Re: Buy Canadian [was Re: GAB]

From: Matt Jensen (
Date: Sat Mar 24 2001 - 11:17:59 PST

If you can, check out "The Diamond Empire", a 90-minute Frontline
documentary on DeBeers from 1994 [1]. It was coproduced by PBS, BBC, and
Australian Broadcasting. I saw it and remember it being very good.

According to Jan Roberts, the originator of the film and the main
journalist[2], DeBeers put strong pressure on the BBC, who kicked her off
the project, cut 30 minutes off for the broadcast in Britain (1995?), and
refused to sell the film to South Africa and Holland, even though nobody
was making libel claims, and even though it was Australian Broadcasting
that actually owned the film, Roberts says.

While you can find listings for Frontline documentaries from 1994 on, they are "currently not available." So I tried my
local research university's library[3].

The interesting thing is that they list the tape as "Videocassette release
of a 1994 television production", yet the tape is only 58 minutes long[4].
A 90-minute version was also released, according to holdings of a
different library[5], but it's an open question whether there were any
edits before going to videotape. I'm contacting a Sociology professor who
was looking into the various releases.

Anyway, enough of the tangent. What did the film say? I can't find any
description online longer than a paragraph, except for a Letter to the
Editor to Willamette Week[5]. Richard Durost writes:

"PBS's Frontline did a piece in February 1994 called "The Diamond Empire"
that systematically debunks the entire diamond mythology. To begin with,
diamonds are not "rare and exotic." Quite the opposite. The entire history
of diamond "production" has been about managing and controlling an
enormous over-abundance. Only the DeBeers cartel's worldwide stranglehold
on diamond production and distribution keeps the price propped up. 

Secondly, the diamond's popularity as adornment is strictly a product of the last 60 years or so. "The most successful advertising campaign in history" began with a concerted plan to place diamonds around the necks of movie stars and British royalty in order to manufacture a demand among the general public.

Thirdly, the advertising slogan "Diamonds Are Forever," rather than a testimony to their durability, was in fact invented to emotionally tie diamonds to individuals for life, so they would be too ashamed to sell them. If you're a cartel selling an extremely common and extraordinarily durable product for an exorbitant price, any substantial used market in that product just kills your future sales.

DeBeers has been so successful in building demand for its product that now they can get away with laughably insulting advertisements with concepts like the "three months' salary guideline" and "I wanted to get my girl a diamond big enough that the other guys wouldn't have to get too close to see it." The exploitation of male insecurity and female materialism is so transparent that only our collective gullibility keeps them from being laughed out of business.

This is just scratching the surface of a fascinating study in marketing success, but suffice it to say that if you buy a diamond it's only because DeBeers told you to.

Richard Durost Southwest 177th Avenue" ---


-Matt Jensen Seattle

[1] [2] Jan says she investigated the diamond industry for 14 years, and her story is very interesting. You really have to read the whole page and form your own opinions. [3] [4] [5] [6]

On Sat, 24 Mar 2001, Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:

> Just commenting on the fact that 1) DeBeers is a cartel, > 2) any significant new diamond mines in the world are > instantly bought up into the corporation as soon > as the show up on the radar screen and definitely > if they start finding traction in a diamond market, 3) anyone > who doesn't sell a stake to the corporation instantly > has their supply and distribution channels cut using > business practices bordering on unethical, and 4) there's > conspiracy rumors galore about "business by other means". > > Haven't you ever seen Marathon Man? > > Greg > > "Joseph S. Barrera III" wrote: > > > > Gregory Alan Bolcer a écrit: > > > They'll be out of business within 18 months > > > of this FoRK post if they aren't associated with DeBeers. > > > > Can you explain why? > > I can guess what you mean but I don't know > > if I'm guessing correctly. > > > > - Joe >

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