Diamonds: Articles of Interest #11

Courtney Riddle:
“I had it in my mind that I wanted to propose to Sean during the trip. You know, we’ve been together like three and a half years, and we’re going to Vegas. What more romantic place is there?”

Avery Trufelman:
Last June, my friend Courtney decided to propose marriage in the world capital of spontaneous marriage proposals.

Courtney Riddle:
“I was like, yeah, but I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I have the thing with me, but I don’t know when or where.”

Avery Trufelman:
Courtney waited and waited for the right moment, until it was the last night of their trip when they were hanging out in Caesar’s Palace.

Courtney Riddle:
“We’re sitting at the bar, and we got a couple of drinks, and we were kind of just killing time before our flight. I reach into my bag and I pull out this small leather box that I had been holding onto all weekend, and I’m like, “Will you marry me?” I think those are the words that I said, it all was kind of a blur, but inside of the box wasn’t a ring. It was a Pokémon game cartridge.”

Avery Trufelman:
Courtney and Sean loved Pokémon. And they’d been wanting to play two versions of it called ‘Ruby’ and ‘Sapphire’.

Courtney Riddle:
“Things that were very special to us. And they’re both gemstones.”

Avery Trufelman:
Why not a ring?

Courtney Riddle:
“For a lot of reasons. I was just like, I don’t think that a ring is that important. I think that something important to both of us, that’ll be really meaningful. But what I didn’t realize about my flawless plan to propose with something more meaningful than a ring, was that it’s not understood on the surface as a proposal.”

Avery Trufelman:
At first, Sean wasn’t sure if Courtney was serious. And I have to admit when I saw a picture of Sean holding up a Pokemon cartridge with the caption, “I said yes,” I absolutely thought it was a joke.

Courtney Riddle:
“People were texting us like, ‘Are you actually getting married? Is this real? Or is this like a joke?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, of course, it’s real.'”

Avery Trufelman:
Real. As real as this 2018 diamond commercial.

[DIAMOND AD: “I WILL SPEND MY FUTURE WITH YOU, AND I WILL BE HONEST WITH YOU. AND IT WILL BE WILD, IT WILL BE KIND, AND IT WILL BE REAL.”]

Avery Trufelman:
And as it fades to black, the tagline across the screen reads, “Real is rare. Real is a diamond.” But reality and rarity are subjective, in matters of love definitely. And certainly in the matter of diamonds.

[OPENING SONG]

Avery Trufelman:
Articles of Interest, a show about what we wear. Season 2.

[PEOPLE DON’T REALIZE IT’S FANTASY.]

[THERE’S ALWAYS THIS THING THAT YOU HAVE TO WORK EXTRA HARD TO GET.]

[HMM, THAT’S SO GOOD.]

[NO ONE DRESSES LIKE A KING ANYMORE.]

[HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY? THAT’S HOW I MAKE MONEY, LOVE.]

[THERE ARE LOTS OF THINGS THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT WOULD ONCE HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED LUXURIES.]

Avery Trufelman:
I’m walking down West 47th Street… I mean, come on. What kind of radio producer would I be if I didn’t start a story about diamonds exactly where you’d expect? Manhattan’s Diamond District, baby.

William:
“Welcome, Miss. Are you shopping for something?”

Avery Trufelman:
“Oh, I’m just looking around. I’m just wondering how it varies store to store. Is there really that much of a difference?”

William:
“No, everybody basically has the same freaking thing.”

Avery Trufelman:
William is out here in front of his diamond shop, just hustling. He’s been working the storefront for 20 years. In the Diamond District, it’s all a crazy game with everyone just trying to beat each other’s prices.

William:
“So listen, after I sold it for $1000, okay? I give it to you for $950. Fifty dollars is going to make a difference for you? Fine, honey.”

Avery Trufelman:
“How are sales?”

William:
“It’s a little bit tough, it’s a little tough. We’re working with smaller profits than ever before.”

Avery Trufelman:
This new generation of marriage-aged people makes diamond sellers nervous. A lot of us millennials are in crippling debt, and we’re struggling to pay exorbitant rents, and we really don’t have a couple thousand dollars burning a hole in our pocket that we want to spend on a diamond, especially given the bad associations they carry.

Courtney Riddle:
“Blood diamonds. No, like really, not just in a cartoon evil villain voice.”

Avery Trufelman:
I grew up hearing a lot of the same stories that Courtney did. About how the diamond industry is exploitative and horrible.

Rachelle Bergstein:
So, blood diamonds or conflict diamonds, are diamonds that come out of war zones where warring groups have been fighting over the alluvial fields where the diamonds exist, in order to raise cash for their effort, which is violent.

Avery Trufelman:
Rachelle Bergstein is the author of “Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds.”

Rachelle Bergstein:
And then when they were getting the diamonds, they were sending them into the marketplace and diamond companies, like De Beers and other traders, weren’t really asking questions about where they came from. And they could easily have been funding devastation and violence and horrible things, and no one was really thinking that much about it.

Avery Trufelman:
That was until the late 90s, when a torrent of news and long-form reporting came out about conflict diamonds and how they were used to fund insurgencies and warlords. And all this attention eventually led to stricter protocols and tighter regulations within the diamond industry.

Paul Zimnisky:
Almost 90% of diamond supply is produced by very large corporations, and they’re very heavily regulated, and they’re very transparent.

Avery Trufelman:
That’s diamond industry analyst, Paul Zimnisky. And he says now these big diamond companies are not funding human rights abuses. Although there are still conflict diamonds out there.

Paul Zimnisky:
I think it represents a very, very, very small part of supply, but it can create a PR problem for the industry.

Avery Trufelman:
Listen, I’m not trying to give the diamond industry a pass here. The ethics of diamond mining are complicated. Like diamond mines might not be funding armies of child soldiers anymore, but in a lot of cases, the working conditions are not ideal, especially in countries without a lot of labor oversight, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I mean, mining is still a hard job. And just creating a mine at all, digging an unfathomably huge crater in the earth, that is environmentally devastating no matter how you slice it. But truly, diamonds aren’t that different from other extractive industries. A lot of materials around us have been mined and manufactured in questionable ways. And we don’t talk about them. Take, for example, cobalt.

Paul Zimnisky:
We use cobalt in Teslas and we use it in our iPhones. And almost all of that’s produced in the Congo, and it’s the exact same issue that the diamond industry has with diamonds produced in the Congo.

Avery Trufelman:
Diamonds are held to a different standard.

Paul Zimnisky:
I think people think that a Tesla is providing enough good, where even if we’re providing some bad by creating demand for cobalt that comes out of the Congo, we’ll kind of let that one go. But since we don’t need diamonds, there’s zero room for any illicit goods.

Avery Trufelman:
We don’t need diamonds, even though it doesn’t exactly feel that way. Diamonds are almost culturally mandatory. They’ve become almost a requirement if you want to get married. Which leads to the other big thing that made Courtney skeptical about diamonds. Maybe you’ve heard this too, that diamonds are a scam.

Courtney Riddle:
“The sort of bonkers inflation of the worth of a diamond, which is not actually that rare or valuable, but it was just like a gigantic marketing ploy.”

Avery Trufelman:
Concerns about diamonds are concerns about value, in both senses of the word, values as in ethics and morality and also value in terms of price. So let’s talk about what these rocks are actually worth.

Rachelle Bergstein:
The diamond industry, and one of the things that I found so fascinating about it in my research-

Avery Trufelman:
Author Rachelle Bergstein again.

Rachelle Bergstein:
They’re forever walking this tightrope, right? How do you convince people that diamonds are accessible enough that every woman should have one, but also keep them, in the public imagination, so rare and glamorous and special that you don’t ruin it. And that’s what they’ve been working on forever.

Avery Trufelman:
Diamonds were rare, once. They were exceedingly rare. In the ancient world, diamonds were something only royalty could afford. And then suddenly in the late 19th century, there was a huge supply of them. Diamonds became an industry when a whole bunch of them were discovered in South Africa, on a property owned by brothers Diederik and Johannes De Beer. They were farmers.

Rachelle Bergstein:
Okay. So, De Beers actually had nothing to do with the De Beers company.

Avery Trufelman:
A massive diamond deposit was discovered on the De Beers’ property, which you’d think would be a blessing, but it was too much of a good thing. The land became overrun with international mining interests, and eventually the British government would force the De Beers to sell their property.

Rachelle Bergstein:
The De Beers’ mine turned out to be one of the most productive mines in the area.

Avery Trufelman:
The De Beers brothers could have never known that their name would get adopted by the foremost diamond company in the world, which was run by a man named Cecil Rhodes.

Rachelle Bergstein:
He was a sickly Englishman who followed his brother down to South Africa, down to the diamond rush. And there are funny pictures of him where he was like a dandy.

Avery Trufelman:
Very much in the Beau Brummell way.

Rachelle Bergstein:
He’s among all of these people digging, and covered in dust, and carrying buckets. And he’s like sitting there on an overturned bucket in a white suit, glowering.

Avery Trufelman:
Maybe it looked like he was glowering, but Cecil was scheming, on behalf of his motherland.

Rachelle Bergstein:
He felt this really strong internal drive to elevate the status of the United Kingdom. He felt like the Queen’s special envoy, even though she had not given him this job.

Avery Trufelman:
Cecil Rhodes is like the archetypal colonizer capitalist. You think of an old-timey European guy in a pith helmet, dressed from head to toe in khaki, with a mustache and a rifle at his hip, and that’s Cecil Rhodes. He started by buying up all the little mines in South Africa and consolidating them.

Rachelle Bergstein:
He grabbed uplands in Africa left and right, and colonized.

Avery Trufelman:
Like in modern Zimbabwe, formerly named Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes.

Rachelle Bergstein:
He created the Rhodes scholarship to instruct and elevate young men who might follow out his mission as well.

Avery Trufelman:
Yeah, they should consider changing that name. Cecil Rhodes created a dynasty that grew and grew and grew, eventually buying up all the diamonds coming out of Russia and Australia, until the De Beers company had amassed more diamonds than had ever been thought possible. But come on, Rhodes didn’t want the public to know that.

Rachelle Bergstein:
He realized that in order to preserve the specialness of the diamond, you had to somehow control the output. You had to find a way to make them feel rare, even if they kind of weren’t anymore.

Avery Trufelman:
“So did that mean literally stockpiling them somewhere?”

Rachelle Bergstein:
“It did.”

Avery Trufelman:
When jewelers like Tiffany’s and Harry Winston and Cartier wanted to buy diamonds, they had to come to De Beers’s stockpile in London. Rhodes intentionally limited the supply to jack up the price. But even as he limited the supply, at the same time, his company was pushing public demand.

Rachelle Bergstein:
They were both a mining company and a marketing company.

Avery Trufelman:
De Beers wasn’t allowed to advertise in the U.S. because they were a monopoly and America enforced antitrust laws back then. So as a workaround, De Beers decided to market the general idea of diamonds. After all, they mined most of the diamonds in the world anyway. If De Beers could get people to buy diamonds from whatever jeweler, they’d still be making money. And so, De Beers created the tradition of the diamond engagement ring. Because if you can’t sell diamonds for millions of dollars to royalty, you can sell diamonds for thousands of dollars to everyone. De Beers created this idea that every single couple must buy a diamond. Don’t get me wrong, wedding rings have been around a very long time, but diamond engagement rings are decidedly 20th century.

Avery Trufelman:
“Is this the very first diamond ad?”

Rachelle Bergstein:
“This is the first.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Oh my God, it’s so verbose. It looks like a page from a book.”

Rachelle Bergstein:
“Okay. This is so funny.”

Avery Trufelman:
These early diamond ads are not what I would call compelling.

Rachelle Bergstein:
“‘The beautiful flame of a diamond is unquenchable. However modest, your wife will never relinquish it to meet more affluent circumstances.’ That’s one of my favorite lines.”

Avery Trufelman:
But then in 1948, De Beers launched what is arguably the most successful advertising campaign of the 20th century.

Rachelle Bergstein:
A really incredible young copywriter named Frances Gerety. She worked for N. W. Ayer & Son, the advertising company. And Frances Gerety was given the task of coming up with a tagline for the ads.

Avery Trufelman:
Legend has it, Frances was really coming down to the wire the night before the tagline was due.

Rachelle Bergstein:
She stayed up all night and she couldn’t think of anything.

Avery Trufelman:
And then at 5am, she scribbled out, “A diamond is forever.”

Rachelle Bergstein:
And she came into the office and said, “Here’s what I’ve got.” And the senior copywriter gave her a side-eye and said, “Well, I don’t even think that’s grammatically correct.”

Avery Trufelman:
But they had run out of time, so they just rolled with it.

Rachelle Bergstein:
But nobody, nobody foresaw what this tagline would become.

[A DIAMOND IS FOREVER.]

[A DIAMOND IS FOREVER.]

[FOREVER.]

[VISIT ADIAMONDISFOREVER.COM.]

Avery Trufelman:
And in this way, through engagement rings, De Beers convinced the world that diamonds are the rarest, truest, most valuable of the stones.

Rachelle Bergstein:
So, aside from just generally convincing the customer that he should buy a diamond, or that she should demand a diamond, these ads also had the intention of saying these are the different cuts, this is how much they cost, things like that.

Avery Trufelman:
In their ads, and in pamphlets made for diamond sellers, De Beers informed the consumer about exactly how much money they should spend. And to a degree, this is still true for diamond engagement rings today. The person selling you the diamond is probably the one educating you about them.

Kathryn Money:
I mean, it’s high purchase price, there’s a lot of education involved, and it can be emotionally weighty. So we really want people, when they’re coming into the showroom, to feel relaxed, like they’re having fun.

Avery Trufelman:
Brilliant Earth is a diamond retailer with six showrooms around the U.S.

Kathryn Money:
I’m Kathryn Money, Vice President of Merchandising & Strategy at Brilliant Earth.

Avery Trufelman:
“So you are not the person who will come to greet a couple?”

Kathryn Money:
“Typically, no. Typically we have a jewelry specialist who’s working with a couple, and they’re having this one-on-one interaction, very focused on education, sitting down learning about the four C’s.”

Avery Trufelman:
The four C’s is a shorthand created by De Beers to assess the rarity, and therefore value, of a diamond. It’s still in use today. The four C’s are: Cut.

Kathryn Money:
Cut measures symmetry, polish, and proportion.

Avery Trufelman:
Color.

Kathryn Money:
It’s rated on a color scale from D, which is the most rare, and we will sell D through J.

Avery Trufelman:
Carat.

Kathryn Money:
It’s a measure of weight.

Avery Trufelman:
And clarity.

Kathryn Money:
Clarity is determined under 10 times magnification by a trained gemologist, since most of the characteristics can’t be seen by the naked eye.

Avery Trufelman:
So, that’s the thing. If you can’t see it with the naked eye, if it’s not for aesthetics, then what is this for? Is a rare diamond, one that’s got good color or cut or clarity or carat, actually worth anything? Is it an asset? Is it like investing in a house or buying a piece of art?

Rachelle Bergstein:
In fact, a diamond is much more like a car, where once you’ve taken it out of the lot, the value plummets.

Avery Trufelman:
Rachelle Bergstein’s answer is, most typical engagement diamonds aren’t worth much, unless the diamond is exceedingly special, like it is ridiculously preposterously big, or was cut by Harry Winston himself, or worn by Elizabeth Taylor. Those are worth a lot. But for the most part, the value of a diamond ring comes from who wore it, or touched it, or cut it. So unless you’re a celebrity…

Rachelle Bergstein:
You can’t flip a diamond. No one’s going to buy it back from you for the same price that you paid for it.

Avery Trufelman:
“Why?”

Rachelle Bergstein:
“First of all, because you paid retail, and whoever you’re selling it back to is not going to pay that same retail markup. You’re going to take a loss. And second of all, if it’s just your run of the mill diamond engagement ring, with like a decent quality stone, they’re a dime a dozen.”

Avery Trufelman:
And there are dozens more beautiful, brilliant diamonds being grown, every single day.

[MUSIC]

Avery Trufelman:
This is the other thing that feels freshly ridiculous about the myth of diamonds. How can we possibly think they are rare if you can grow them in a laboratory? Real diamonds, not knockoffs like cubic zirconia. Stones that are chemically identical.

Johnathan Levine-Miles:
“There are literally diamonds growing in that room, with this incessant hallucination-inducing hum that never stops.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Are you okay?”

Johnathan Levine-Miles:
“I’m fine.”

John Ciraldo:
“He’ll get over it.”

Avery Trufelman:
Jonathan Levine-Miles is the CEO of J2 Materials. John Ciraldo is the CTO of J2 Materials. And the fact that they’re named John and Jonathan is why they’re called J2. They grow and sell diamonds used for engagement rings, but that’s not why they got into the diamond business. They aren’t particularly interested in rings, they’re interested in the way diamonds can be used in future technology.

Johnathan Levine-Miles:
Every time we sell a gemstone will inevitably help fund our diamond semiconductor research.

Avery Trufelman:
As computers get more and more advanced, silicon might not be able to handle all their processing power, so diamond might become a good alternative material for computer chips. But this would require large plates of diamond that are perfectly clear and smooth. And John and Jonathan can’t sit around and wait for the Earth’s crust to produce that.

John Ciraldo:
Which means it has to be grown in the lab, and so fundamentally that’s what we are trying to do here.

Avery Trufelman:
J2 Materials is in a strip mall in the suburbs of Chicago. It’s the kind of space that could just as easily be a dentist’s office, but it’s filled with reactors.

Johnathan Levine-Miles:
The moment we turned on our first reactor when it was just the two of us, it was on 24/7. It shuts down just long enough to take out the diamonds, to clean the chamber and to start it up again. So we never shut down.

Avery Trufelman:
These reactors look like rice cookers blown up to the size of washing machines. And normally we think of diamonds being created in the earth under a lot of pressure, but that’s not what’s happening here. An extremely simplified way to explain J2’s approach is that they’re taking small bits of carbon and growing them into full diamonds, almost in the same way you would grow a crop, where some turn out beautifully and some are duds. Like how some potatoes turn out hardy and strong, and others end up small, or lopsided, or heart-shaped.

John Ciraldo:
It’s not a mass-produced thing. It is an art. It is a complicated thing.

Johnathan Levine-Miles:
I’ll probably put it a little more bluntly and say I think there’s, as a scientist of course, big caveat, there’s tremendous beauty in being able to take essentially cow farts and converting it into this technologically advanced yet beautiful material.

Avery Trufelman:
Diamonds have been synthesized in laboratories since 1950, but it used to be mostly for industrial uses, like for surgical knives or the knives used to cut aluminum for iPhones. It’s only very recently, like in the last couple of years, that laboratory-grown diamonds have started to look just as beautiful as the ones from the ground. Again, John and Jonathan didn’t set out to make engagement rings, but businesses like theirs have put the traditional diamond industry on edge.

Kathryn Money:
“We’ve definitely seen significant growth in lab diamonds, so consumer acceptance, particularly among millennial consumers, has increased.”

Avery Trufelman:
“And you sell those here?”

Kathryn Money:
“We do.”

Avery Trufelman:
Kathryn Money of Brilliant Earth told me that lab-grown diamonds are sold almost interchangeably with mined diamonds. They are also assessed for rarity using the four C’s. The main difference is that they’re cheaper.

Kathryn Money:
And generally, consumers are drawn to lab-created diamonds because they’re beautiful, they’re responsible and they’re affordable.

Avery Trufelman:
Lab diamonds do use a lot of energy to keep the reactors humming, but it’s certainly less energy-intensive than digging a massive crater in the earth. Lab diamonds seem like an ethical, attainable option, especially to a generation of marriage-aged consumers who are broke and were raised in the 90s and 2000s, among whispers of blood diamonds.

[MUSIC]

Avery Trufelman:
The diamond industry is still reeling from that blood diamond reckoning over 20 years ago. Back then, De Beers was rightfully worried that people would boycott them and that the value of diamonds would plummet. So De Beers did something pretty drastic. They sold off a lot of their diamond reserve. They ended their own monopoly.

Paul Zimnisky:
Between, I would say 2000 and 2004, De Beers liquidated their stockpile. You saw other companies emerge in the space, other diamond producers.

Avery Trufelman:
De Beers relinquished control of the global diamond supply. Consequently, they stopped advertising for all diamonds. De Beers went from being the only player in the industry, to one of several. And as a result, the mined diamond industry has slowed down a lot.

Paul Zimnisky:
Almost nobody’s exploring for diamonds, nobody’s building new diamond mines. So I think we actually could run into a situation where there’s a shortage of diamonds in the future.

Avery Trufelman:
Paul argues that in 5 to 10 years, diamonds from the earth will become rare again. Because fewer mines are being cultivated, that scarcity that De Beers faked through their monopoly, might actually come true. So this means there’s two kinds of diamonds in the market right now: mined or natural diamonds, the kind that are getting rarer and more expensive, and lab-grown diamonds or man-made diamonds, which are proliferating and getting cheaper. The question is, can you tell the difference, and does it matter?

Paul Zimnisky:
“So, I think it’s important to make the distinction that manmade and natural diamonds can be distinguished with certainty.”

Avery Trufelman:
“They can?”

Paul Zimnisky:
“Yeah. I mean, that’s interesting that you were doing all this work and you didn’t even realize that.”

Avery Trufelman:
Listen Paul, I can’t see the difference between lab diamonds and natural diamonds. You can’t with the naked eye. And even with the official fancy equipment, some diamond sellers in the Diamond District, can’t tell the difference either.

Diamon Seller:
When you do a regular test, a diamond test, you see a diamond.

Avery Trufelman:
When I visited the Diamond District, I asked a couple of jewelers to look at a pair of lab-grown diamond earrings. I know for a fact that these earrings are lab-grown. They were sent to me by a lab-grown diamond company. And these two diamond sellers with booths across from each other, took turns testing each earring. And I am fairly certain that they both got it wrong.

Diamond Seller 1:
“What is yours doing?”

Diamond Seller 2:
“One, one.”

Diamond Seller 1:
“Yeah, mine was one, one also. That one’s actually a jackpot.”

Avery Trufelman:
He said that one’s a jackpot, because both jewelers told me that one earring was “real,” and the other was lab-grown. One diamond seller offered to buy the “real” diamond for between $500 to $1,000.

Diamond Seller 1:
“$500 to $1000 is not-”

Avery Trufelman:
“Nothing to sneeze at.”

Diamond Seller 1:
“Not chicken feed, right. And then the other one, you’d sell at a very low price.”

Avery Trufelman:
“What’s a really low price for that one? Like $100? Really?”

Diamond Seller 1:
“It’s not fake, but it’s lab-grown.”

Avery Trufelman:
I don’t know if you could hear that, but he said the lab-grown diamond would only be worth about $100. So one earring was supposedly worth 10 times more than the other. And again, I can’t emphasize enough that this pair of earrings came from the same laboratory. We value diamonds for their perceived worth so much more than anything about the way they actually look.

Diamond Seller:
“I sold an engagement ring for $2,000. The guy goes, ‘Could you write an $8,000 appraisal?’ I said, ‘I can’t do that, I’m not doing that.’ Because they want to put that in front of the girl, and say, I bought her an $8,000 ring.”

Avery Trufelman:
“I mean, it’s kind of smart.”

Diamond Seller:
“I would say if you’re going to start a relationship that way, it’s not going very long.”

Avery Trufelman:
Never mind, not a good idea. Don’t lie to your partner. But I guess it still just seems odd to talk about how much your proposal diamond costs if you can’t see the difference. I mean, it shouldn’t matter, right?

Paul Zimnisky:
And the question is, would proposing to someone with a $100 diamond, would that have the same impact? And this is something that’s not practical or not rational. So I don’t see a diamond as an investment in the material object, but it’s probably an investment in a commitment that you’re trying to portray.

Avery Trufelman:
Kathryn Money at Brilliant Earth gave me pretty much the same answer, that diamonds are valuable because they are tied to our deepest relationships.

Kathryn Money:
It’s a representation of commitment, and love, and values.

Avery Trufelman:
At the time I thought this answer was a bit of an evasive cop-out, but it’s not. This is how real, tangible value has been created and assigned, by De Beers, sure, and by all of us. By everyone, myself included, who wondered if Courtney and Sean were really engaged without a ring, without a diamond.

Courtney Riddle:
“I thought that I was better than that.”

Avery Trufelman:
“But you’re not!”

Courtney Riddle:
“But I’m not. Look at this frigging sparkly thing.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Let me see it. It’s so beautiful.”

Avery Trufelman:
Courtney caved.

Courtney Riddle:
“I was like, ‘Okay, we can get rings. I give in, but we have to get them vintage.'”

Avery Trufelman:
If you really wanted to get a diamond and minimize your impact, a vintage diamond is the way to go. Compared to digging a massive hole in the earth, or a room full of humming reactors, your grandmother’s ring doesn’t emit any fresh carbon.

Courtney Riddle:
We went to the Alameda flea market.

Avery Trufelman:
“Courtney’s ring has not one, but two diamonds. And in the center is a ruby. Sean’s ring has a sapphire.”

Courtney Riddle:
“It ended up being ruby and sapphire. I ended up with ruby, which is the Pokémon game I’m playing. And Sean ended up with sapphire, which is the Pokémon game she’s playing.”

Avery Trufelman:
It’s so cute. The rings still fit into their nerdy little world. And even though diamond engagement rings are built on a bedrock of BS-concocted tradition, all traditions get made up somehow, and they become more authentic as they get ossified in time. Courtney and Sean love their rings because they love each other. It is not, and has never been, a rational thing.

[CLOSING SONG]
‘Portrait’ by Sasami Ashworth
A pocket, a piece of paper.
Words from yesterday.
There’s a portrait, painted on the things we love.

Avery Trufelman:
Articles of Interest was written and performed by Avery Trufelman. Edited by Chris Berube with additional edits from Emmett FitzGerald and Joe Rosenberg. Scored by Rhae Royal. Fact-checked by Tom Colligan with additional fact-checking by Graham Hacia. Mix and tech production by Sharif Youssef with additional mixing by Katherine Rae Mondo. Our opening and closing songs are by Sasami.

Special thanks to Alex Weindling, Jay Mehta, and John Fecile.

Insights, support, and edits from the whole 99pi team, including Vivian Le, Sean Real, Abby Madan, Kurt Kohlstedt, Delaney Hall, and Katie Mingle

And Roman Mars is the rare gem of this whole series.

[CLOSING SONG CONTINUED]
There’s a portrait, painted on the things we love.

  1. LB Hilbert

    As a male I am curious about why a male is supposed to give a diamond, the more expensive the diamond the more serious we are supposed to be, and in return we get a gold band. How come we are supposed to ‘prove’ our love with money. Seems like an unhealthy way to start a healthy relationship.

  2. David Zetland

    So… several businesses interviewed for this episode might be able to use an idea of mine (free… but give me credit :), i.e., the “eco ring” that is man made (cost $1k) but costs AS MUCH as a real diamond ($4k) because it comes with $3k of donations in honor of the engagement/couple. More impact, same “sacrifice” ;)

    More here:

    https://kysq.org/aguanomics/2018/03/free-idea-the-eco-ring/

  3. sealyons

    Happy to hear the diamond obsession might be waning. We opted for fancy appliances for our kitchen renovation instead. To this day we call it our “engagement range”…and we USE it everyday. We ended up getting simple wedding bands for the symbolism and sentiment.

  4. Erlend

    Still not buying the explanation at the end, that diamonds could remain so expensive because we value them so greatly. Sure, I’d be willing to attach some sentimental value to an object, but not for the sole reason of letting the retailer have a markup of several hundred percent on it.

    I mean, I’d value a homemade and handwritten card from a close family member greatly too, but that doesn’t mean the crafts store should sell crayons and paper for hundreds of dollars when they get it from their supplier for a few cents.

    So yeah. If the diamond cost the retailer, say, 200 dollars to obtain, no way in heck I’d pay more than 250 for it. And if the retailer insists that 2000 is the price, well, tough luck for them. Sure, spending 2000 dollars on something signals a bigger commitment than spending 250, but the way this business is set up it essentially boils down to a $1750 donation to the jeweler on top of paying the value of the diamond. I could easily think of millions upon millions of people who deserve those $1750 way, way more than the scumbag who wants to sell a shiny pebble for ten times its actual value.

  5. danilo

    I have a feeling this is very american, or at least here in Europe the engagement ring is not really a thing. Yes some people do it but it´s a very small percentage. And I´m kinda glad it´s like this.

  6. Maria

    4C system was developed by GIA, which is an institution independent of DeBeers. In the podcast you say that it was developed by DeBeers

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