MILLENNIALS OFTEN GET bad press. The lazy narrative about them tells us that they are hooked to devices and have the attention span of a gnat. But in many ways, millennials are proving to be smarter than their predecessors. For one, they have turned their noses up against the diamond—that harbinger of commitment, that rock which (supposedly) says ‘I do’ like no other gem. Their snobbery towards the diamond ought to be noted, for it shows that they’ve caught onto the marketing gimmick that it is and have realised that when it comes to courtship and ‘love’, clichés ought not to do. Of course, one could also speculate that they simply don’t have the money—in this economy and at this time—to spend so much on mere bling.
Without a doubt, diamonds are beautiful. They shine and shimmer, they respond to light, they flirt with reflections, they even match every outfit. What is not to like? And the story of their origin sounds similar to the birth of a Greek god. They were formed a billion years ago. In the core of the Earth (more than a 100 km below the planet’s surface), the high pressure and low temperatures crystallised the carbon to its hardest form. Volcanic activity brought them to the surface of the earth; otherwise they would have remained buried deep forever.
The story of their formation, the fact that diamonds have the ‘highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material’ proved useful in mythologising them. But how did the diamond become the de facto emblem of ‘love’ between two people? And how were otherwise intelligent men and women convinced that spending two months’ salary on a rock was actually a desirable (in some cases, even deemed necessary) move? What really floated the gem’s boat was the link that De Beers made between diamonds and love. As The Economist once noted, ‘Their modern status, though, is a corporate creation, a story inextricably linked with that of De Beers itself… This particular courtship gift was dreamed up by an ad agency for De Beers, the cartel that sold almost all the world’s diamonds throughout the 20th century.’
But it would now appear that younger people (especially in the West) are choosing to spend that same money on travel and experiences rather than a blip of jewellery.
While there will be those (especially in China) who continue to pine for a diamond, the socially conscious are more likely to be suspicious of a stone that is associated with blood. Grisly campaigns by Amnesty International and Global Witness have percolated into our consciousness, reminding us that the lustre can have a flip side. If nothing else, it at least forces buyers to ask questions on the provenance of the stone. Today, more and more people are veering towards synthetic diamonds, which have been supported by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio (who starred in the Hollywood blockbuster Blood Diamond).
But the biggest blow to the diamond would be if it became ‘cheap’. Will it still have the same appeal? It has been projected that diamond production is likely to peak in 2019, and after that will begin a slow decline. Companies are no longer willing to invest money to explore new diamond mines and the older ones are likely to shut down.
There will always be those who want a diamond on their finger, and that is fine. But if couples today are asking if the stone is necessary as a symbol of love and a signifier of a relationship, then that is worth celebrating.