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spikegifted - Random thoughts

 

diamonds or not?

December 24, 2003

[Originally posted by opus13]

ok, i just picked up the ring that i plan to use as an engagement ring (tonight!). a good friend of mine gave me flack that the center stone was not a diamond, but alexandrite. apparently to him you should never have anything but a diamond in the center (good alexandrites are quite rare, and actually significantly more valuble than a diamond of the same weight)

what do you all think? diamonds or whatever looks good?

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December 24, 2003

Dude, you need to have us more options than that...

For me, it's entirely up to my love one... If she'd prefer alexandrite, I'll get an alexandrite. While cost is a consideration, some women will nothing but diamond(s). But then again, there're plenty of women who'd chosen other gems other than diamonds for the center stone - sapphire, ruby, emerald, yellow diamond, pink diamond, etc... Look, she's the one who'll be wearing the ring for the next 50 years or whatever, you may as well get her something she likes. Diamond is traditional and don't really go out of fashion, but for me, it's up to her.

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December 25, 2003

Dude!! I almost forgotten to wish you good luck on your important meeting! As I said in another thread, I wasn't nervous when I asked the question as we've spend so much time and gone through so much together, I could just feel it is the right thing for both of us. I guess you'd agree that the hardest part is coming to the decision to ask and realizing that you've the strength and courage to even contemplate the question to begin with.

Best of Luck!!!

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December 29, 2003

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diamonds are as common as envelopes, but the diamond cartels control supply to keep prices up. they are inherently worthless, and yet they cost a fortune. it is absolutely ridiculous.

on top of that they are mined by slaves. charles taylor, the recently deposed ruler of liberia slaughtered hundreds of thousands in neighboring countries to build a wealth of diamonds. in the end, he sold a great number of them to al qaeda right before 9/11 since they were looking for a way to put their assets into a form the international community could not freeze or block access to...

...the alternative is to fork over money to debeers who will pocket all of it maintaining slave camps in africa to mine the diamonds, and then using children in india to cut the diamonds in very dangerous workplace conditions.
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While diamonds are common, after all it's just an alternative form of carbon, gem grade diamonds (ie colors equal or higher than J and clarity equal or better than SI) make up less than 5% of all diamonds. That already creates the rarity of the rock. Moreover, since diamond is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, natural material (hence diamond-tipped drill bits), it is very hard to cut and polished to high quality. The cost of diamond has a whole range of economies attached to it - it is not a simple open-and-shut case.

Price-wise, gem grade diamond commands a significant premium over industrial grade diamond - around 95% of all 'diamond value' in any given amount of ore belongs to the gem grade stuff. So you need to be careful what kind of diamonds we're talking about...

/sarcasm

In terms of production, the majority of the world's diamonds are mined in South Africa (where are 'lots of slave' because it is Africa). The next biggest producer is Russia, which accounts for about a quarter of the worlds production (of course, Siberia is just 'full of slaves' - they were shipped out there by Uncle Iosef as part of the 'state ideological education program'). Other diamond producing countries include Canada and Australia, Botswana, Namibia, etc... (which we all agree are just populated by slaves of one sort or another!) The 'blood diamonds' that you're talking about account of a small percentage (less than 5%) by volume and even smaller by value...

AFAIK, most of the world's rough diamonds (pre-cut stones) are sold in Antwerp, London and Moscow, while cutting is largely done in Antwerp, the USA and Israel. So as you can see, there's a blood trail going all the way from the mines all the way up to whatever jewelry they're mounted on... In fact, we should boycott diamonds just like we boycotted fur coats!

/end sarcasm

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December 30, 2003

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diamonds are an artificially controlled market and will continue to be until manuactured diamonds make it too tough to discern 'real' from 'fake'.
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Well, there is a degree of control in that with the Russians selling most of their diamonds via de Beers, nearly three quarters of the world market is 'controlled' by a rather large player. However, you have take into account of the rest of the world's production. The Canadians and Australians can market their diamonds at a fraction of the cost of those distributed by de Beers, but do they want to?

Another point is when there's a 'significant' amount of synthetic diamonds around in the market, would it necessarily bring down the price of the gem? Synthetic rubies and sapphires around, but you don't see their prices drop like a stone... and you must wonder: why?

It's a bit like gas... OPEC countries only produce around 45% of global production, but most of their oil is traded as OPEC countries consume a relatively small amount of their own production. So does this means that OPEC is controlling the world's oil prices? The answer is a half-way house - yes and no.

It is all about perception - do you describe the cup 'half full' or 'half empty'. You can call both 'cartels' but then again, you can call one a 'cartel' while another an production agreement, because one acts completely independently from US influence while there other is pretty much under the thumb of the US administration.

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December 30, 2003

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spikegifted, i'm insulted that you sarcastically claimed i think black people = slaves in your other post. perhaps if you could stuff the sarcasm you could have made a valid counterargument.
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Well, I can see a lot of anger. Yes, I was being sarcastic because there are often so many people who see things one way and completely fail to see if their arguments are valid or not. Obviously, the above statement is not directly towards you, personally or otherwise. It is a general statement. Similarly, sarcasm you point out was applied in a general form. If you could bothered to read my post carefully, you'd have spotted: "of course, Siberia is just 'full of slaves' - they were shipped out there by Uncle Iosef as part of the 'state ideological education program'" which runs counter to your "claimed i think black people = slaves in your other post" statement. I understand that you feel anger because someone dare to pick at your argument(s), but I did state from the outset that it was sarcasm.

Before I forget, your links are very useful and they make very interesting reading material. In particular, I find the following passages in Fatal Transactions very interesting reading:

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Polished production in 1998 amounted to approx. 860 million stones. India polished the vast majority of these stones, at an average size of 2.3 points. This is a very small average size, given that there are 100 points to a carat and does point to considerable difficulties in an individualised product audit trail. Worldwide about 600,000 diamonds of half a carat or more were polished. Interestingly the value of these two different categories of diamond were roughly equal.
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This suggests to me that the majority (if not all) of the diamonds polished in India are in fact industrial diamonds - an average size of 2.3pt is very very small. On the other hand, nearly all useful gem diamonds are 5pt or higher...

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In 1999, $13 billion worth of diamonds were sold in jewellery worldwide with a wholesale value of approx. $27 billion, which in turn was worth $56 billion in retail sales. The diamond content of jewellery varies widely and an accepted average is that 23% of diamond jewellery retail value is actual diamond value.
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Here's another interesting point - this is just like fashion retail!! In fact, most high fashion shops pick up their supplies from the wholesalers and immediately put a 300% mark up. So this practice is not restricted to diamond business.

Referring to the first extract, I've found a nice reinforcement in my arguments in your link to Edward Jay Epstein:

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But, despite all of De Beers' efforts, Antwerp did not achieve a monopoly on diamond cutting. The larger and more expensive diamonds were sent to be cut directly to New York, in order to avoid paying the tax on finished jewels, while the smaller diamond chips were sent to India to be polished by cheap labor. The "melees," or medium-sized diamonds, generally under a half carat in weight, tended to flow to Israeli factories. Nevertheless, Antwerp's cutters continued to receive most of the valuable diamonds and virtually all the difficult-shaped diamonds that required special skills.
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There're few real specifics here, but it would seem few gem diamonds are being cut in India.

I'm not entirely sure if diamond miners around the world, whether they actually working in the mines, middle management, sales and marketing or executives want to diamond prices halved. Yes, I cannot dispute that de Beers has exerted control in the diamond market. However, why on earth would you think the Soviets would want to work with such a capitalistic entity as a monopoly? It is all about economics. I don't think the governments of the more 'controlled' countries like Canada or Australia or even place where cutting takes place like the US or the Netherlands or India. It is actually in nearly everybody's interest (except that of the consumers) to have diamond prices held relatively high. So de Beers may be instrumental in keeping diamond prices high, but it is not the only beneficiary of this strategy.

In reference to the overall dangerous and poor conditions involved in working in diamond mines and diamond cutting, it is easy to forget that nearly all sneakers in the world are produced in equally poor conditions. Exploitation is not restricted to the diamond business. However, I agree that it is not an acceptable condition and there should be some kind of mechanism to address the human rights of the workers, whatever country they're from.

Your reference to Alrosa is interesting as I was working closely with the company on their US$500m bond for over 1.5 years until I was laid off from my last job. German Kuznetsov's departure was certainly a shock. However, to a large extent, the decision to refocus on purely mining and sales to/via de Beers makes their cash flow more predictable and more appealing to investors. Whether the decision is good for the rest of the industry, it is not for Alrosa to speculate - likewise, a company's strategic decision is often not made with the health of the rest of the industry in mind.

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December 30, 2003

Thank you for conceding to some of my points...

Whether my sarcasm is intended as it is, the truth is that the significant majority diamond mine workers are not slaves. They work there by choice - either because there is no alternative forms of employment or because the alternative is even worse than working in the diamond mines. Now, their conditions can be comparable to what you and I would imagine slaves would've lived like, but they are technically no slaves. To imagine otherwise is simply listening to propaganda or focus group BS.

The problem with a global trading environment is that if a product bearing a brand name from a ‘rich country’ (or in demand in a 'rich country') is being manufactured in a ‘poor country’ because of the low labor costs and the finished product is subsequently shipped back to a ‘rich country’ to be sold at a significantly higher price, it can be considered a form of exploitation. Or in the words of company executives, this is called cost efficiency. Now, I don’t believe in exploitation any more than the next person, however, singling out the diamond industry is not entire fair. It is like singling out Nike for exploitation and ignoring other problems caused by Western governmental and business policies.

Take it whichever way you feel appropriate. The example of sneakers is but one of many example. The mark-up I mentioned about high fashion clothing is a standard industry practice, much the same as shoes, leather ware, etc. How else do you think retailers can have 50% or 75% discount in sales and still make money? They just make less money. To ignore these realities does not make the pricing regimes go away.

I’m interested in your prejudice regarding a very successful market campaign. You’ve every right to question “this manufactured belief that diamonds are an integral part of marriage”. However, people want to believe what they want to believe. No-one has pointed a gun at hundreds and thousands of women to force them to like diamonds. The USA, along with the majority of Western Europe and Japan, is considered a free country; hence people have the freedom of choice and the freedom to believe. At the same time, companies have the freedom to unleash their marketing. Whether diamonds are tied to marriage is a myth or not, it is what people choose to believe and you cannot blame the marketing for it. The fact that de Beers is behind this marketing drive and is able to successfully exploit it is called brilliant market strategy, if it was an American company.


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