Marilyn Monroe made the phrase, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” famous when she performed it in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Monroe’s rendition wasn’t the original—that was done by Carol Channing in the original Broadway musical four years earlier. But the world loved Marilyn Monroe, and it’s her version of the song that really stuck.
It’s amazing that, in this day and age, a song from the 1950s is still easily recognizable by so many people. It’s a tribute to the vanity within many people that makes us believe that diamonds are truly more magnificent than love.
Many women wear diamonds daily these days, and not just the rich ones; having a diamond engagement ring has become standard practice. Many a young girl is raised to believe that someday, her prince charming will bestow upon her the perfect diamond ring.
The problem with diamonds growing in popularity is that they have to come from somewhere. And as some of the world’s most precious gems, they’re not exactly easy to find. One place in particular is known for its diamond mines: Africa. Did you know that 65% of the world diamond supply comes from Africa, generating a total of $8.5bn in diamond exports?
The situation there isn’t exactly pretty; in fact, it’s pretty awful. Rebel groups and corrupt governments have used the profits from conflict, or blood diamonds to fund insurgencies and wars. Over 3.7 million deaths have been caused by wars funded with diamond profits. And that’s not even adding in the countless other acts of violence, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation that have been caused by diamonds. As a comparison, the total military deaths in the U.S. since 1775 sits at 1.3 million while the number of deaths from the Rwandan Genocide is about 800,000.
The average artisanal diamond miner makes less than $1 per day. Even in “conflict free” diamond mining areas, there are still problems with smuggling, corruption, violence, human rights violations, child labor, environmental degradation, and health and safety concerns.
Now let’s go back to that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” thing. If we’re using these small stones as symbols of our love for one another, shouldn’t they be free of all these problems? Shouldn’t the people mining them be fairly paid and lead happy and at least somewhat secure lives? Just like with environmental issues, we need to start being more accountable with issues like this. Otherwise, things will just keep getting worse.
Check out this great infographic from Brilliant Earth, which explains in fantastic detail exactly what conflict diamonds are, and what we can do about it: