You’ve probably heard of diamonds: Bright, sparkly gems. Perhaps you’re wearing some right now.
But have you ever thought what it might be like to be a diamond? We sat down to interview one. Here is its story.
A diamond’s tale
Long, long ago, I first came to life. Back then, I was under so much pressure that I felt I would shatter or be crushed - and you wouldn’t believe how hot it was. And yet that was what made me what I am today: A humble diamond.
After a while, things settled down. I moved closer to the surface, where it was still warm, but without any of the fiery heat of my creation. More importantly, it was quiet. You, who are accustomed to the bustle and noise of life up here in a big city, can’t imagine how peaceful it was.
I was among my brother diamonds, surrounded by other rocks, and that was enough. I didn’t have to do anything, or to prove anything - just to be. Perhaps you’d consider it dull or call it the quiet of the tomb, but it was all I’d ever known, and all I ever wanted. And that peace continued for uncounted eons. There was the occasional earth tremor, sure, but nothing to speak of.
Then one day I began to hear noises. I felt shock-waves travelling through the Earth. I could hear the cries of nearby rocks.
All too suddenly, there was a large explosion which deafened me, and I was torn apart from my brother rocks. I fell, joining the pile of shattered fragments below - fragments that had once been solid earth.
As we lay there, battered and broken, I could only wonder who had done this to us. And it was in the unaccustomed light playing over us that I first saw the scourge of our peaceful home: Humans. They were a bright orange, and vengeful lights burned from their heads as they roughly handled us.
That explosion was only the beginning of the violence. They were clearly looking for something, or wanting something from us, though they never actually told us what.
We were taken from our home up to the surface. Transported to a processing centre. Crushed. Tumbled. Dipped in acid. And at times it felt like it would never end.
A couple of weeks later, I was sealed in a box with other diamonds who, like me, were special. Some wanted to talk about what they’d been through. Others just sobbed quietly. Not that the humans cared. How could they hear our cries? It wasn’t like they’d done this to make us happy.
We were taken on a train. Then a boat. Then another train. In that box we were shaken and jolted together, and we grew together in adversity. Surely we would be able to remain together, and perhaps soon we would be in peace?
But, as you probably realise by now, it was not to be. When the box was finally opened, we were in a large room, with more humans than I even knew existed. We were held for display, and roughly handled. Diamonds were taken one by one without any chance to say farewell, and in the end I was taken by the ring-maker.
In his workshop there were so many stones that seemed more colourful: Emeralds and rubies and sapphires and amethysts and so much more. What was I, a humble rock, doing in that company?
I couldn’t know that the most painful part of the ordeal was about to come: I was about to meet the diamond traitors.
That was a black time. It wasn’t just what they did to me. It was their words:
“We will never shine - but we can make you shine”.
I was being repeatedly cut and polished, and apparently it was only other diamonds that were hard enough to do that work. At the ringmaker’s direction they cut all the stones, but they were particularly proud of what they did with me. In their eyes, I was a fellow diamond who had made it.
When I said I didn’t want to shine, they acted shocked. Apparently, I’d been chosen. Among all the rocks tumbling together back at the processing centre, a human had seen my potential and started me on this, my journey to the other side of the world.
Yes, there was some pain, but I was to be the brightest and most valued of all gems. I should have been grateful for it. Most of my mineral companions and friends, those I’d lived with and suffered with, would return to the dust and to obscurity without ever being noticed by a human. Perhaps they’d already been discarded. Surely I couldn’t want that?
How could I respond to that but to weep? I wept for all I had lost, all I had suffered. I wept for my companions in that box, who must be going through similar suffering all alone.
And those traitors, well, they dismissed all those tears:
We’ve shaped other diamonds before you, they said, and we will shape many more before our time is up. Your pain will turn to joy when you enter into glory.
High sounding words, but I soon realised that after the final polish they never saw the stones again. How could they know what happened to a diamond who had been chosen?
So, what really happened? The ringmaker set me in a gold ring, and we were placed in a glass case among many other rings. Humans came to admire me. They held me up to the light and said how pretty I was, not caring that the light went right through me. Then they moved on to looking at the next ring.
The nights were a welcome break. A time in the dark, and a time to share stories with the gems around me. For yes, there in that store I met other diamonds, many of them set in rings, some set in necklaces or brooches, and each with their own tale of woe.
After a few months, my ring was finally bought by a young man. He kept me in a box in the dark for a few weeks, only occasionally opening it up to look at me and hop from foot to foot as he stammered out his plans for the great Proposal.
Then one day he took me with him when he went out. It was to be another turning point, though I couldn’t yet know it. So it was then, still in the safety of my box, that I first heard her voice laughing and mocking him.
The box opened, and the full sunlight was revealed. There was water as far as I could see, and there he was, down in the sand on one knee. Believe me, it looked ridiculous - not that anyone was about to ask me.
She was momentarily shocked out of her laughter. Then the tears started, and she said “Yes!” and pulled him up into a hug. He couldn’t see her face as it rested on his shoulder, but I could. There was no surprised joy or dawning love there. That was when I first truly saw her face, first saw the cruel and calculating heart behind the pleasant exterior. Apparently he’d won her - but could he keep her?
Since then, we’ve been on her finger. Me and my ring, I mean. It’s always bright, and the light keeps getting in. It’s noisy and dirty. And when she waves her hands round I get motion sickness.
For a few days she showed me off to her friends. There were “Oohs” and “Ahhs”. And I’ll admit for a brief moment I wondered whether the traitors might be right after all. While waiting in the shop my cuts and bruises had healed. I liked being admired. Clearly I was pretty, otherwise they wouldn’t be making so much fuss over me.
Could it all be worth it after all? Had I managed to fulfil my purpose in life?
But even then, it was hard to shake off the feelings of powerlessness, and the pain of separation from my home and all my companions didn’t heal so easily. And then the early admiration wore off fairly quickly. I’m a diamond, and an expensive one. I’m still supposed to be pretty - but hardly anyone even notices me. Not even her.
That made me wonder what my function really was. Clearly I’m not just here to be pretty, otherwise people would notice me more. I’ve heard that somehow I’m supposed to be stopping unwanted advances from other men. Marking her as his property. But that’s not what happens.
She meets many men. Perhaps some of them don’t even notice the small, seemingly insignificant sparkling stone on one finger. Perhaps others think it a challenge. I don’t know, but the fact is that the advances are made. And they’re not always unwanted, either…
One day she got all dressed up. She got out of the car at a big building, and inside the building there he was, also dressed up. They faced each other, and there on his face was the look of love and devotion that he thought she shared.
I was there when he put another ring on her finger. Just a plain gold ring, with not even a single gem for me to share my woes with, but it seemed to be important to him. She put one on his finger as well. They kissed, and there was clapping and celebration and dancing (uggh - motion sickness overload).
The new ring didn’t stop the advances, either. Nor did it stop her spending time up close with a variety of men. Fortunately, she usually takes us off before such liasons, but I’ve seen and heard things that no self-respecting crystal lattice should have to see and hear. At least she and he don’t do it any more.
It’s been five years now since that day on the beach, and he’s a changed man. The nervousness is gone, but so is the eagerness and the love. There are lines of despair now, where there was only hope before.
Sometimes I wonder what those traitors would do in my position. I’d like to see them on her finger looking pretty and unconcerned while she’s screaming at him. More than once she’s pulled us off and thrown us in his face before storming off. I’d like to see them feel the glory of lying abandoned on the floor or underneath the couch. I’m sure they’d give anything to shine like that.
What’s that? Where do my loyalties lie? Well, he bought me, and she wears me (when it suits!), and no-one ever gave me a say in any of that. Sure, I feel sorry for him - but why should I choose sides when both have wronged me, and I never wanted to be here anyway?
What, you ask what I wish, human? How many more indignities do I need to go through? I wish your kind had never torn me from my home. I wish you’d never decided you knew better than I did what was good for me. I’m a being with my own wants and desires, not a mere appendage for you humans.
Right now, though, I wish she were dead. Perhaps then I’d be buried with her. Perhaps then I’d find the peace I crave.
The miner can find the rock, and then the ringmaker can turn that humble rock into an ornament that a human thinks pretty. But you’re the first to ask how the diamond feels about it.
Very well: It’s unbearable. I can’t be grateful for a prettiness that has meant nothing but pain and separation from all I ever knew.
Last week, I went to my former high school’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and very much enjoyed them. As the school was (and is) an Adventist school, one of the things on the program was a sermon by a former student (who must have been in early primary school when I graduated!). The sermon was entitled “Diamonds out of Dust”, and was about God working in our lives and how he’s doing something special, even if we can’t see it. Among other things, he explicitly mentioned how God is shaping us to be pretty, and how we can shape each other like the diamonds in jewellers’ saws and grinders can shape jewel diamonds.
As an ex-Christian, perhaps all sermons bother me, but it wasn’t really a bad sermon. The pastor was recounting difficult times in his life, and trying to draw lessons from them about how God was at work and what those events might mean. I think it’s fair to say the pastor believed all this and meant to give a positive message, whether or not I agreed with his conclusions.
He said that God sees us as we are, and is still willing to accept us. Not because we’re good people, or because we deserve it, but because he cares. You know why he cares? Because not only does he see us for who we are, but also for who we can be. He became one of us - a creature of dust - so that he could raise us to be gems with him.
So far, so uplifting.
However, the diamond analogy just felt like a bad analogy to me, and I started to wonder how a sentient diamond might actually respond to being cut and polished and made pretty. Perhaps they would prefer being left as a plain rock deep underground? And that was where this story was born.
I have no idea what the pastor’s position on the various culture wars is. But in many conservative church environments, some of the “shaping” involved would be very problematic. For example, this chisel blow might be your sexuality, while that one might be your sense of self-worth. Other believers might be quite happy to try and shape you (read: get you to toe the line). Sounding good?
The only way you could know you were pretty at the end of the process is being told “That’s God’s will, and God knows best”. Which, if the God of the Bible truly existed, might boil down to God saying “See, you’re so much more beautiful than you were, because you reflect my glory better”. Perhaps followed by “You’ll look really good praising me and showing how great and caring I am. (pause) Forever.” And if he really wished to dwell on your supposed brokenness, perhaps “I can see you as you are” would mean “I can see that I can cut you and shape you and bend you to my will and you’ll be grateful for it. That’s the kind of follower I want”.
To me, the real problem with the analogy is that when it comes to humans, there isn’t one self-evident standard of human goodness. One person’s (or for that matter, one deity’s) “see, you look so much prettier now” is another’s “you’ve been mutilated”. And neither of those considers what the human actually wants for themselves.
We can safely shape a diamond in a way that will please humans because the diamond isn’t sentient, and it doesn’t have its own hopes and desires and dreams. Humans do, though. That matters.
The diamond shaping analogy reminds me strongly of the Biblical analogy of the potter and the clay, except that the potter analogy is a little more honest about what’s going on. In that analogy, God doesn’t have to make humans beautiful works of art. If he wants to, he can make a specific human a simple pot for humble work. He can even make a pot as a vessel of wrath, intended only for destruction.
Basically, he can do whatever the hell he wants with you, no matter what you want to do and be, and there’s no right of appeal. If you’re not useful to him, well, that’s sad for you. He’s the Potter, don’tchaknow?
I reject that.
Overstretching the analogy
Getting back to the diamond analogy, it’s time to stretch it further than it was probably meant to go. Remember in the tale how much of the rock was returned to the ground rather than going on to be an amazing gem? I’ve seen suggestions online that, depending on the mine and the area, it can take between 1 tonne and 300 tonnes of ore dug out of the ground to produce a single 1 carat faceted diamond.
That reminds me so much of my Christadelphian upbringing. We were born into the tiny minority that had The Truth. We could be a part of God’s plan and receive the gift of eternal life.
There were also a few not born into it who might find it through careful study of the Bible. And some who should have known better would be raised to life, judged, then condemned to death and return to the dust. But some, perhaps many, would die having never heard about it, and they would be left in the dust.
The diamonds, having been extracted and cut and polished to meet God’s executive standards, would continue to praise him and reflect his glory. What an awesome “Dust to Diamonds” narrative!
But the rest would have no such narrative. They would be used to fill in the mine, the land would be rehabilitated, and at the end you couldn’t even tell that they’d ever been on the surface.
“Dust Thou Art, and to Dust Thou Shalt Return”*
* Unless you happen to be born a diamond in the rough. In which case, the jewel making process is rough, man!
A place to visit
If you happen to be in or near Mildura, I’d strongly recommend visiting Woodsie’s Gem Shop:
While writing this tale I was thinking of the demonstrations I’d seen there as a teenager, including using diamond saws, and of course the Purple Rock Muncher:
There’s also a garden maze that’s worth a visit, and Aladdin’s Cave with its display of so many of the owning family’s treasures (though I didn’t see any diamonds in my photos from it).
Lots of jewellery for sale, too, if that’s your thing. Probably including engagement rings 😉.