Yes, we coloreds have been guilty of stupidity. For 25 years, diamond folks sat and laughed, and rightly so: "Look at them, how ignorant they are. They figure nobody knows better. But we know. And so does John Q. Public. Which is why he likes diamond better."
The trouble with ignorance is that it's catching, something even a lilly-white karbon klansman kan pick up. Several weeks ago, one pillar of whiteydom, Lizard King, Inc., stood up tall and told one and all: "Ain't nothin' wrong with changin' color. I am a lizard and so I can be changin' color. B'sides, you coloreds do it all the time." Yep. He looked the world straight in the eye and said that changing a diamond's color wasn't a problem, least so long as the lab folks couldn't tell the difference.
The trouble with ignorance is that it's catching, something even a lilly-white karbon klansman kan pick up.
Now I'll pause here for those who are busy cutting their desks into pencil-sized fragments of rage to genuflect a moment. You're absolutely right. What's incredible is not that someone is reducing the color of diamonds. No sir. What is mind-boggling is that someone had the moxie to declare bald-faced that we need not care. To quote Frank Zappa: "Great googly-moogly!"
This is obviously a clear-cut case of testicular elephantiasis, something not seen since Prince changed his name to that weird character. But when I look at the Lizard King, I don't see colossal cojones. No sir. Despite that reptilian brain of his, I think the lizard knew better. Which I figure was why he told folks what he was plannin' to do. Jus' ta try the idea out, sorta, kinda, mey-beee.
Everybody's got a price, and we've just found out what it is for this fly-catcher. The whole thing reminds me of the story where a man approaches a woman and asks if she will sleep with him for a million dollars. She immediately agrees. "Okay," he continues, "will you sleep with me for ten dollars?" Shocked, the woman blurts out: "Of course not! What do you think I am?" "We already know what you are," he answers, "now it's just a question of determining the price."
This is obviously a clear-cut case of testicular elephantiasis, something not seen since Prince changed his name to that weird character.
Been there, cooked that
There is no question that we in the colored stone business brought our current woes upon ourselves. We cooked and we grilled and we microwaved and we waxed and we lubed, all the while talking ourselves into believing our own jive-ass bulls@#t lick about how we were just keepin' on keepin' on, just doing what Mother Nature taught us.
Our geuda sapphires went from the fish tank to Fifth Avenue, and what happened? Prices for blues haven't nudged up a nickel since 1980. Rubies? Lookee there. The flux-healin' face-lifts we foisted on the public have forced prices so low that even synthetic producers are going tits up. We warred to wax jade, and now waste both time and beaucoup coin identifying the B variety. And we told ourselves that sticking our emeralds up on the rack for a quick lube job was a necessary part of the biz. To what end? Our greased greens are so unpopular today that Colombia's money-launderin' dope dealers are said to be working on a novel inventory reduction program – you guessed it – a smokable emerald. Their new slogan? "Colombian emerald – It's the ree-chest kind."
Some lessons come hard. It does matter what we do to a stone. But it matters even more when we fail tell people that the gemstone they are buying is not the virgin birth, but instead a test-tube baby. When we fail this most basic test of honesty, John Q. Public sees in our shenanigans not business as usual, but more business as screwsual.
Over the past 25 years, the diamond industry has had a front-row center seat to see how not to do business. We coloreds learned our lesson. It took 25 years, but we learned our lesson. Gotta come clean with folks. Gotta tell people what we're doin'. Today whitey needs to do some learnin' from us. See, whitey can even learn from coloreds.
Yes, we in the colored stone business have been whores. And now we have company. Black, white, yellow, red, green, blue, color don't matter none. Just like everybody who's ever been stuck in this human skin, we're all dumb sometimes.
So here's my advice to whitey – don't be makin' the same mistake as us. No sir. Tell the Lizard King you don't need no snake oil, don't need to speak with no forked tongue. Tell him you don't need no face-liftin' tummy-tuckin' thigh-suckin' booby boostin' snow jobs. Just look that lizard straight in the eye and tell him: "No sortas, kindas or mey-bees. Ain't nothin' like the real thing. Carbon copies? No thanks."
Published in GemKey Magazine under the title "From the Laser Drill into the Fire" (1999, Vol. 1, No. 6, Sept.-Oct.), this was installment #6 of my Digital Devil column. This article as published was edited quite a bit. The text above is my original.
The following responses were sent in to GemKey Magazine regarding this column.
You've really done it this time, Dick
And where are your heads? Don't you have oversight at your magazine? Your little blurb about "not expressing the opinions of the magazine" is pathetic and untrue. Would you print anti-Semitic sentiments from Hitler disguised as a column on gem stones? I don't think so, and there is no reason to print Hughes' racism just because he is on your staff.
You owe your readers a really strongly-worded apology, removal of Hughes from your staff, and a promise to never let this kind of thing happen again.
I await your reply, both to us by email and in print in the magazine.
Henry A. Janowitz
The diamond industry is cannibalizing its integrity and distinguished profession via the enhancement process. The public is losing confidence in genuine gems and diamonds and I fear that the end loser is the manufacturer and jeweler. Technology is prostituting the gem trade as well as undermining the public's confidence. Who will be hurting more, the public or the industry? Can we still truly say, "a rose is a rose?"
Thank you, Richard for your article. I hope the industry wakes up!
Let me state clearly that I have no problem with the comments of Henry Janowitz and Jerry Alexander. Taste is a personal matter and I understand and sympathize with differences of opinion on such questions. Every four years, the United States goes through an exercise in self-flagellation which only proves one thing – the taste of one half the population differs from the other.
The comments of Joyous Jewels, however, are just a wee bit over the top, and so here's my thoughts.
This is not the first complaint I have received alluding to racism in my writings, either direct or indirectly (for readers who are interested, see the letter which follows 'Death of the Thai Ruby' and my response in 'Life During Wartime'). Let me briefly restate a few things I discussed in "Life During Wartime."
Yes, racism is an important problem. Having spent much of my life in a country where I was a minority and having suffered the leers and catcalls for having the audacity to date (and marry) someone outside my own race, I think it fair to say that I have more than a long-distance understanding of the subject.
It is a tragedy that the racism charge is so overused in America today that many do not even understand its meaning. For evidence, we need look no further than the Joyous Jewels letter, where the writer(s) saw racism in a column having absolutely nothing to do with race. Such comments display a distressing ignorance of the term. Let's look to the dictionary for help:
In light of the above definitions, I think we can safely stow away the racism complaint. But there are always some for whom one has to connect the dots. Thus let me explain a little further:
In "Carbon Copies" ('From the Laser Drill into the Fire'), the terms "whitey" and "coloreds" were used in a metaphorical sense. For much of recent history, people of color have been placed in a subservient role to whites (an historic fact). Similarly, the colored stone business has played a subservient role to that of diamonds over much of this century. But just as whites can learn from people of color, similarly the diamond business (read: whitey) too can learn from the colored stone people (read: coloreds). Some readers may disagree with my choice of metaphor or even find it in poor taste, but to call me racist is just plain silly. Even a casual reading of the column should make clear that I am identifying myself with the coloreds, not whitey.
A couple years ago I sent out a general announcement regarding this web site, saying something to the effect of "…beware, make the sign of the cross, for the Devil is coming…" An Israeli friend of mine wrote back, warning that, if I wanted to avoid problems, I should not stray into areas of religion. My reply to him was simple: no.
I went on to explain that my message had nothing whatsoever to do with religion. But most important, even if it did, I would not shy away from such discussions, if for no other reason than that, in a free society, one should be free to discuss any subject freely. To do otherwise is to follow the path that leads towards censorship and the type of death sentence imposed by the Persian mullahs on Salman Rushdie.
Ping! Suddenly the dots connected and my friend understood.
Similarly, to those who would have me avoid using language that some might misconstrue as being "racist," I say simply: no.
I will not write down to the level of imbeciles, nor those who pretend to be for the purpose of nailing themselves to someone else's cross.
Unfortunately, what was lost in all of this bluster and bombast was the issue at hand – namely how a company placed its desire for profit above the interests of both the jewelry and consumer communities. Judging from the printed response to the above column, the only person who seemed to get it was Mary Sayad. Everyone else stumbled around in a metaphoric haze. In this sense, the column was a failure, and that is my only regret.
Postscript: For those who are still interested in diamonds, shortly after writing "Carbon Copies" (and long before I saw any of the reader response), I penned another piece on the same subject ('Fun Down Under').
Reader's responses. And a few more…
Hughes anti-Semitic too…?
But to write about him as Joyous Jewels did:
Well, friends, Hitler did not write the super epos, Ruby & Sapphire – Dick Hughes did. Hitler Wrote, Mein Kampf, predicting and planning the killing of a third of my tribe, and many other millions of homosexuals, blacks, gypsies, retards, Catholic Priests etc…
Anybody who knows Dick knows that he is not a racist. I, as a Jew, have always been treated by him as an equal, and I have never felt any anti-Semitic air from him (and, believe me, I know when there is one around).
But then, after reading Joyous Jewels comments, a terrible thought crossed my mind. Am I the only Jew he treats well, the one he keeps in order to prove that he is OK like those famous institutions which used to keep one Jew, one black and one Chinese to prove that they are not racist?
And as a methodical gem dealer, I started checking his books and articles. I knew from the start that something was wrong… but I could not pinpoint it. And then it hit me!
What is this sentence so popular with Dick – "The price of wisdom is above Rubies?" When in the name of all gems are rubies mentioned in the Bible at all.
So I took my Hebrew Bible (written in the original language in which it was written, Hebrew) and there in Job 28:18 as I thought, in the Hebrew Bible it is definitely written: "the price of wisdom is above Pninim (and any kid in Israel will tell you that Pninim are pearls and not rubies.
And I started running through the entire Holy Bible as if to join the diamond rush or, to put it into Dick's words, the ruby rush.
And the same in Job mentioned above.
This was my definite proof of Dick being an anti-Semitic. Yes, he is using the English translation of the Bible and not the Hebrew one, so he can ignore us, the original tribe, chosen people etc…
And then I knew I had him, he is promoting his rubies on our account, he is a clear rubysemitic!!!
Just before I fell asleep, I got to the last place where my Hebrew Bible mentions Pearls: Lamentations Chapter 4 and it reads in Hebrew: "…they were more ruddy in body than pearls, their polishing was of sapphire…"
More ruddy than pearls? Since when are pearls red? I could not sleep the whole night running through all references, including the unique section in my book, The Dealer's Book of Gems and Diamonds, where a whole chapter is devoted to the Breast Plate of the Holy Priest…
So why in the name of all oysters do we Hebrew speakers think today that "Pninim" are pearls and not rubies? I really don't know. All I know, is that I almost accused dear old Dick of a crime he never committed.
While looking at what Joyous Jewels are asking for, I realized that something is very wrong with the way they are trying to shut up a legitimate speaker, and remove him. Next thing they'll ask to do is to burn his books, not unlike the Crystal Night, when other books were burnt.
Careful you people, slow down your accusations…
Where is "I do not agree with what you say but I will die protecting your right to say it" which is the basis of the freedom of speech and democracy?
The only thing I can accuse Dick Hughes of is that he wrote the best book ever written on rubies and sapphires, even better than my chapters!
I'm Norwegian and Russian, and I was raised with a solid "all men are created equal" ethic. My daughter is half Thai, and her mother's skin color is well dark enough to be stuck in the "colored" category by many who feel the need to make such distinctions.
And yes, I have to say it, I have several, in fact many "colored" friends. Indian, Arab, African, Afro American, Hispanic, Sri Lankan, Thai etc. etc. Between us, we don't have a problem with racism.
In my college days I was a cultural transplant, a misfit. I hung out predominantly with about a dozen Afro American and a few African continental students. They called each other "nigger" frequently. I read Afro-American poetry with them and it was full of the "N" word. Eventually they called me nigger and I called them nigger and we all loved each other.
Ten years in Thailand and I know racism well. Farang does loosely translate into "nigger," and we certainly know when it is being used as such, although on the Thai scale, we are mostly considered high-class niggers. But niggers none the less. When I go to Thai national parks or historical sites, I pay five times the entry fee that Thais pay. The guy from Singapore in front of me pays the Thai price because he has an Asian face. I'm the nigger.
I've said all this to establish that I do have some sensitivity to what racism is, and is not. Your piece was not racist. Your style can be criticized, and will be no matter what style it happens to be. But to take offense is simply a symptom of a lack of perspective.
I have a mop made in Thailand. The brand is "Black Man." I mop the floors in my house. I'm the chief nigger. I'm not offended.
RWH responds (for the last time):
After reading the above, a friend of mine admonished me with the first rule of Devilhood, which is that explanations and apologies are unnecessary.
In closing, I will leave you with the words of the immortal Mark Twain:
I don't need to know a man's race in order to hate him. If he's human, that's enough. He can't be any worse.
• Page updated 16 January, 2014 •
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