Are you looking to show someone special just how much she means to you? There are gift shops galore in any big town or city, but the gifts they sell are not quite the sort of thing you have in mind, right? Go to a jeweller and there’s silver, gold and platinum on offer. That’s a bit more like it, and there will also be a variety of precious stones to choose from, which is even closer to what you had in mind. But at the end of the day there really is no seriously viable alternative to a diamond, is there? Nothing else is quite in the same league.
Rest Assured: No Conflict
However, you want to be sure, because the one you love may want to be sure, that the diamond you give as a sign of your undying affection didn’t cost people their lives. The United Nations initiated a scheme called the Kimberley Process to prevent “blood diamonds” from entering the rough diamond market, but the program has many detractors. One of the main sticking points is that the Kimberley Process classifies diamonds as “conflict” only when the violence surrounding them stems from rebel groups, not governments, which human-rights groups argue is the case in Zimbabwe. Indeed, one of the groups that helped to establish the Kimberley Process in 2003, Global Witness has since withdrawn its membership after citing flaws in the “increasingly outdated” scheme which, for example, decided to allow the export of diamonds from the Marange Fields in Zimbabwe, where there have been many reports of rampant human rights abuses. Robert Mugabe’s intelligence agents are said to benefit directly from “off-budget” diamond sales. Neither does the scheme cover human-rights violations such as worker exploitation or child labour, nor the post-mining operations such as cutting and polishing. This explains why many people are now afraid that even the accreditation of U.N.-backed organizations may not guarantee that people have not been inhumanely exploited in the production of the stones. This is perhaps the greatest potential concern but not the only question to be asked when contemplating the purchase of a diamond.
Can you be sure it isn’t a “blood diamond”?
Are you helping to line the pockets of a despot dictator?
Is the quality assured by a reputable dealer?
What size will suit your budget?
What shape will suit your suitor?
Cut and Colour
Reputable diamond retailers use the Four Cs to assess the quality of the stones they buy and sell. The 4Cs are Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat. If you ask diamond retailers to name the most important of these, they may well nominate the first. The brilliance of a diamond is determined by the diamond cutter’s skill and craftsmanship. This person must assess the size and shape of the rough diamond and decide not only which of the traditional shapes is most appropriate but also exactly how to cut that particular stone to enhance its characteristics. Each facet of a diamond should reflect light towards the viewer. Turn it and view it from different angles and the light will bounce between the many facets to create a sparkling display. The shape you ultimately choose is a matter of personal taste but the cutting requires much more than just artistry. We can choose from myriad coloured diamonds but the highest quality grades are usually given to those with little or no colour. For engagement rings where the diamond is such an important and closely studied feature, a high colour grade (meaning virtually no colour) is preferable, leaving the slightly coloured stones for pendants or ear-rings.
Clarity and Carat
At a grading laboratory a diamond is examined under 10 x magnification, so that the slightest imperfections, be they inclusions (internal) or blemishes (external) become visible. Virtually all diamonds have at least small imperfections but these do not detract from their beauty. Completely flawless diamonds are very rare but these will receive the highest grade for their clarity. Carat weight, a familiar term to most of us, is a significant factor in determining a diamond’s value. One carat equals 200 milligrams. Carat TW refers to total carat weight and is used to represent the weight of a number of diamonds that are presented together in one piece of jewellery.
Any diamond from a reputable dealer will be accompanied by a diamond grading report, the essential certification that documents each individual diamond’s attributes. It most likely will also be accompanied by some sort of certification that it is not a “conflict” stone. In Australia reputable dealers such as Diamond Queensland take pains to assure themselves and their customers that the diamonds they retail are reliably sourced as well as certified. You have to either do some arduously meticulous research or take their word for it.