on the other hand, you only want him to buy you something expensive [but not inherently worthless] to seal the deal then you are just being business-minded [about your prospective life-long love affair] and are an exemplar of the american way. in this case may i recommend you suggest to him either a sapphire or a ruby, whichever your taste leans toward, as these gems both are actually rare and their respective resale values are not being manipulated by the world-spanning tentacles of a cartel like debeers.

  • I believe diamonds should be illegal.

  • Two (Well, one hyphenated) words for the traditional diamond-brilliance lover but human rights activist:
    Lab-created Diamonds.

    Not pure carbon, but essentially the same or better in the 4C’s and way way more affordable. Can be bought in the USA if you’re a patriotic sort. I hope to buy one made in Ashland Way, Franklin, Wisconsin. Gotta love the Midwest, we’re surprisingly good chemists. Not all farmer’s daughters here. 😉

  • Tiny diamonds in particular should not be sold since they depend exclusively on child slave labor in India, they are too small for polishing by adult jewelers at a profit. These children work with no safety precautions at all.

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