Book Review: Glitter & Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Cartel
This is the book that DeBeers does NOT want YOU to read!!
BOOK REVIEW AND AUTHOR INTERVIEW - GLITTER & GREED: THE SECRET WORLD OF THE DIAMOND CARTEL
“Brides-to-be hoping for a diamond engagement ring are advised to keep Glitter & Greed out of their fiancés’ hands.”
--- Boston Globe; October 12, 2003
Marilyn Monroe, the voluptuous cinematic sex kitten, sang in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” In the early 1950’s, there was perhaps no better marketing device for the global sales of diamonds; a gemstone that isn’t as rare as the diamond merchants would have us believe. After all, diamonds are a carbon-based gemstone of plentiful quantity, which is withheld from the marketplace to keep their price artificially high. These artificially high prices are manipulated by a diamond-mining cartel, which is owned and controlled by a single family, the Oppenheimer’s, as is DeBeers, the retail arm of the cartel.
In her blockbuster book ‘Glitter & Greed,’ Janine Roberts reveals that most diamonds are mined for approximately $20.00 per karat, and cut for one additional dollar. However, when I phoned a few local jewelry stores, I was told that the retail price was many times this amount. In fact, the highest quality diamonds can sell for up to $100,000 per karat, which is equal to one-fifth of a gram. The value of a diamond is dependent upon color, clarity, and cut of the stone. These flawless stones are pink, blue, or yellow in color, and they always command the highest prices.
I learned the truth behind diamonds many years ago, and this is why I refuse to buy one of these gemstones. In the case of my dearly beloved, I bought her a house instead. I saw a much bigger benefit in buying a home for cash, thus having no mortgage, than to make these elites even wealthier. Just as it is with so much of the wealthy and mega-rich, the legend behind diamonds is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
A cartel such as DeBeers controls prices by manipulating both production and supply. Incidentally, this is exactly how OPEC controls the global price of oil. These two examples provide prima facie evidence that the only way to become wealthy is by being dishonest and violating the anti-trust laws which are supposed to limit this type of corporate behavior. Because it is a monopoly, DeBeers is supposed to be forbidden to do business in the United States. However, you will still find the DeBeers logo in every quality jewelry store. As is so often the case, the antitrust laws are circumvented by the truly connected, while those of us outside the establishment clique find ourselves in deep legal jeopardy, if we ever dare try any of these same techniques in our own businesses.
In the books’ 375 pages, the entire history of the DeBeers diamond cartel is recounted in full, gory details. Roberts tells of the ongoing human-rights abuses that are a part of diamond mining, and how literal slaves are sent into inhumane conditions which will give them a panoply of illnesses and sicknesses, such as Tuberculosis, Asbestosis, and Silicosis – each one a product of the mining process.
Asbestosis is a deadly after-effect of the mining process, which produces asbestos as one of its’ byproducts. The asbestos burrows deep into the lungs, where it is impossible to remove, and it literally chokes the breath from its’ victims, where they will die of suffocation. Silicosis is itself a by-product of the diamond mining process, which comes from silica dust in the cutting and mining process, which greatly reduces lung capacity, eventually choking the victim to an early death. TB can develop from the untreated cuts inside the lungs, and it too is a horrible illness that goes largely untreated in these mining workers.
DeBeers also controls the medical examination process in all their workers. Miners with diminished lung capacity are sent back into the mines until they can no longer work. All the employees are hired as temporary workers, so DeBeers does not have to pay for anyone’s medical bills, which can be quite expensive. When a miner can no longer work, they are basically sent home to die. This is especially tragic, given that many of these workers are children, who should have their entire lives ahead of them.
The author also discusses the role DeBeers played in the South African Apartheid regime, and how the weight of the cartel was used to smash any competition that was outside of their control. The book names some famous people who had been involved with curious aspects of this story, such as Hillary Clinton’s four-karat Arkansas diamond, which she wore to her husband’s first inaugural ball. Arkansas happens to contain the United States only diamond mine, which is allowed to operate ONLY as a tourist trap as ‘America’s Diamond City,’ where tourists are allowed to dig by hand for diamonds so tiny, it hardly seems worth it to dig for them. Only 1 out of 200 who visit this site will come away with anything, but as a tourist trap, it is putting money in someone’s pockets.
The Murfreesboro, Arkansas diamond deposit was mined for five years, from 1914 until 1919, when the operation was completely destroyed by an arsonist. Equally as curious was the pilot that was hired to take aerial photographs at the very moment the fire was blazing. Who was likely to be behind this fire? For that answer, we must ask ourselves who would benefit the most from a fire such as this? The diamond cartel fits the bill in many ways. This is just another example of how the anti-competitive power of the diamond cartel unfairly uses its’ power to muscle would-be competitors into bankruptcy.
The author takes the reader beyond the slick marketing of DeBeers, where diamonds are represented as a rare expression of a man’s love of his fiancé or wife, an investment that will always increase in value and will last forever. Untold millions of men are hoodwinked into believing that this is true, when in fact, it is anything but. As the author further explains, the only thing rare about diamonds is the plentiful inventory that is withheld from the marketplace, which keeps the price artificially inflated, thereby maximizing profits to the cartel.
The marketing message of “Diamonds are forever” is only true once guilt-based materialism is factored into the equation. The marketing of a fantasy that is built upon outright untruths, diamonds are an obscene extension of our societal urges of materialism – where a bigger diamond equates to a deeper love. No thanks, I will sit this one out. While it is understandable that all businesses should strive to make a profit, the outrageous mark-up of diamonds is completely unjustified, and something that I could never support, once I had learned the truth behind this deception and outright fraud. While I could have dropped $50,000 on a diamond ring for my dearly beloved, doing so would have precluded my own ability to purchase a home outright, which was a much better financial move for my family in the long run.
Those readers who are interested in learning more about the diamond deception, should endeavor to pick up this book. A lot is to be learned here, from deceptive marketing ploys, to the behavior of a cartel, a criminal group that uses its’ own power to slaughter all would-be competitors. Janine Roberts reveals the secret history of the Oppenheimer family and their business DeBeers, a story that is full of contempt for all mining workers, and those who buy their products. Perhaps, most revealing is the author’s own description of exactly how rare diamonds really are, and that in itself, is worth the price of admission.
Kentroversy Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ (out of five)
KENTROVERSY'S INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JANINE ROBERTS
After reading the endlessly fascinating GLITTER & GREED, I was interested in what the books' author had to say about the myth of diamonds ... namely, that they are rare, valuable, romantic, forever, and a lasting monument of a man's love for his woman. Little was I prepared to read about human rights abuses, human slavery, outrageous profiteering, and the complete insaitable bloodlust for mountains of MONEY ... it is a story that will sicken the thinking person, and will serve to prevent further sales of this oft-times illicit commodity ...
I would like to begin by asking what is your background as a journalist? When did you begin as a reporter of important news?
In the 1970s I was more the activist - but wrote several books on Aboriginal Australia - also researched and initiated investigative films for the BBC and other TV channels, mostly on Aboriginal issues. I wrote my first major article as a freelance journalist in 1981 - it was on the discovery of a vast diamond deposit in Australia, and it was carried at three pages length on the Saturday edition of most major Australian newspapers - the Melbourne Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Adelaide Advertiser etc - and was advertised on TV. As part of my research I was smuggled by Aborigines into the major Argyle diamond mine site - then sealed off to the media. The mine is owned by RTZ - a company whose work on Aboriginal reserves I had documented in earlier works - particularly "From Massacres to Mining" The colonization of Aboriginal Australia" - basically they had grabbed these lands, giving the Aborigines a pittance - so they were not likely to welcome me into their new diamond find.
I then kept on writing front page pieces for primarily the Age. I showed how De Beers and apartheid were linked - and the Australian prime minister came out to support what I was saying. i wrote also on international intelligence related issues, interviewing KGB generals for the BBC, and Israeli agents for the Age ... and about Australian Aborigines civil rights struggle - on which I made my first independent investigative film, winning a Best Documentary Nomination in 1985. I then moved to the UK where I wrote for the Independent and other papers - and made investigative human rights films for the BBC and WGBH Boston (the Diamond Empire) and for Australian TV. I am currently engaged on a major investigation into health institutions and AIDS for a South African publisher.
When and how did you get onto the subject of BLOOD DIAMONDS?
In the 1980s I wrote about the many human rights issues in the diamond industry - child labour in India, Apartheid in Southern Africa, Aboriginal dispossession in Australia - but i could not persuade a newspaper to fund a major international investigation of the diamond trade - so i wrote it up as a TV project - this became the Diamond Empire shot in six continents. In the course of making this we documented terrorism in the diamond business in west Africa - this was one of the first TV reports on blood diamonds - it came out in 1984 across North America on the PBS network and on the BBC.
On the back of this I was funded by Doubleday to write an investigative book on diamonds that would explore these issues still deeper ... I met with NGO's [non-governmental organizations] to raise support for campaigning on diamond human rights issues (blood diamonds and much more) - and at one of these meetings Global Witness was present - they tell me that gave them the idea for their own blood diamond campaign.
I was also invited to testify at a US Congressional Hearing on violence and diamonds in Africa in 2001 - and to advise the General Accounting Office about proposed Clean Diamonds legislation. I reported to them that the legislation was very unlikely to be effective - as it relied on voluntary compliance, and particularly because it only targeted diamonds produced by rebels - leaving unethical governments and major corporations without any supervision - all their diamonds were automatically labelled as clean.
In 2006 I was again in South Africa helping make another film on human rights and diamonds - during which I unearthed a major scandal over mine dust, asbestosis and silicosis and TB - all because De Beers does not use normal dust suppression mining technology.
Your book GLITTER & GREED was a fascinating read. How did the idea come about for this book, and how long did it take you to research and write this book?
I tell much of the personal side of that book in my final chapter - it grew out of my research for The Diamond Empire - towards the end of making this it was evident that the film would not be able to cover all the issues - there were particularly a lot of issues in southern Africa - so I went out shortly after our film was shown on TV, just months after Apartheid had ended.
On this trip, I was smuggled by diamond workers into diamond mines when De Beers banned me from them - and arranged for the film to be shown inside De Beers mines. In some mines I addressed hundreds of miners, all eager to know about what their bosses were doing!
What interference, if any, did you encounter in either the on-site research, or in the publication phases of the book?
Very much - I encountered great difficulties - many of them directly linked to De Beers. When I went to do interviews in New York, De Beers agents were on the phone - when William Goldberg on 5th Avenue agreed to be interviewed, he told me he was phoned up and told "She worked for Blacks in Australia and made life difficult for diamond miners" When I went out to India, the same happened. Many of the diamond companies I contacted told me they were then contacted by De Beers people and told not to speak to me. In Israel, where a major diamond sight holder had helped us find an hotel, he immediately was contacted by De Beers and asked if he was helping us. We had to provide him with a letter saying he had not - as he feared he would lose his diamond supplies.
In southern Africa I first had no difficulties meeting with De Beers employees at their mines - but then someone realised I was the person who had made that film! When the Mineworker's Union invited me to the De Beers Finsch diamond mine - they expected no problems - but then was told that I was banned - and were amazed. I was the first person banned from diamond mines since the worse days of Apartheid in 1988. Despite this I got into this mine and was told by miners there of asbestos dust contamination underground
My diamond book, Glitter and Greed, was first contracted by a division of the world's biggest book publisher - the owners of Doubleday - I was shocked when this was cancelled at the last moment as they had previously sent me their internal assessment of my book as 'sensational", "important' and potentially a best seller... They had sent me the final manuscript for a check over before they sent it to lawyers for a routine check - but cancelled before the date when I had to return it to them - saying in a fax that rich and important business people did not want it to come out and they could not afford the cost of such a battle.
I then got a literary agent who found me Little, Brown and Co. in London, a well known publisher. They said they loved the book - but when they learnt about Doubleday being scared off - they wrote saying they hoped I would find a publisher "less cowardly than them." Finally, in some despair, I put it up on my website - where Disinformation saw it and asked for rights to it ...
I am told by senior diamond industry contacts that De Beers and Maurice Templesman both sent my book to their lawyers - but their decision was that any action against me would give me too much publicity.
I have since been contacted by lawyers in New York and in Europe to thank me for the book - saying it had given them much that they could use in their successful legal actions against De Beers - the US action was for exploiting US consumers. The European was against an agreement that would have joined Russian diamond producers with De Beers in a cartel-like arrangement.
It is not that the diamond industry as a whole is opposed to my work. When I went to Antwerp in 2005, I was met at the airport by diamond merchants - and lent an office inside the security zone of the Antwerp Diamond Exchange by another merchant and given a security pass - all to facilitate my research.
Likewise in Johannesburg last year. I was given easy entry to their diamond exchange. Many diamond merchants are highly critical of De Beers and want their industry cleaned up. Every diamond merchant I met last year said the Clean Diamond legislation was having the effect of strengthening De Beers control over the industry, by removing not conflict but "illicit diamonds" - ones not sold in accordance with government contracts (e.g. by Africans who want the far better prices of Antwerp) - they also told me the Kimberley process was failing to keep conflict diamonds off the market.
Was there any access that you tried to gain, but were prevented from doing so?
Yes, to Tiffanys on Fifth Avenue, New York - to De Beers diamond sorting and storing operations in London, to De Beer's underground diamond operations in South Africa, to a large part of the De Beers controlled "Forbidden Zone" in Namibia - but I did get into some parts of this.
Because you were going up against what is essentially a CRIMINAL CARTEL, had anyone from the Oppenheimer family, DeBeers, or their agents tried to coerce you or threaten you with lawsuits, and tactics of that nature?
I have hopefully answered most of this already ...
No one from De Beers has tried to bribe me - although their chief PR man did take me out to dinner at a posh skyscraper top restaurant in Melbourne when i was trying to gain access to their operations.
While getting my film off the ground, after I had secured a BBC contract but still had to secure extra funds, I learned that a British tabloid newspaper, The Sun, had been briefed on me - and sent two journalists out in Australia to discover if I had been up to any sexual romps or misdeeds! This was so amazing that I wondered if someone was trying to discredit me with the BBC. I had only just come to the UK from Australia and thought no one knew much of me here.
While making the diamond film, a criminal gang broke into my home, not to rob me, but to beat me up. They broke facial bones, drew blood, damaged my one good eye (the other is lazy) They also knew personal stuff about me - before they arrived. I cannot prove that De Beers was behind this - but the circumstances made me suspect this - especially because the very next day lawyers acting for my film insurers ambushed me, demanding control over my film illegally. The film insurers grabbed control over my remaining Australian shoot - and illegally changed my script (my contracts protected the script) - taking out all the Aborigines that were to be interviewed, and replacing them with some highly suspect diamond people.
This part of my film script consequently totally vanished from the final film - the BBC version dropped from three one hour episodes to two because of this censorship. I did not realize how badly I had been injured and carried on fighting to retain control over my film - eventually when I had become critically ill in hospital with blood clots - I had lawyers acting for the BBC and for Australian government film investors threaten me in the hospital ward with legal action - unless I gave them control over my film.
I have since been informed by BBC lawyers that under pressure from De Beers lawyers they had agreed to remove me as the producer of my film. The BBC also contacted WGBH Boston telling them I was being removed as producer. They both agreed not to sell my film to anyone - not videos to members of the US public, not to the African TV stations that wanted to show it ... all this was after the Chairman of De Beers, Nicky Oppenheimer personally wrote attacking me.
This forced me to sell my film myself from my website:
Janine Roberts - Official Web Page
There is lots more information here!
When I first put up my book online - I was contacted by a senior person in the diamond industry, and told that Templeman was thinking of suing me for this - I was strongly advised to take the book offline immediately. I did not.
Before YOU personally learned the secrets of the global diamond trade, did you own any diamonds? If so, did you get rid of them once you learned about the suffering of the mine workers?
No - I did not own any diamonds! In any case, there are lots of good looking crystals around that don't have inflated prices or a racket behind them ... I own a fine quartz crystal right now!
Had you discovered what the typical retail mark-up was for this commodity? Is there any sort of mathematical equation that goes into figuring out these retail prices?
I am told it is 100%, i.e., the retailer typically doubles the price he gets the stone for.
What had you done to alert people of the Human Rights Abuses of the mining workers? If so, what was their response to you?
I work closely with South African mineworkers - and have done much with their unions. The Mineworkers Union invited me to brief all their shop stewards from the diamond mines about what I had learned - and they put on my film to show them as well. This was at a conference in Johannesburg. The result was that the shop stewards pressed on me invitations to visit their mines and to talk to the rest of the workers.
I have distributed 50 copies of my diamond film for free to mineworkers at various mines - and have given out about 40 copies of Glitter and Greed for free to mineworkers.
When visiting South Africa, the mineworkers frequently arrange accomodation for me and feed me - I have particularly liked staying with them in the townships. When I first did this, they were amazed a white woman would do this - and gave me a great time. I now have many friends among them.
I also have a few white mineworkers I know - ones that get on well with Blacks. I normally move mostly with Black south Africans - mostly simply forgetting that my skin is a different colour.
I have written on abuse and racism in mines since 1975. My first book came out that year - and was on the aluminum / bauxite mining industry and Aborigines. I played a major role in fighting Shell's takeover of 500 square miles of tropical monsoon-like rainforest - that was still hunt-gathered and still had sacred places on it cared for by Aboriginal elders, both men and women. We succeeded in stopping Shell - the land is still held by Aboriginal people and is still un-mined.
My anti-racism projects have been funded by the World Council of Churches, US Presbyterians, Quakers, Methodists, Freedom from Hunger etc. But, mainly it has been based on close contacts with the communities affected.
I get on great with most Aboriginal people, with African mineworkers, with many of the geologists and even with some of the diamond cutters!
In your book, are you saying that Hillary Clinton’s four-karat diamond ring had come from the Murfreesboro diamond field? If so, what is the likely value of the diamond, and what was her likely price to acquire this particular diamond ring?
I think she bought it on Fifth Avenue - from Tiffany's if I remember right. I don't now remember what she paid for it ... if I ever knew that is! The cost - well, a day's mining at Murfeesboro costs about $5 - and some 300 decently sized stones are found a year. This would be one of the largest. I would think she would have paid $40,000 or so - but could be wrong.
The various pieces of legislation to which you refer in the book, such as the Clean Diamond Trade Act, seem to be little more than attempts to placate critics of these Human Rights issues. Is this your understanding of these, as well, or do YOU see something else at work behind the scenes?
I see early criticism - but then government funding of NGO's such as Global Witness kicks in. This is influential - I was told by their Canadian associated NGO that my help was not wanted as I was anti-De Beers.
De Beers moved in heavily to neutralize damage from the Clean Diamond campaign - and effectively succeeded in redirecting it. The company used to place diamond buyers out in the jungle to try to take diamonds produced in unregulated, or ill-regulated, field off the open market - to keep control of the prices.
But it now does not need to bother. Such diamonds are called "illicit" and are tainted by being associated with conflict by the legislation - and thus driven from the open market at no cost to De Beers. Every diamond merchant i met last year in South Africa told me that the legislation was enabling De Beers to strengthen its monopoly control over pricing. Other producers, such as Canadians and Australians and Russians, do not want to challenge De Beers prices - as these ensure that they also make vast profits. Thus, they become willing informal members of the same price-fixing cartel.
What used to happen was that Africans who resented the low prices paid by De Beers in Africa, would smuggle diamonds out to Antwerp where they can be safely sold for high international prices. These stones are now called "unclean" - yet they have not been produced near any conflict. In any case, the Clean Diamond legislation is unpoliced - so few if any diamonds are intercepted on the way to market.
How were you able to gain access to workers and others in the diamond trade? Didn’t DeBeers try to limit this access in any way?
Basically, I gained access by making friends among workers, and ended up being invited to people's homes. Originally when I started my work on diamonds, I was told by TV companies that it was impossible to make a film about diamonds without support from De Beers as the company would otherwise stop me from getting to film their operation. I had to prove them wrong to get my film and book off the ground.
Have you observed any progress or changes in the manner in which things are done, in the diamond trade, as a result of your reporting of this issue?
Yes, there was no clean diamond campaign beforehand, and people were not aware of ethical issues in diamond production. Global Witness gives me credit for starting this, but I cannot claim all the credit, as filmmaking is a team effort and I could not have done it without help from workers in the industry.
I have just been contacted to be told that a major diamond industry reference work is to be changed to incorporate my account of how cartel-linked companies made much money by supplying the Nazi's with vital diamonds to use in making guns, tanks, bombs and wires. We are managing slowly to change the consciousness of some in the industry.
But I will not be satisfied until Africans are profiting much more from their own industry - diamonds should be being cut there - and jewelry made there with African craftsmanship. At the moment, De Beers is doing everything it an to stop this from happening. it actually told the south 'african government that too many diamonds would be stolen if many of them were cut in South Africa.
Africans need to be able to profit from their continent's wealth, but De Beers is stopping this from happening - this is one reason why there are so many diseases of poverty in Africa. De Beers is a major supporter of the Israeli economy, for it funnels many fine diamonds there for cutting.
Finally, have you been able to quantify how much impact DeBeers marketing of diamonds has had with regard to its’ global sales?
It is still basically in control of the pricing of rough uncut diamonds.. for everyone follows its lead... and it now also markets cut diamonds to the luxury market - something it never did before the last five years.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions . . .
I hope that these answers are okay, don't forget there is more on my website!
I am now busy on a soon to be finished investigation of the medical business, particularly looking at AIDS -- and I am finding extremely serious fraud.
Some of my other medical investigative work is up on my other website:
Sparks of Light - Janine Roberts
It has all my earlier work on health issues. I am planning to stream video etc on this new site, as it has high bandwidth.
© 2007 Kentroversy Papers
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
The following sources were used in the creation of this Kentroversy Paper . . .
Disinfo.com - Glitter and Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Cartel (August 13, 2003)
DeBeers U.S. Official Web Site
Janine Roberts - Official Web Page
Sparks of Light - Janine Roberts