Skepchick Quickies, 2.8


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. i totally understand what this writer is going for here discussing the down sides of diamonds… but i also find it a little silly that people are ok with buying other precious gems, just not diamonds. Maybe it’s just because i got married this past summer and had to listen all the time to people telling my why diamonds are evil because of the horrible conflicts from where diamonds are mined and the fact that it was all an invention of DeBeers… but the fact of the matter is that other gems ALSO COME FROM THE GROUND and are mined under that same conditions. Be ethical. Buy something you like. Don’t just buy a diamond because that’s what everyone has. But don’t not buy a diamond because the industry invented a great marketing ploy. There’s nothing wrong with buying a diamond if you like them. There are equall numbers of arbitrary reasons to like a diamond or a ruby or an emerald. I had never owned a diamond in my life before my engagement ring, and i wanted a diamond because in the setting of a ring i think the clear sparkle is really pretty and *I’m* the one that has to look at it every day. It was completely within our financial means and it doesn’t make me unimaginative or mean i’m “not worth it anyway”. The whole thing reminds me a LOT of people who i knew that didn’t eat McDonald’s anymore after they watched Super Sized Me, but were fine with going to KFC or Burger King.

  2. @intimeoflilacs: You’re so right. I love pretty rocks but I don’t buy any of them unless I can be reasonably sure (through lots of questioning) that they are from fair trade sources, or if not specifically fair trade, at least companies who work to make sure that they don’t deal with slavers, environmental abusers, etc.

    Know why turquoise is so expensive? Because a great deal of it is mined in union or at least subject-to-US-labour-laws mines in and around Arizona. If those same mines were south of the border, turquoise would be much cheaper.

    It’s like anything: if a product seems cheap, it means someone else somewhere is bearing the cost, either through poor wages, environmental degradation, or even taxpayer subsidy (mmm, corn-a-licious).

    Plus I find the idea of sticking a rock on my finger because of a marketing campaign that says I MUST HAVE IT to be kind of sick. So I don’t have one. And it’d get in the way of the crafts anyway.

    But if anyone finds a fair trade, non-eco-killing source for lapis lazuli, please let me know because I haven’t been able to find one yet and omg waaaaant.

  3. Diamonds are an easy target because they are so totemic, the mining practices so egregious and there’s a whole race issue, to boot. It also has the Hollywood imprimatur of appropriate social cause, because, you know, Leonardo DiCaprio starred in a movie about it and used an accent.

    Buy antique. Oh sure, the mining issues and race issues were still there, but at least you’re not contributing to the current problems. And your pieces will be more distinctive anyway. I get more compliments on my Spanish rhodochrosite fly pin than I do my Art Deco engagement ring ;)

  4. Ausism article coverage of vaccine connection was absolutely perfect. One sentence, saying its not that and move on to the actual science.

    Depressing that the studies pretty much come down to one for diagnosis bias and one for we got nothing, but such is life in mysterious syndrome land.

  5. @Chasmosaur: Yeah one of the things i’ve realised recently is that “precious” stones aren’t as precious as we think they are because the resale value is just crap really. It’s made me only want to buy used stones for any purpose for the rest of my life. Even if i have to get something reset… but antique jewelry is so pretty. I LOVE your pin btw.

  6. @intimeoflilacs:

    Heh. Many, many years ago, I went to the Jewels of the Romanovs exhibit in DC (that was the one that got temporarily hijacked at the Russian embassy, if anyone remembers). At the end, they had a case with examples of unset jewels, raw and cut.

    In addition to a pile of sparkly diamonds, they had alexandrites. Gem quality alexandrites ARE truly rare and precious, but unless they are mounted so you can see the red-green color change, they are pretty unexceptional looking.

    This woman in front of me was gushing over the pile of diamonds. I – being in my early 20’s, the TA for my university’s Mineralogy class, and therefore in full knowledge of the world – pointed out that the smaller pile of alexandrites was probably worth 10 piles of the diamonds. She looked at me like I was crazy.

    Thanks about the pin. I have a mad antique jewelry collection, mostly pins. The side effect of interning at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Department of Mineralogy? You get REALLY picky about your jewelry. My sister says I’m snobby – I say I just know better ;) It’s not that anything is overly expensive, I just like what I like. White diamonds aren’t always on that list.

  7. Diamonds: The most boring of gemstones.

    Picking a pure diamond over a sapphire, ruby, or the myriad of other gem stones is like walking into Baskin-Robbins and asking for a bowl of vanilla ice cream. You don’t even want the cone, just the ice cream. You’re missing out on a chance to try so many other flavors.

    Hell, diamonds are even boring from a crystallographic standpoint. Carbon, carbon, carbon? Great, even its allotrope graphite is more interesting due to its affinity for forming sheets that slide easily against one another.

    Sapphires/rubies can be blue, red, yellow, pink, purple, orange, or green. They’re all Aluminum Oxide crystals, but the trace elements in them drastically change their colors. That’s fucking interesting.

  8. @LtStorm: “Diamonds: The most boring of gemstones. ”

    Indeed. Always been glad my birthstone isn’t a diamond, because those people get hosed, and it’s boring.

    Mind you, the golden topaz for November always looks like frozen pee so I’m not keen on mine anyway.

    I want to be re-born into a month that has a birthstone in the form of cash.

  9. @intimeoflilacs: i wanted a diamond because in the setting of a ring i think the clear sparkle is really pretty

    I bet you couldn’t tell diamond from other clear stones with a similar cut, however. I certainly couldn’t, and I doubt few other jewelers can. For people who like clear sparklies there are plenty of cheaper choices and they make almost exactly the same crunching noises when you accidentally knock them into the garbage disposal.

  10. @LtStorm: honestly, i think that your reason for thinking diamonds are boring is just as subjective and arbitrary as are some people’s reasons for liking them. To you diamonds are the vanilla, but your reasons are just as personal as my reasons are for liking my diamond. I”m not saying that i’m right for liking it and you’re wrong for not, i’m saying that boring for you isn’t boring for everyone.
    And i NEVER want the cone, i think cones destroy my favor experience with my ice cream. I think they’re boring because they dull the flavor of the ice cream. And i think that something made of the crystalized element that is the back bone of all life is actually really fascinating, not boring at all. And since i don’t really spend much time admiring my diamond under a microscope (no matter how hard the hearts on fire diamond people would try to tell me i could if i bought their diamond) i really don’t care if the crystal structure isn’t as interesting to look at. you care about that, and that’s one of your justifcations for them being boring, but that’s a really personal one.
    I would be shocked to find out there’s NOTHING that you like that isn’t something that other people consider boring but you find cool or attractive or interesting. It’s all a matter of opinion.

  11. @davew: Try to go to a jeweler and find a well built ring that is made with a cz or something. they’re pretty few and far between.
    and i think it’s interesting that you didn’t say anything to the person who likes sapphires and rubies, even though there are lots of stones you could get that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between either. Why is everyone in the world determined to make me hate my one diamond?

  12. To be clear I don’t hate your diamond. I’m glad you like it.

    @intimeoflilacs: Try to go to a jeweler and find a well built ring that is made with a cz or something. they’re pretty few and far between.

    I agree. Boulder is blessed to have a jewelry store called Classic Facets. They deal in everything from jade and gold necklaces ($19k) to cut glass from the 1920’s ($75) and all of it is well made. It’s also all recycled so my inner treehugger is pleased.

    A good jeweler will put whatever stone you want into a good mount. Tragically the good jeweler I knew left town. I think his name was Phillip Londal. He’d lay out whatever neat stones he got recently and discuss possible designs until the cows came home. We got a bunch of stuff from him at it is all one-of-a-kind.

    i think it’s interesting that you didn’t say anything to the person who likes sapphires and rubies, even though there are lots of stones you could get that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between either

    I like buying sapphires and rubies. It’s difficult to find a cheaper gem than sapphire except maybe quartz and glass. Actually my wife has some of all three. I especially like the rutilated quartz piece she picked up at a renfest. Synthetic rubies are also hard to beat for the price although garnet comes close. My wife’s favorite gem stone is olivine (peridot) so I got off rather easy. She’d also rather have ten $100 rings to choose from than one $1000 ring which is good because a few of her rings have met with untimely deaths.

  13. When I bought an engagement ring, my now-ex-wife was clear: She wanted a ruby. In fact, the one she wanted was at the North Star Mall in San Antonio. It was a created ruby, but that wasn’t a problem for her… partially because that meant it was less than half the cost.

  14. @davew: i haven’t shopped for much expensive jewelry in my life time so i could be totally wrong, but i feel like i’ve seen lots of multi colored Topaz pieces much cheaper than the sapphires i’ve seen… but that experience may be limited because i went through this phase where i really wanted a pink ring to wear.
    I think i’m just defensive because i love my ring so much. When i was a little girl i always thought my grandmother’s original diamond was one of the prettiest things i’d ever seen and as i became an adult i though that if i ever got married what i wanted was to have it reset into something less delicate(i’m really clumsy and was always afraid i’d break that setting…). in the end i decided that it was too beautiful to remove from its setting and if i only occasionally wore it on special occasions, it probably wouldn’t break it, and furthermore that i didn’t to wait for “some man” to be able to wear it :). But it left me still wanting a diamond ring, though that’s certainly not to say that had we been in a different financial situation or there was any other list of good reasons not to spend $1000 on a ring, i wouldn’t have married Ryan because of it. i certainly never told him ANYTHING to the tune of no diamond, no deal.
    I guess i just take it too personally when people tell me i’m typical or boring because i like my diamond so much, since getting an engagement ring was the first time in my life anyone’s ever referred to my style this way… eclectic, brightly colored, or ” crazy old lady-esque”, yes, but unimaginative, never! And maybe i just need to accept that if you like something that a lot of other people like then that part of you is a little boring.
    It just seems like it’s become the fashionable thing in the educated crowd to tell me that diamonds are sooooo corporate brainwash, and it’s completely unfathomable that someone might actually like them. And i’ve actually had to deal with being told how horrible it is that i have a diamond before i could get a word in edge wise to explain that a) my diamond is from Canada, and b) that to my husband a new stone was important for just this one time and if they had a problem with that they could take it up with him.
    And i guess i could say my husband got off easily too, because my actual favorite stone is a deep red garnet, which is not a very pricy stone. But really i got off just as easily because we share all of our money so it’s just as much my money as it is his when it gets spent. I also think it’s a *little* funny to have a favorite “stone” because a lot of stones come in a lot of colors and at the end of the day, most people actually can’t tell the difference between a lot of them and they really just have a color that they like a lot.

  15. @davew: PS i didn’t mention that i didn’t know about that jewelry store and I”ll be excited to remember it if the need for more jewelry ever arises. I would have probably never walked into a jewelry store in boulder under the (admittedly biased) opinion that everything in Boulder costs about twice as much as it should.

  16. @magicdude20: that’s a pretty minute and unreasonable thing to automatically not respect a woman over. It’s like saying i can’t respect a man who likes football because a lot of men do.

  17. @intimeoflilacs: I would have probably never walked into a jewelry store in boulder under the (admittedly biased) opinion that everything in Boulder costs about twice as much as it should.

    Many things do, but this is one of the exceptions. Classic Facets is on west Pearl Street in the same block as the Trident Bookseller. I could spend days in there.

  18. Happily I’ve didn’t have to deal with the whole engagement ring debacle. My wife doesn’t like jewelry very much. Also, SHE proposed to ME using her late father’s wedding band. It was the coolest thing ever.

  19. @davew:

    I bet you couldn’t tell diamond from other clear stones with a similar cut, however. I certainly couldn’t, and I doubt few other jewelers can.

    Um, please define the term “jeweler”. If you are talking about the average salesperson at your local Kay’s or Jared’s, then yeah, a lot can’t. If you are talking about an actual, trained, reputable jeweler, then they can.

    If you, say, studied with the GIA or have taken a fair amount of Mineralogy? You sure as hell can tell the difference, many times without the loupe.

    CZ’s – especially really cheap CZ’s – have sparkle, but the refraction results in something that is flatter and gaudier than actual adamantine lustre. Colorful and blingy, yes, but it lacks the proper refractive index, period. Good CZ’s – since there are differing manufacturers – can be harder to note with the naked eye in the right setting, but are still easy to spot to a trained eye.

    I admit Moissanite is a bit harder to tell the difference without the loupe. But under the loupe, yeah, there are signs a jeweler, mineralogist and/or gemologist can read as clear as day.

    And the article is right – synthetic diamonds are real diamonds. They just aren’t natural diamonds – it’s kind of like natural pearls vs. cultured pearls. Most synthetic diamonds, though, are for industrial usage – they don’t always cut like a natural diamond, which can make them unreliable. I’m sure technologies are improving on that, though…’cause someone will always want to make a buck off a shiny stone.

    Don’t dis the stone – especially if you’ve never seen a red diamond. I love rubies, but red diamonds are like rubies on crack. Dis DeBeers.

    Diamonds were, if not rare, not common before the discovery of African diamonds in the 1800’s, hence their cachet. It’s cultural – only the rich could really afford a true diamond. And that’s something DeBeers knew when it formed its’ cartel.

  20. @Chasmosaur: If you, say, studied with the GIA or have taken a fair amount of Mineralogy? You sure as hell can tell the difference, many times without the loupe.

    You raise many good points. I also understand that the intrinsic qualities of the diamond crystal combined with the cut make for an exceptionally sparkly sparkly. On the other hand if I need someone with training to explain to me why I need to spend 3x more for a difference that I can’t discern then perhaps I don’t really need to spend that money.

    I also come from a time when young couples were counseled to spend a percentage of their annual salary on a diamond engagement ring. This advice came from jewelry stores, but it was practically universal. I didn’t follow it, but had I been a better skeptic at the time I would have laughed in their face.

    To be fair to everyone, however, there is something terribly romantic about spending a wad on something with your main squeeze that you both value regardless of how logical the decision is. Nobody else can put a price on that.

  21. One of the things that makes me angriest about the people who insist vaccination alone is the cause of autism is that they’re diverting funds and time away from researching other possible causes. There’s a lot of research that shows genetics plays a role. But maybe there is an environmental component – something in the air or food, exposure to computers or ultrasound, being around plastic too much infancy, et al. But if people just keep blaming vaccines, despite the lack of real evidence, the real causes are going to be much harder to find. Unfortunately, even if one brings up the fact that un-vaccinated children have been diagnosed with autism, the die-hards will claim it was the mother’s vaccinations, or being around another vaccinated person, or some such nonsense, just so that they don’t have to realize they’re wrong. Hell, if you want to protect your children from big business, go after car companies. Their products have been proven to be a major killer of children for decades.

  22. I liked the article on diamonds. I was disappointed that the writer didn’t spend some time on all the murder, rape and slavery associated with diamond mines or the fact that several reporters have tested the veracity of diamonds that have been certafied as “conflict free” and found them to be very lacking. Apparently the only way to can be sure that a diamond you are buying didn’t come to you from a slave or through the rape and murder of many children is to buy a synthetically created diamond. The comments made at the bottom of the article seemed to reinforce the concept of the average woman as a shallow whore. I guess they were made by men but how do you know on the internet? Fucking diamonds.

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