We Gotcha, Sucka!
Chump Stains of the World: Open Your Wallets!
The average shmendrik is usually led around by the nose when it comes to marketing and advertising people: “I need that REALLY BIG-SCREAM TEE-VEE, make it a curved one, too!”
Curved-screen TVs are making their way into the homes of the uninformed and those who feel compelled to keep up with electronics’ trends (which is why Apple can release a new iPhone about every six weeks with very little changes from the earlier model and yet the sheeple will buy them). The curved-screen design is beginning to sell well despite the fact that, at the average viewing distance a normal person sits from the boob tube, there is no discernible difference in the image on the TV from a regular flat screen.
But it looks cool—I know, right? [And, yeah, I know, IMAX screens are slightly curved to immerse the viewer in the experience, but wouldja just look at the size of those damn screens? That’s how they look better: size. Put a curved IMAX-sized screen in your house; then come talk to me about the benefits of a curved viewing surface. People, please!!]Credit: Vic Dillinger; 2015
It should come as no surprise, then, that the ignorant have been deluded once again into paying big money for something they don’t need. An entire, very lucrative, industry has scammed its way into the hearts and wallets of Joe Schmo based on something that—until about 1986—was so ill-regarded it was considered garbage, an item with almost no worth except in an industrial setting. This scammy product usually makes its insidious and unwelcome presence more aggressively known as holidays approach (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Mother’s Day, et al).
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the chocolate diamond, a worthless piece of tainted carbon that, thanks to ruthless (and outright lying) p.r., has been embraced by the sheeple as a rare and valuable commodity! The surprise, of course, for the pedestrian consumer—who shelled out the big bucks—is that a brown (or “chocolate”) diamond is neither rare nor valuable!
Well, I take back part of the last statement: the chocolate diamond is very valuable, but only to the jewelry industry that possesses a glut of them. The public, however, has been righteously—and perhaps, deservedly—conned!
Diamonds? Rare? Really?
From almost everyone’s earliest school days they are told that diamonds are the hardest known substance. True: they are the hardest known naturally occurring substance. People also learn diamonds are precious stones; what makes them precious, at least for a diamond, is their ability to brilliantly reflect and refract light in prismatic colors. In other words, they sparkle (“Ooooooh, a shiny object!! Lemme at it!!”).
What helps with that “sparkle” is one of the Four C’s used to assign a worth to a particular stone. That “c” is “clarity”. The more translucent and free of impurities a particular diamond is, the more valuable it is since its light catch-and-release abilities are greater than a clouded one.
The other three “c” words are “carat weight”, “cut”, and “color”. Diamonds don’t always come very large in the rough, so bigger is better and, therefore, more valuable. And the gemologists’ work on faceting and cleaning up the rough stone enhances the “sparkle”—a badly cut diamond will lose value over one dressed by a pro.
We’ll get to the other “c”-word, “color”, in a minute or two.
Back to your school days. Another thing you probably learned about diamonds is they are very rare, another reason why they cost so much.
The “rarity” part is a lie of epic proportions—diamonds are not one bit rare. “Wait, what?” you say. “Not rare? But I’ve been told that all my life. How can that be, Vic Dillinger?” Well, the plain truth is there are many, many diamond mines around the world (though precious few volume producers in the US). They generate tons of diamonds, and a bazillion dollars’ worth are cleaned up and processed annually.
In the normal world of supply-and-demand such a readily available item would go for cheap. Not so with diamonds, though. Despite there being enough diamonds in the world to toss around like confetti at a ticker-tape parade the quantity available in the world at any given time is tightly controlled by consortia that operate no differently, by and large, than your average drug cartel.
For the not so fetus-y readers, you may recall the “gas shortage” of the early to mid 1970s which caused major financial problems in the US and everywhere else in the developed world. Guess what? There was no gas shortage nor was there a shortage of crude oil. The “shortage” was created as an artificial means to jack up oil barrel prices by the cartel known as “OPEC” (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). The countries involved in exporting oil didn’t like the low market prices. To change that, they got together (as any good cartel would) and decided to reduce production to a trickle. This led to a lower supply while the demand for oil remained the same.
Sure enough, with no surplus supply (or even daily usage guaranteed) the prices of anything related to petroleum (gasoline, home heating, and plastics) rose dramatically. People had to wait in long lines for gas at stations (on those days when said stations even had gas to dispense).
The bloodbath OPEC started didn’t end there, though. National speed limits in the US were reduced to 55 mph (88 km/hr) believing this saved on gasoline consumption (but in terms of productivity lost on the road at slower speeds it saved nothing). We also got lectures on setting our heating thermostats down to 65° F (about 18° C) in the winter (an uncomfortable temperature: “Put on a sweater, Vic!” “Screw you! I’m not putting my clothes back on! Turn up the heat!”) And, in an effort to make US cars more fuel efficient by cutting their weight with lighter materials and reducing their sizes, we had some of the stupidest looking and lowest powered vehicles on the road in the mid 1970s.Credit: Vic Dillinger; 2015In the end, OPEC won in their stand-off. Oil prices jacked up, the wealthy got wealthier, and the rest of us suffered under inflationary conditions.
The same is true of the diamond industry. It is tightly controlled to make sure only enough stones are on the market, at high prices, to sustain those high prices. Too many diamonds on the free market and prices would drop.
This practice began with De Beers, a bloodthirsty organization started by Cecil Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), the company later named for the diamond mine Rhodes bought from a South African farmer, a man named de Beers, in the late 1800s. This group became controlled by a moneyed and influential family, the Oppenheimers, and under their guidance De Beers strong-armed a virtual world monopoly on diamonds for more than eight decades (ending over the years 2000 through 2011 for reasons too complex and numerous to go into now).
De Beers, headquartered in Luxembourg, is the insidious group that owned and operated the biggest diamond mines in the world; it dictated for most of the 20th Century the number of stones released into the wilds, too. It grew fabulously wealthy to the point of telling governments what to do, setting foreign policy in the African lands where it operated mines, and generally threw its weight around.
Another policy that resulted in its global monopoly was De Beers’ buying up of diamonds from other producers, hoarding them, and only releasing fixed quantities to keep prices up. Intimidation, thuggery, and much bloodletting were involved in bringing independent mining operations, and their output, under De Beers’ control. [The history of De Beers, with its colonial policies, intrigues, and interference with indigenous populations is a fascinating one, worthy of separate exploration by anyone.]
But just because De Beers has lost its iron-fisted grip on the marketplace doesn’t mean other diamond producers, brokers, and retailers aren’t doing their best to continue the model of “limited supply equals high dollars”. De Beers, its business model intact, has been replaced globally by an outfit headquartered in England, Central Selling Organization, or CSO. It is no different in its actions than De Beers (except, perhaps, for maybe not murdering recalcitrant mine workers or reluctant mine owners and operators unwilling to come into the fold). Thus, the cycle of hoarding and releasing controlled stones into the market place, price fixing, and other aspects of Sir Ernst Oppenheimer’s business methods are still with us today, De Beers or no De Beers.
And that, children, is why diamonds are considered rare: not because there aren’t enough in the world but because some group restricts the number of them on the market.
On the Hershey Highway
Now we need to look more closely at that last “c” in the Four C classification system, “color”.
As probably everyone knows diamonds can be found in any color or tone of the visible light spectrum, from jet black, to blue values, through yellow, until reaching the most desirable, the “perfectly” clear, transparent stone known as “white”.
Most diamonds found are colored to some degree (there are even green ones). This is from impurities that bonded with carbon under high pressure and temperatures over millennia, forming a natural diamond. [Another myth to destroy about diamonds, too: while, like coal, it is made of carbon, a diamond is not an advanced evolutionary step in a lump of coal’s life. While the processes are similar, diamonds—unlike coal, almost pure carbon—are created independently of coal formation, though diamonds may be found in or near coal veins.]
Mining operations dredge up tons of rock daily. In that morass only a tiny percentage of what is recovered can be considered as useful for gemstones. The rest is so much valueless junk.
And in that waste in the color spectrum perhaps the most common is the “brown” diamond. While carrying the hardness of any diamond, the brown diamond (much like a turd) does not reflect and refract light very well. In fact, these diamonds were once considered so worthless for jewelry, regardless of size, that they weren’t even assessed on the industry’s diamond color scale when found. They usually went straight to factories, tool and die companies, and other industries for applications in sandpaper, other abrasives, polishers, or coated on drill bits and saw blades for extra “bite”. As the hardest substance in the world the browns had a job to do and did it very well.Credit: Vic Dillinger; 2015But one of those jobs was not to be a piece of jewelry. Sure, there have been a handful of “famous” brown diamonds cut and mounted, but these are most notable for their sheer size (recall that “carat weight” is a major factor in appraising such a stone—the bigger, the better). In fact, the largest cut stone now in the world was found in the rough at over 750 carats (around 150 g). It came from—natch—a De Beers mine in South Africa in 1985. The final cut version is almost 550 carats (almost 110 g) and bears the name “Golden Jubilee Diamond”; it was gifted to the King of Thailand in 2000 on the 50th anniversary of his coronation.
Such valuable brown stones are the exception, however. The mining operations continued to keep dredging up the lesser ones while nothing of interest to the general public was done with them.
This mine’s problem? About 80% of what comes out of it are brown diamonds! This mine accounts for, by itself, slightly over one-third of the world’s supply of brown diamonds. The question then became, “What can we do with this crap?”
With a largish stock of an undesirable commodity on hand the jewelry industry came up with a plan. How about polishing these things, rebrand them as “chocolate”, lie to the public by telling them they are rare and valuable, and sell the hell out of them at high prices?
Sound like a good plan?
You bet it was.
And it worked!
Since then, the lowly brown diamond was rechristened as “chocolate” (because, hey, chocolate is yummy, and brown is . . . uh . . . the color of the suit you buried your grandpa in). Le Vian Jewelers is generally given credit for coming up with the name (they trademarked it). And to show what audacious liars they are, here’s part of their corporate statement (written by their obviously evil designer and CEO) about chocolate diamonds:
“Chocolate Diamonds® are Le Vian’s proprietary brand of natural fancy color diamonds that are chosen for their rarity and chocolate flavor. Le Vian owns the international registration for the Chocolate Diamonds® trademark worldwide.”
“Chosen for their rarity and chocolate flavor”? You’re joking, right? We all now know these are not rare. As for their chocolate flavor, has this CEO ever eaten one? Do they, indeed, taste chocolaty, like Ovaltine? Or do they taste more like Hershey’s syrup? Are you for real, guy? [Oh, and I do believe that Le Vian doesn’t own a “brand of fancy color diamonds”—that would be the Earth itself that owns that particular brand.] This is a scam, plain and simple, and the Newspeak used by that company’s CEO is laughable at best. [Oh, and adding insult to the major injury already inflicted, many of these “fine” jewelry pieces featuring the always lovely chocolate diamond are accented with synthetic stones!]
The marketing strategy pushing these stones targets women (and, by default, the gullible men and womenfolk who want to please the women in their lives). The ad campaigns are extremely sexist and pandering.
And, yes, the words “exotic” and “rare” are bandied about in the commercials, while also attempting to appeal to human sensuality. The commercial here, for example, claims that women have a favorite aphrodisiac, and—guess what?—it’s chocolate! So, combining the color of chocolate with a hunk of worthless carbon is apparently supposed to get her rarin’ to go when you hand it over!
Never mind the fact there is no such thing as an aphrodisiac (other than the human brain). Listen, instead, to how insulting to anyone’s intelligence this commercial is. Pay attention! They make this thing—once about as popular as a pube on a bar of soap—sound as if it really is special!
[Spoiler alert: if you’ve been reading closely you’ll realize it ain’t special, not one bit!]
The word "rare" is heard in this commercial (liars!)
Cut Out the Chocolate!
With Valentine’s Day rearing its ugly head the ads keep coming harder! And they’ll getcha, sucka, if not now then later on in the year near Mothers’ Day and Christmas, too. Maybe even Presidents’ Day, who knows?
Fellas (or women, if you are of a particular turn of that wheel) don’t be chump stains, buying your wife/girlfriend/conjugal-visit partner a ring or anything else with the “rare” and “valuable” chocolate diamonds in it. You’d do just as well giving her a rusted nail bent into a ring shape with a chunk of gravel super-glued to it for all the brown diamonds are worth. [Or, better yet, you can take a lump of what we humans excrete often, polish it mightily, and mount that on a few pennyweights’ worth of gold. This would have about the same value as a chocolate diamond ring. Plus, it’s the thought that counts behind handmade gifts, right?]
Ladies, when receiving such a thing, slap yo’ man (or woman, if you are of that particular turn of that wheel) as hard as you can across his/her big, sappy, love-struck chops if he/she brings home anything with chocolate diamonds in it as a love offering on those “special” occasions (like Groundhog Day).Credit: Vic Dillinger; 2015The reason to crack someone across the piehole? That moron just spent a buncha money on something that is better used to dust a drill bit or coat a circular saw blade, that’s why. And, worse than that, your benefactor was stupid enough to buy into the hype! So, crack him/her a good one, right square in the yap.
Keep in mind there is nothing wrong with a person looking at one of these diarrhea-colored stones and liking it as something to wear (a polished chunk of beer bottle glass is just as attractive in my book). What that person needs to be aware of, though, is that he or she has been manipulated by a very slick, ongoing ad campaign, and is definitely being ripped off at the cash register. If you just gotta have one, my advice is to buy a loose stone and have it mounted. Don’t pay those absurd prices!
And, in the process, everyone else can do themselves a favor to stop this madness: don’t buy into the load of chocolaty hooey you’re being sold!
Amazon Price: $25.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 28, 2016)