In Defense of Chocolate Diamonds

A couple of weeks ago, in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, we saw a lot of articles about jewelry in the consumer press. The Washington Post wrote about the enduring appeal of “A Diamond Is Forever.” GQ ran a how-to piece on buying an engagement ring. And Jezebel blogged about Chocolate Diamonds.

I’ve never taken issue with anything I’ve read on Jezebel. I consider myself a feminist, and I admire opinionated writing by intelligent women. So I was surprised by how much Dodai Stewart’s rant about the marketing of brown diamonds annoyed me.

She takes Eddie LeVian of Le Vian Corp. to task for his company’s “brainwashery way” of convincing women “to spend their hard-earned dollars on something that they don’t need—and something the jewelry industry has trouble getting rid of.”

“What LeVian glosses over, of course, is that ‘chocolate’ diamonds are just brown diamonds,’ ” Stewart writes. “And brown diamonds are the most common kind of diamonds. There are tons of them. Tons.”

She continues to ream LeVian: “But the real issue with chocolate diamonds is how they’re aggressively marketed as a thing women should buy for themselves. A treat, like chocolate. Except they’re not a cheap, sweet, delicious snack. A LeVian chocolate diamond ring can cost from $1,300 to $8,000. And what are you really paying for? What is the value of that piece? What is it actually worth? There’s no resale market.”

But, I want to scream, you can say that about any piece of designer jewelry, name-brand handbag, or ridiculously priced pair of shoes!

Women don’t buy brown diamond jewelry for its resale value. They buy it because it’s pleasing to the eye and they feel good about themselves when they wear it. And if they decide they can afford a $3,000 treat, then that’s their business. Why does Stewart have to judge them? And worse, why does she imply that any woman who’s decided to drop some serious cash on a piece of Chocolate Diamond jewelry has been bamboozled by a shady diamond seller?

Stewart says she’s insulted by the name and marketing campaign behind Chocolate Diamonds, but I’m insulted by her conviction that women are damsels in distress, too stupid to understand that the diamond industry is selling them. Of course the industry is selling them. Stewart’s hardly the first person to recognize nobody needs a diamond—especially not a brown diamond set in a fashion design. Need is not, and has never been, the point.

She fails to mention that the jewelry industry has always promoted brown diamonds by more fanciful names, like champagne and cognac. When she finds out, is she going to make some specious argument about the diamond industry appealing to women’s alcoholic tendencies?

In essence, I just don’t understand Stewart’s outrage over Le Vian’s sales tactics: It’s called marketing, and why is it so shocking and evil that jewelry companies do it?!

It’s as if she decided that Chocolate Diamonds were an easy target for her pre-Valentine’s Day tirade, so she confirmed all of her preconceived notions about the diamond business by quoting all the usual suspects. (One request for any writer who chooses to skewer the diamond industry: Please, please stop referencing Jay Epstein’s Atlantic article from 1982 as if it’s still relevant.)

Then she quotes “scholar, college professor, and author Ken Mondschein,” who makes a pretty offensive suggestion of his own about what he thinks might be the true motivations for renaming brown diamonds. It’s too icky to repeat here. Suffice it to say that the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, which I promptly washed away with a little piece of chocolate.