Tungsten Carbide is a Girl’s Best Friend

Being the little social sciences fiend that I am, I tend follow Sociological Images. It is an excellent blog. Recently, a post appeared there discussing a DeBeers’ ad, that along with a link to an article in The Atlantic that a commenter added to the mix, got me thinking about a recent conversation a friend and I had a few weeks or so ago. She was picking out jewelry with her father; it was a gift from him to her. She had fallen in love with a pair of ruby earrings. The sales person asked as they entered the store, “Is this purchase for someone special?” My friend smiled, nodded, in that pleased way that a person can when they feel flattered.

They proceeded to look at the rubies. But the sales person would not be deterred– for you see, for women there are only diamonds. He showed them diamond after diamond, and my friend kept asking to see rubies.

Finally my friend boiled over. “I like these!” she fumed, to which the sales rep replied, “I know you like those, but does the special lady?” I report, with mixed emotions, that the sales person lost no limbs in this exchange. After having thoroughly disabused the clerk of the notion that a father could not be shopping for his daughter with her present, she walked out with her rubies birthday boxed.

The little anthropologist in me sits, antsy and preoccupied: despite the efforts of DeBeers, there is at least some resistance to the diamond. After all, there is counter culture, and this same friend has an emerald engagement ring. I myself would accept no ring when I had briefly been engaged so long ago– not because a diamond could not be afforded, but because… well, diamonds make for pretty ugly, lack-luster jewelry. Give me a hunk of amber, that which was once living tree-blood, worked into strange silver meshes, glowing golden in the light, any day. Even then, sparing, sparing, not too much: one piece I crafted myself, learning to work silver, learning the work of soldering, perhaps.

It is difficult to resist diamonds in this culture, due to DeBeers’ decades of marketing. The inability of the sales clerk to grasp why anyone might prefer another gem, and the flak my lack of one drew during my engagement (he doesn’t really love you if he didn’t get you a diamond; you’re not really engaged without a rock) leave a sour taste in my mouth. I will leave you with this, then, I suppose. I am not totally opposed to diamonds. You could afford some for me, if you like. Just be sure that they are incorporated into high quality cutting and abrading tools. Those are diamonds I could really use.

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