IamA owner of an online diamond company, AMA
First off, I'm a part owner of Enchanted Diamonds, an online loose diamond and diamond jewelry retailer. Our CEO and founder also has a Reddit account (/u/jniamehr), and I'll try and get him to respond to any questions that he'd be better at answering. I joined this company when he approached me about transitioning his family retail jewelry business into an online company. Prior to that, my experience was in robotics and virtual reality programming, but I liked the idea of being a part owner of an online startup company (the HBO show Silicon Valley is quite accurate, by the way) that already had established business experience. We also get to try and disrupt an old industry with a lot of money, that frequently seems stuck in the past. For instance, a lot of retailers like to confuse the customers with terminology like "crown angle" and "pavilion depth" to confuse them into buying a crappy-looking diamond, whereas we're working on developing a much more customer-friendly scoring system. (edit: we have an online tool that can calculate a percent score of any GIA-certified diamond in GIA's online database here: https://enchanteddiamonds.com/cut_score_calculator)
Some questions I get asked a lot:
How can you avoid buying conflict diamonds?
To be honest, the problem with conflict diamonds is nowhere near where it used to be. During the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola, they made up 18-19% of African diamonds, but now it's below 1% or so. And diamonds referred to as "conflict diamonds" today aren't even really funding conflicts, they're just mined by really corrupt companies in a certain part of Zimbabwe. Part of the reason they're not as much of an issue is that diamond manufacturers have put a lot of checks in place to verify the origin of a diamond. But perhaps the bigger reason is that most of the parts of Africa where you can find diamonds near the surface of the ground have been scoured very intensively already by poor people hoping for a chance out of poverty. The diamonds that come from Africa now need to be mined using pretty sophisticated equipment that warlords just can't get. And the African countries that do have diamond mines often use that money for public works programs. Botswana, for example, went from having a standard of living similar to Rwanda, to being more on the level of Turkey and Mexico, thanks to their diamond mines. Although they have a huge AIDS problem, they use the money from their diamond mines to provide free HIV medication to all their citizens:
A lot of diamond retailers will take advantage of this misconception about diamonds mined in Africa in order to sell "conflict-free" diamonds that have been mined in Canada, Russia, or Australia. But this just plays into western stereotypes that diamonds mined in Africa are lining the pockets of a warlord somewhere.
edit: Just to be clear, neither us nor any reputable jeweler buys diamonds from the areas in Zimbabwe where workers are being exploited. The diamonds from this kimberlite pipe have a distinctive green color that makes them very easy to spot. They typically end up being sold in the developing world, ie India and China for somewhat less than diamonds from elsewhere.
Are diamonds actually rare? Do they have intrinsic value?
Diamond crystals themselves are not that rare, but the larger gemstone-quality diamonds are. In fact, 5 carats of gemstone quality diamonds per tonne of ore is considered really good. That's one gram of diamonds per tonne of ore. Smaller diamonds and brown-colored "chocolate" diamonds are a lot more common and a lot less desirable. Diamonds become exponentially rarer the larger they are. And the determining factor of "value" is how much money people will pay for something.
Aren't engagement rings just a tradition that De Beers invented?
Diamonds have been valuable since antiquity, and their name comes from a Greek term meaning "unbreakable". They're the only naturally-occurring gemstone that has a refractive index greater than 2, which gives it some really interesting optical properties. They've been extremely valuable to nobility throughout Europe and Asia, and engagement rings containing diamonds and other precious stones were often exchanged among the upper classes. But until the discovery of large quantities of diamonds in South Africa, they'd always been too expensive for middle-class people to afford. De Beers just marketed that tradition to the middle class, quite successfully I might add. Incidentally, De Beers doesn't control the diamond industry like they used to. They still produce about 40% of diamonds, but they lost a ton of money and had to sell off their stockpiles during the 1990s, when they tried to keep their monopoly despite new diamond mines opening up in Russia and Canada.
Anyway... ask me anything about diamonds, the diamond industry, engagement rings or whatever. The more the better, so I can spend as much of my Friday at work on Reddit as possible. :)
edit: I made a coupon for you guys. It's "colby2012". Lol. Don't expect it to give you 50% off or anything though. (It's 1.5% off diamonds and 10% off rings) It sure would be nice if we had profit margins that would allow us to give out 50% off coupons though.
edit3: If you're not sure what you're looking for in a diamond, we have a pretty nice guided search tool:
If you find it useful, let me know, and and I'll tell the guy who did the frontend code for it. :)