Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Many things have shaped a nation and even a continent. Nothing more than money and power has done so much to help and harm a culture. Diamonds are one thing that have pulled man and greed that has not stopped in creating a cultural tsunami. The Diamond Empire is an excellent documentary that examines the history of the diamond trade and the impact it has had on the peoples of Africa.
Diamonds are fascinating gems that most do not think about beyond a setting in a ring or such. Yet they are as powerful as gold when it comes to power and prestige. The film was not just a documentary on the history of the diamond industry. It focused more on how the diamond industry of today was fashioned and how it works including its interactions with governments and other industries. It described how the diamond industry became formalized in the 1880s and the creation of the DeBeer company that would become the flagship of the diamond cartel. The DeBeer diamond mines began buying out all the smaller mines around it and expanding the amount of diamonds it had under its control. Later on, the Oppenheimers came on the scene by double-crossing the DeBeer company and creating a white collar coup by seizing control of DeBeer and expanding out through smaller mines creating a rather large diamond monopoly.
DeBeer has become synonymous with diamonds. The film many times stated that the image of diamonds that is had by all levels of society is an image concocted by DeBeer. The number of diamonds existing in the world is enormous and would create a value for diamonds that is much less than even cubic zirconium stones are worth. DeBeer has been hoarding the cache of diamonds the world over and taking over many new diamond finds due to fear of losing the control of the number of diamonds and the value each one possesses.
The film also took a brief sojourn into the lives of those DeBeer has impacted including that of the workers which has been far from safe and harmonious. The lives of most of the native workers has been horrible and even deadly. The housing for those working the mines were discovered to be crowded and in horrible conditions while that of the white worker was practically luxurious.
In many areas that is outside of DeBeer’s control of the diamond industry, the diamonds are used to fight wars destroy enemies. It was in 2000 that the United Nations recognized how the role of diamonds was crucial in “fuelling conflict” and in “prolonging brutal wars in parts of Africa.” These diamonds have been deemed conflict diamonds as they come from areas that are fighting the recognized governments and used to “fund military action in opposition to those governments.” Adding to the control of DeBeer, diamonds have to have a Certificate of Origin to prove that it is not a conflict diamond. This was added as part of a measure to tighten control of the diamond industry and to aid consumers in purchasing said diamonds.
The film was not a diamond history film as much as it was focused on the Oppenheimer family and DeBeer. It was the history of them and their impact on the world including their marketing campaigns and interactions with others in the diamond industry. It covered the good points of the diamond empire which was the ability to mine the diamonds with new technology and to reach the entire world as well as pointing out the bad aspects such as the arrogant bullying nature DeBeer uses with everyone including governments. The film was designed to bring attention to the treatment and underhanded methods of DeBeer and the lies society has believed so willingly.
The knowledge of the diamond industry is widely known but the extent of the strong arm of DeBeer is something kept in the dark by most. The love of diamonds comes at a high price as many of those that aid in bringing the diamonds to the market are small children and work in conditions that are dangerous to their physical bodies. The ideas of diamonds as being pure becomes tainted once one views the documentary which emphasizes the abuse of the African continent, its peoples, and its resources for power and money.
“Conflict Diamonds.” United Nations. 2001. http://www.un.org/peace/africa/Diamond.html.
“The Diamond Empire.” PBS. 1994; PBS Home Video.