A little piece of graffiti on a wall outside of Johannesburg South Africa’s “Jewel City” is getting a lot of press. Jewel City is a six block area that is home to 300 diamond traders and South Africa's Diamond Board and State Traders Association. The artist apparently used a little trick and only told a half truth in describing the art work he would paint on the wall. He told the owners that he would paint the words “Diamonds are a women’s best friend” but appeared to omit the other half, “and a man’s worst enemy.”
The artist was trying to make a political statement regarding the sale of conflict diamonds. “Blood Diamonds” or conflict diamond fuel war and strife in African countries with their proceeds, many regions are engaged in civil wars and these diamonds are mined in conflicted areas or war zones. The Kimberley Process in an attempt to block the sale of these diamonds has created a paper trail through certification of exported and imported diamonds. The United Nations adopted this resolution in order to break the chain of export and import on diamonds mined in these regions and stem the ravages of civil war. While a worthy cause, to date there has been some success but not totally.
While I don’t want to discount the artist’s statement, “a diamond can be a woman’s best friend and a man’s worst enemy,” but it may not always be because of war and bloodshed. The average consumer maybe too far removed to understand the complexity and relationship between the diamond they purchase at the local mall and the war it may fund in another country. The current cost of a diamond is quite high and a diamond that is certified and graded can be even more expensive. There are usually only a few times in a man’s life that he will need to purchase a diamond. Once when he gets engaged, two when he is upgrading that engagement ring and three, if he’s in the dog house, big time. This is why a diamond could be a man’s worst enemy; it’s going to cost him a lot.
So while I agree with the artist that conflict diamonds are a terrible thing, unfortunately it wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when I saw the graffiti. I thought someone was trying to be cute and make a statement about how men are saddled with a large expense when they want to get married. Women today are waiting longer to get engaged and married; this has served to raise the expectations of many women who have waited. I’m sure that this is not the message that the artist was trying to convey. Whether a phrase has two meanings, it is good to see so much attention given to a few words painted on a wall. While it may get painted over, at least for a time it is a reminder of the true cost of a diamond.