Posts tagged with diamonds
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The Zulu Nation’s Rise and Fall by Melvyn Bragg, Saul David, Saul Dubow, Shula Marks
- Zulus = 1500 people within 10 square miles
- pastoral, polygamous
- Shaka was not born to the Chief’s Great Wife—so not the designated heir (Great Wives taken late in life to prevent the danger of usurpation)
- “Shaka” = “intestinal beetle”, the excuse for Shaka’s mother’s inopportune pregnancy
- his military philosophy, shaped under Dingus Wyo -1807-1816
- short stabbing spears Ikwa, surround the enemy (frontal plus two wings)
- broader factors at play than just Shaka’s destructive innovations and mythic heroism. Many leaders in northern Natal responding to changes in trade patterns (e.g., ivory—requires killing elephants—requires teaming up; e.g., diamond trade)
- under Dingan, Zulus pull a Machiavellian trick on the Boers
There is a rusty old bridge over a narrow finger of Lake Kivu, which separates Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Walking across it is like taking a journey across two Africas…. On the Rwandan side…freshly painted cubicle…computers…worker bees…. The streets are safe. The street lights even work….a small miracle, especially remarkable because of Rwanda’s recent genocide…and its … lack of resources. …[T]his packed little country is definitely not a land of plenty.
And then on the other side of the bridge is Congo. …a riot of dazzling colors, loud music, drunken border policemen, and … every imaginable kind of fruit and vegetable…. The soil here is some of the most fertile on the planet. And then there are the minerals, Congo’s seemingly limitless supply of them—gold, diamonds, zinc, nickel, cassiterite, copper, cobalt and coltan, old-school and modern gems. But … for the past 12 years and counting, Congo has been the theater of one of the worst civil wars in modern history, a truly continental disaster that has sucked in many of its neighbours … a festering wound in the green heart of Africa.
How could this be?
Jeffrey Gettleman, reviewing Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe by Gérard Prunier
Hat tip to @vruba.
The diamond invention—the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem—is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds. The British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was endangered; diamonds had little intrinsic value—and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity. The financiers feared that when new mines were developed in South Africa, diamonds would become at best only semiprecious gems.
The major investors in the diamond mines realized that they had no alternative but to merge their interests into a single entity that would be powerful enough to control production and perpetuate the illusion of scarcity of diamonds. The instrument they created, in 1888, was called De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., incorporated in South Africa. As De Beers took control of all aspects of the world diamond trade, it assumed many forms.
The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.
By 1979, N. W. Ayer had helped De Beers expand its sales of diamonds in the United States to more than $2.1 billion, at the wholesale level, compared with a mere $23 million in 1939. In forty years, the value of its sales had increased nearly a hundredfold. The expenditure on advertisements, which began at a level of only $200,000 a year and gradually increased to $10 million, seemed a brilliant investment.
Except for those few stones that have been destroyed, every diamond that has been found and cut into a jewel still exists today and is literally in the public’s hands. Some hundred million women wear diamonds, while millions of others keep them in safe-deposit boxes or strongboxes as family heirlooms. It is conservatively estimated that the public holds more than 500 million carats of gem diamonds, which is more than fifty times the number of gem diamonds produced by the diamond cartel in any given year. Since the quantity of diamonds needed for engagement rings and other jewelry each year is satisfied by the production from the world’s mines, this half-billion-carat supply of diamonds must be prevented from ever being put on the market. The moment a significant portion of the public begins selling diamonds from this inventory, the price of diamonds cannot be sustained. For the diamond invention to survive, the public must be inhibited from ever parting with its diamonds.