Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell

49226Nonfiction — print. Westview Press, 2002. 252 pgs. Library copy.

Subtitled “Tracing the Deadly Path of the World’s Most Precious Stones”, Campbell’s book explains how the diamonds of Sierra Leone have funded one of the most savage rebel campaigns in modern history. These “blood diamonds” are smuggled out of Sierra Leone, exported out of Liberia or Guinea, and sold to legitimate diamond merchants in London, Antwerp, and New York, often with the complicity of the international diamond industry.

Eventually, these very diamonds find their way into the rings and necklaces of brides and spouses the world over. The recipients of these rings and necklaces often have no idea the diamonds they wear around their hands and neck cost someone — man, woman, child — in Sierra Leone their hands and/or life.

Diamonds are actually more abundant than you’d think. The high prices diamonds fetch are actually a result of demand inflation through marketing and supply controlling, conducted largely by the De Beers corporation. According to Campbell, this corporation has a stockpile of diamonds in London worth billions and opening these stockpiles to the market would actually flood the market and drive down prices. De Beers is able to do this because of it’s monopolistic practices.

“De Beers itself is treated almost as an organized crime operation in the United States; it’s barred from doing nay business in America because it’s considered to be in violation of U.S. antitrust laws, which seek to prevent price-fixing. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice leveled charges against De Beers of conspiring to set prices in 1994, but the company didn’t respond to them, leaving the charges in limbo until executives can be subpoenaed. As a result, De Beers executives usually don’t travel to the United States, the diamond industry’s largest market, because they may face a subpoena if they’re tracked down. It’s actually illegal for the company to have more than three executives in the United States at a time.” (pg. 117)

The biggest takeaway message from this book is that there is no way to verify a diamond is not a conflict diamond (another label for blood diamond). No matter what a diamond seller says, stones are untraceable and black market stones can be added in at any of a dozen of places on the way from the mine to the store.

Unfortunately, this narrative skips around too much for my taste. The flow just isn’t there; it’s never achieved the engagement I wanted. But I do think the book makes for an important read. Certainly solidified my decision to never buy (or accept) a diamond.

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