Diamonds aren’t the world’s best friends

The grimy underbelly of the worldwide diamond trade is exposed in a new book.

Gabriel Shapiro

Precious, pure, brilliant: These are some of the words most often heard when diamonds, those rare and sought-after gems that adorn the fingers and necks of those lucky enough to be able to afford them. But the industry that produces these shiny rocks could certainly never be described with such sparkling adjectives.

Author Janine Roberts has some sharp words about the true costs of drenching the world in these shimmering stones in her new book “Glitter and Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Cartel.”

Book Review
“Glitter and Greed: the Secret World of the Diamond Cartel “

Author: Janine Roberts
Publisher: Disinformation Company
Price: $22.95

What: “Glitter and Greed” book signing
When: 3 p.m. Thursday
Where: Bound to be Read, 870 Grand Ave., St. Paul

Roberts has dedicated more than 23 years of her life to uncovering the truth and brutality of the diamond trade. Like the miners shuffling down dark shafts to search for the Earth’s bounty, Roberts plumbs the depths to come up with the damning truth. She unearths the facts about diamond giant De Beers, explains that many “flawless” diamonds are actually man-made, and details how numerous people have been driven into poverty, physically hurt or even killed in the hunt for diamond wealth.

Roberts’ research is meticulous and exhaustive, and as a result the book is able to rely more on facts than on rhetoric. The book is stuffed with statistics, footnotes, references and photos. This might sound a bit too much like what you’re already reading for class. Before you dismiss this as too dull, consider that Roberts’ background is in journalism and documentary filmmaking, so she knows how to keep things interesting and engaging.

Beyond knowing how to find the story, Roberts knows how to pick her company. The publisher behind “Glitter and Greed” is none other than Disinformation, the subversive genius behind such massive volumes as “Abuse Your Illusions,” “You Are Being Lied To” and “Everything You Know is Wrong.”

Disinformation has built up its reputation by trolling the Internet for everything you ought to know but aren’t told. They are strictly critical of everything, and their Web site states: “The political bias of our staff just happens to be ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive,’ but that doesn’t mean we close our minds to ideas that are deemed conservative; far from it.” They add, “How can someone be truly well-informed with only half the story?” You are unlikely to get that kind of commitment to integrity from most of the mainstream media outlets or publishers operating today.

Roberts’ book is certainly chock-full of facts and stats, but its real power comes from tying the ugliness of the diamond industry to real lives. That global corporations and monopoly capitalism have tremendous destructive power is well-documented, but without a context to make problems that are typically seen as economic or political more human, there is little to make regular folks care.

Roberts is out to “reveal what lies behind the hype and spin that weaved the web that created vast profits out of the misery of others.” She includes detailed accounts of the forgotten human beings – child laborers in India and broken treaty rights of native peoples. Roberts provides context, and does it by telling a story she went to great lengths to expose, like so many diamonds in the rough and, in this case, rough diamonds.