Random Asides

Michael Jackson Gems

Are you in the market for a diamond? Probably not, considering the recent downturn in diamond sales. Sales of diamonds- and other luxury goods- have declined over the last year or so as a result of the economic downturn.

Engagement rings are still selling, but not as many people are purchasing “Christmas diamonds” and high-end gemstones. Americans, at least, must know what I mean by “Christmas Diamonds”- these are the diamond earrings and pendants they advertise every year just before Christmas. The designs change slightly over time (the “Journey” pendant, the “Circle” pendant, the “Heart” pendant… and so on…) but the advertising message is the same: buy your wife/girlfriend/daughter the latest trendy diamond jewelry, and she’ll love you even more over the holidays. She’s also more likely to give you a big smooch under the mistletoe. By the way, does anyone else hate those “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” ads? The jingle makes my skin crawl, personally.

As a result of the downturn in “Christmas” and other diamonds, many small diamond companies have gone bankrupt in recent months. De Beers, the largest diamond producer in the world, is surviving- barely- by drastically scaling back production, laying off a large percentage of their staff, and holding out with loans and their large amount of capital. If De Beers manages to weather the current economic storm, which they almost certainly will, they will emerge with an even greater hold on the diamond market. They are certain to take over the voids left by the bankruptcy of smaller companies. Actually, diamond sales are looking better than they did earlier in the year, so perhaps relief for De Beers is just around the corner.

Unless, of course, everyone starts purchasing what is bound to be the “Christmas diamond” of the decade: a diamond made from a lock of Michael Jackson’s hair. Seriously. A company called LifeGem has acquired a lock of Jackson’s hair and will be putting some of MJ’s carbon into artificially-made diamonds. Apparently, LifeGem’s Beethoven diamonds sold well. I wonder how much the MJ diamonds will go for? I wonder what colors they will come in? I wonder how long it will be before MJ’s family lawyer tries to file a case against LifeGem? Intriguing.

As a reminder, a couple of years ago I wrote an article for Skepchick about LifeGem. For more on the company, you can also check out their website. Apparently, you can even turn Fido into a diamond keepsake.

And now, a challenge: what’s your best plot for the MJ LifeGem “Christmas Diamond” commercial? Think “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” with a twist. Maybe: “Every Kiss Begins with MJ?” I look forward to your responses!


Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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  1. Michael Jackson Diamonds. Since they are artificial we guarantee that no women or children were raped or murdered to force the men of their village to dig these fancy pieces of carbon out of the ground so that a bunch of vapid spoiled men and women could get a piece of jewlery that is priced at about 1000 times its actual market value since the Debeers corporation controls over 70 percent of the diamond market. Diamnonds they aren’t always soaked in the blood of innocents. Just most of the time. Remember that ring on your finger is most likely there because of the rape and murder of children.

  2. @Elyse: No, no we can’t. Revision.

    “That ring on your finger has probably been put there through the rape and finger of children. Even if it were made out MJ. Marry christmas to everyone who supports large scale child rape and murder and to all a goodnight.”

  3. damn, ignore/delete the first one please.
    Must use preview button
    Must use preview button
    Must use preview button

  4. A local Pittsburgh radio station had the LifeGem company president on the air after they found out about this whole thing… the guy sounded creepier than the Key Jewelry ads.

  5. Perhaps the advert could have a guy in a tux facing away from the camera in a chair with his head lolled back. Suddenly a women’s hand with massive glinting ring appears on his shoulder from in front of him out of shot.
    “Every BJ Begins with an MJ”

    Give me time, I’ll have a screenplay by morning.

  6. *MJ’s “The way you make me feel plays in the background. A montage of a couple’s happy moments plays on the screen. All of them include listening to MJ’s CDs. Finally, the man gives her a box with an MJ logo. She opens it and gasps.*

    She’ll thank you for the memories. The MJ Collection.

  7. Michael Jackson is not my ring.
    He’s just a corpse; they claim he should be my bling.
    But his hair is not my thing.
    They say he should be my bling; but his hair is not my thing.
    (sing the above to Billie Jean)

  8. @Gabrielbrawley: I’m with you. When the time comes, I hope to convince my girlfriend to get an engagement ring with a stone other than a diamond.

    @JayK: Glad to see I’m not the only one that saw the beautiful symmetry in selling something artificial with MJ’s name on it.

  9. @Gabrielbrawley: My wife wears an emerald engagement ring. Turns out emeralds are actually rare. Who knew?

    As far as an advertising jingle for MJ Diamonds, how about:
    An MJ Diamond – we gaurantee it won’t be a flake.

  10. @Gabrielbrawley: Ha! That’s pretty much what my partner had to finally tell one jeweler when he was shopping for my engagement ring.

    The “Christmas diamond” trends drive me batty. The recent squiggle-shaped necklace and the commercial for it with the husband placing it on his wife’s chest while she sleeps just made me think that the necklace was sparkly metaphorical spooge.

  11. God, I hate DeBeers because they’ve turned every person who ever read about the 4C’s into a self-qualified gemologist.

    I’m a geologist by training. Even though I loved Paleo, my advisor was actually the mineralogist of the department. So I took both Mineralogy (which included a section on gem quality stones and jewelry) and Optical Mineralogy, *and* TA’d the labs for several years – I have more than a passing knowledge of the feel, and if I hadn’t gone into paleo, I would have gone into some form of Mineralogy.

    I also interned at this little museum for a couple of years, maybe you’ve heard of their collection: The Smithsonian’ s National Musuem of Natural History. You know, where they keep all those really dinky little gems. I didn’t work in the actual gem collection, but I swung through there whenever possible. The curators took a liking to me when – while passing through their office while they were accessing what would only be called “bling” today but term hadn’t been invented then – I commented “Wow, pimps can donate their jewelry here?” I was young and sarcastic – but their near-tears laughter meant I must have hit a nerve. After that, they took the time to educate me on jewelry and gems (especially after they noticed I tended to wear antique pieces anyway).

    So when my husband and I bought my engagement ring, we bought an antique. Fit the budget better, and it fit my taste better – it’s not that I’m a jewelry snob, it’s just that when you’ve seen the stuff I’ve seen and learned the stuff I learned, you tend to look at jewelry differently. I didn’t even want a diamond, but the ring was just so unusual, so beautifully made, and actually fit me without sizing. I felt like it had been waiting there for me. (I actually own no other diamonds – there are so many other cooler stones out there ;) ).

    But when we got engaged, my husband’s friends – one recently married, two recently engaged – asked to look at my ring off my finger. I thought it was odd, but I also thought it was to look at the carving that goes around the band (sides and underneath). Most people who noticed that just asked if I could flip my hand over, but hey, these were my husband’s friends, so I acquiesced.

    They immediately held it up to the light and tried to sound like gemologists, rating the diamond on its 4C’s (and getting 3 out of the 4 wrong while they were at it). I was insulted because it was so tacky (who DOES that to someone else’s engagement ring while the couple is standing RIGHT THERE?), but consoled at how idiotic they looked and sounded. Especially after my husband pointed out my training without any prompting from me – I didn’t even have to get snarky myself :D

    So please people: a 4C’s lecture from a jewelry salesperson – who may not have even taken a single class from the GIA – does not make you qualified on assessing jewelry. It does qualify you to look like a ginormous wanker, though.

  12. @Gabrielbrawley:

    Yes, this. All this is why I object to diamonds and really, really, really dislike DeBeers. OK, so I loathe them.

    I will not wear diamonds (well, it’s not like I have to disposable income to buy them willy-nilly) because of this. My deceased mother in law had some lovely rings, though, and I’m trying to decide what to do with them. There are a few tiny diamondy-bits on one of them. The stones were purchased years ago. (Hell, she was Canadian, so conceivably they could be Canadian diamonds, and isn’t the Canadian diamond industry slightly less exploitative?) So. The damage has been done. What to do, what to do…

  13. @SicPreFix:

    OK, who’s feeling creative and can write a song or poem about this? It’s a great beginning:
    Diamonds are not sexy. Diamonds are not fun.


  14. The really interesting thing to me is that the current demand for diamonds as jewelery is entirely created by DeBeer’s marketing department.

    In earlier times, any decent ring would do. Nowadays, many women almost demand a diamond engagement and/or wedding ring. Meanwhile, many men feel as if they HAVE to buy one to have a chance at having their marriage proposal accepted. It’s almost like the guy is putting up collateral or something.

    Meanwhile, this essentially artificial demand is creating all kinds of horror in the mines. (shakes head)

  15. Huh. I dislike real diamonds. I think diamonds as a whole are boring and real diamonds are not cool.

    I can’t hate on synthetic diamonds too much. Though this is just silly.

  16. @Gabrielbrawley:

    You hit on one of my sorest spots. Thank you. To think of all the ridiculous and unnecessary violence that takes place so some vapid and vain woman can have her perfect diamond engagement ring that will probably be meaningless to her in ten years is sickening. My best friend has a synthetic diamond and has no qualms with telling people it’s fake. When they ask her why she replies with, “Because I don’t feel it’s necessary to kill children for my jewelry.” Some of the looks she gets… I love her for that.

    Also, what marketing ingenious came up with the name DeBeers? It just makes me want a beer…. to say “Da Bears” a lot.

  17. In the past, I would have agreed with all of you wholeheartedly about rejecting the diamond market and painting De Beers as an evil company. Don’t get me wrong– my engagement stone is a peridot (more on that later)– but I don’t hate De Beers. My fiance is actually a South African who works for De Beers (horror of horrors, I know… ;-) ) but since I started dating him I’ve begun to see some of the good qualities of De Beers. Perhaps I’m biased since De Beers now provides some of my bread and butter, but it is largely because of De Beers that South Africa and Botswana are two relatively affluent, stable African countries in a continent full of poverty, war, and hardship. De Beers provides many jobs in these two countries. For instance, my fiance would not have gone to college (and he’s the first in his family to attend) without a scholarship from De Beers. Politics and artificial economics aside, diamonds *are* rare. Not as rare as some gemstones, but they are difficult to find and mine. True, the market price is artificially enhanced and controlled, but diamoniferous kimberlite pipes are *not* a dime a dozen, even with the recent finds in Canada.

    And, much as I hate to admit it, diamond geology is interesting. Kimberlites (the rocks in which one finds diamonds) are rare and intriguing rocks. Without a market for sparkly things, we would know much less about kimberlite geology.

    Okay, okay… so there are still many evil things about De Beers and conflict diamonds are still terrible and cause much pain and hardship. However, I no longer believe that De Beers is completely evil. I’ll have to write a skepchick article elaborating on this sometime…

  18. I’ve never bought a diamond and the one in my wife’s engagement ring was in the family and we had it reset. Diamonds are quite useful when used in industrial processed but aside from that I’d rather spend my money on art, a trip or some good wine. I do find dark red rubies much more interesting. The whole history of diamond mining in Africa is a sad fascinating story replete with fascinating Victorian characters like Cecil Rhodes.

  19. @CatFurniture:

    Okay, here’s a rough first verse, sung to the tune of Lennon’s Across the Universe.

    Inside the Velvet Purse

    Love is loveless when it feeds
    On endless ice-encrusted dreams
    Of cold and heartless diamond greed
    Inside the velvet purse.
    Nothing changes everything
    Except the lies of marketing
    For love’s lost dreams of love declined
    Inside the velvet purse.
    Die DeBeers, you’re death love
    Diamond’s gonna break my world
    Diamond’s gonna break my world

  20. @Evelyn: I might be wrong about this because I don’t remember when or where I read this. But I did read that $1000.00 of unfinished gem quality diamonds would fill a one gallon bucket if diamond prices weren’t controlled by a cartel.

    I don’t think it is fair to call man made diamonds fake. Apparantly they are identical to old fashioned diamonds down to the atomic level and can’t be told apart from old diamonds unless they are laser etched to show they are man made.

  21. Have to admit I got “reeducated” about DeBeers and diamonds recently. I found that my reactions were often based on what I’d heard from others (and that movie) and not on reality. Botswana is a great nation. You dont’ hear about it a lot because it’s doing pretty darn well. It spends MORE of it’s income percentage wise on education than any other nation on Earth. Diamonds make it possible. It’s about if you do buy a diamond, buying one from a reputable source. Personally I really badly want a black diamond ring, or perhaps earrings. Same as a regular diamond, but black and very beautiful. Also very inexpensive. I don’t own any diamonds, never have, personally after watching all those Christmas diamond commercials I have come to the conclusion that it means my husband of over 25 years does not love me. Sure he’s bought me kayaks, and heck a mini cooper (make that 2 mini coopers) but no Christmas diamond or diamond engagement ring (I didn’t want an engagement ring since as an artist I rarely wear rings, they get too messy).

    I’m just going to go cry now that no one has ever bought me a diamond. I am so unloved. Maybe my soon to be new son in law will get me something? Like a kayak

  22. This isn’t really funny and not related to the blood diamond discussion, but this is just a commercial idea that popped into my head when I read that diamonds where going to made from Michael Jackson’s hair.

    BTW, I’m copyrighting this. So, if the LifeGems people want to use it, they’ll have to pay me.

    You hear the music from the song “Smooth Criminal” (but not most of the lyrics because it wouldn’t make sense) except occasionally you do hear the words “You’ve been hit by a smooth criminal”.

    From the back of his head, you see someone dressed like Michael Jackson wearing a hat…one sequined glove…the whole works…sneaking around in a building.

    He walks into a diamond vault, there are tons of diamonds in the vault…but then the alarm goes off. He runs away. Security guards come running to the vault, see that it’s empty and run after the thief.

    They catch the suspected thief and search him. Finding nothing, they begrudgingly let him free.

    Later, you see a beautiful woman, in her home, sitting on a chair near a fire. She’s impatiently looking at her watch obviously waiting for someone.

    The man appears, you still only see the back of him, and he hands her a briefcase. She opens the briefcase to find nothing inside and gets angry. She starts to say something, but stops when he puts one finger over her mouth. Then, they show his face and it’s a smiling CGI Michael Jackson who winks and starts shaking his head. Everything goes slow mo as diamonds fall from his hair, down his body and onto the floor.

    The woman reaches down. She’s smiles at him, shakes her head and says, “How did you get away with this?” He doesn’t answer, kisses her cheek, spins around and then disappears.

    Then, you hear a deep voiced narrator say: “The man…the mystery…the diamond.”

    The screen goes black and these words come up on the screen…

    “Lifegems…because the king of pop still lives on.”

  23. I don’t believe diamonds are dull, until they are cut.

    Other than that, it’s just carbon. Diamonds can be shattered or burned like any other lump of oxidizable material, but the industrial applications of the stuff are really rather interesting.

    As jewelry, I wear none, so the appeal is lost on me.

  24. @Gabrielbrawley: I’m not sure about the transparent aluminum question but I’m pretty sure if I had dropped to my knee and asked my wife to accept a Pepsi can in exchange for her promise to marry me, there’s a pretty good chance I’d still be holding a Pepsi can.

  25. @Gabrielbrawley: “Is it true that both emeralds and rubies are naturally occuring forms of transparent aluminum?”

    Aluminum oxides which are a different beast. I once asked a jeweler what the difference between natural and synthetic emeralds. He said the synthetic ones are far cheaper, look better, and are more durable. He said buying a natural emerald now was moronic even though he had some to sell if a customer insisted.

    This jeweler guy was pretty cool all around. He also said:
    – If you can’t tell the difference between a diamond and glass, buy the glass.

    – Assume each piece I sell has zero intrinsic value. Only buy it if you like the way it looks.

    – Don’t think about posterity. Most rings and earrings are lost or stolen anyway. Only buy what you can afford to replace because you probably will.

    This guy really changed the way I think about jewelry and which is why I like to seek out artists like Noadi and Amy who make cool stuff with more an eye towards art than rare materials.

  26. @davew: My jeweler also suggested a synthetic emerald for my wife’s engagement ring. Of the three qualities you cite: cheaper, better looking, and more durable, two are irrefutable – they are cheaper and more durable.
    Look better? That’s a judgement call. Synthetic emeralds and rubies look perfect. Unfortunately, perfect is not always “better”. In my opinion, a synthetic emerald or ruby just wrong, more plastic than gem.
    Essentially, I followed your jeweler’s advice: I bought what I thought looked good.

  27. @CatFurniture:

    sung to the tune of “Never There”, by Cake:

    Diamonds are not sexy, diamonds are not fun
    Diamonds are not valuable, they’re held
    by the ton
    You tell me you don’t want a ring, you say that its not fair
    But what i’ve got for you, its made
    from MJ’s hair

    You can’t see it from long distance
    I can see you show resistance
    You don’t want a blood ring
    Baby, this is no such thing

    Its made from hair
    Its MJ’s hair!
    Its made from pop star Michael Jackson’s hair

    dumdumdumdumdumdum- hey!

  28. ugh, i always hated those diamond marketing ads! I don’t look forward to the holiday season cuz i have to see all that shit on the television. You shouldn’t love someone any less just because you didn’t receive a diamond. It is ridiculous. I couldn’t care less about the MJ diamond really. It will be wayy overpriced i am sure and people would have to be either rich and/or a diehard fan to buy it.

  29. Modern versions of “Saint’s relics?”

    I suppose it beats mummified body parts…

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