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Featured Documentary

The Diamond Empire : Oppenheimer Family's Cartel, Artificial Scarcity (1994) 80 min.

Synopsis

How an advertising slogan invented by Madison Avenue executives in 1948 has come to define our most intimate rituals and ideals around courtship and marriage is the subject of this devastating documentary. THE DIAMOND EMPIRE, which sent shockwaves through the world diamond industry when it first appeared, systematically takes apart the myth that "diamonds are forever," exposing how one white South African family, through a process of monopoly and fantasy, managed to exert control over the global flow of diamonds and shape the very way we think about romance and love – an achievement all the more stunning given that diamonds are in fact neither a scarce nor indestructible commodity. Zeroing in on how "the diamond empire" managed to convert something valueless into one of the most coveted commodities in history, the film provides a riveting look at how marketing and consumer culture not only influence global trade and economics, but also burrow down into the very core of our identities. Most of the major diamond producers belong to, or have cooperated with, the De Beers–led marketing cartel, formed to maintain the price of diamonds at a high level. De Beers, under Harry Oppenheimer's leadership (1957–84), maintained its dominant position in the industry by using its numerous worldwide companies to buy up new sources of diamonds and to control distribution of industrial diamonds and production of synthetic ones. In the last decades of the 20th cent., however, De Beers' hold over the unpolished diamond market decreased, and in 2000 the company announced it would end to its policy of controlling diamond prices through hoarding and shift its focus to increasing sales.