Since 1939, Neiman Marcus has put out an annual Christmas catalog, which became The Christmas Book in 1952. Each issue includes a "Fantasy Gifts" section, which offers extra-opulent experiences and objects, and in the past have included a private concert with Elton John (in 2005 for $1.5M), His and Hers robots (in 2003 for $400,000), and a video tape recorder and camera (in 1965 for $1,345).
This year, the offerings include a bespoke falconry set, a $1.5M outdoor entertainment system, and a limited edition Jeff Koons sculpture. But the gift that caught our eye was the Forevermark Ultimate Diamond Experience, which clocked in at a cool $1.85M. At first, we assumed the price was so high to cover the logistics of halting an operating mine so that a client can "find" a giant diamond while also enjoying safety and comfort in 5-star luxury. Turns out, you're paying for so, so much more than that.
Forevermark wants to bring you "deep into the heart of Africa," a disgusting Imperialist notion that conjures the evil Mr. Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and also King Leopold II of Belgium's murderous campaign to secure the global rubber market by enslaving and/or annihilating the population of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Essentially, anyone looking to fly in, plant a flag, systematically exploit and extract a precious resource, gawk at the natives (including an Instagram or two), and then fly home is essentially a person paying a shitload of money to live out a horrible colonial fantasy. However, the whitewashing of this modern-day colonial undertaking is even more ridiculous than the actual exploitation.
During the 11-day itinerary where you "discover where your stone began its journey more than one billion years ago," you first travel by helicopter from London to the De Beers headquarters. Before your private tour of the Crown Jewels and dinner with De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier and Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier in the Tower of London (what?), you're given your 25-carat diamond. Yes, there's no mining, gold-panning, or amputating diamond thieves involved. You're simply handed a gigantic diamond. Adventure over, it seems.
Wrong, you rich asshole! The next few days are spent in South Africa, where you, "Step back into history and take in the town at the heart of the diamond rush of the 19th century." Pay no mind to the stench of blood emanating from the environment-destroying mines, or to the orphans whose parents perished in the regional conflicts that have plagued some African countries for decades. According to the official De Beers history, none it that happened/is happening.
Next, "Your journey continues on a vessel off Namibia's coast, where your diamond was discovered deep within the ocean floor." Once you disembark from the giant boat that sucks up diamonds off the ocean floor, "You'll then explore rough-diamond sorting houses and a children's community project, where the local population benefits from Forevermark's responsible sourcing of diamonds." Question: Why do the activities on this adventure have to emphasize the "benefits" and "responsible sourcing" of Forevermark diamonds?
The launch of Forevermark diamonds is a marketing campaign done by De Beers. The reason was to offer diamonds that "are natural, untreated, responsibly sourced..." Again, why would you have to create a whole 'nother sector of your giant institution that is separate from the majority of your business in order to sell diamonds that are "responsibly sourced?"
If you pay $1.85M for this gift, you're essentially forking over serious money to partake in an 11-day PR stunt that is meant to alter the perception of De Beers and Forevermark and deflect their participation in and enabling of conflict diamonds.
Just go for the "Bespoke Global Falconry Companion" gift, and give the $1.7M difference to charity. Yeah, we're talking to you, Lavish.