The carat and the stick

'Blood Diamond' mag ad awkward for jewel industry

It being the holiday season, the December issue of Vanity Fair is stuffed with lush ads for diamonds.

But merchants like De Beers, Harry Winston and David Yurman can’t be too happy with another diamond ad appearing in the same issue –one depicting the stone dripping with blood.

The arresting image is a plug for “Blood Diamond,” which Warners releases Dec. 8. The Ed Zwick-helmed pic stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly, who just happens to play a writer for Vanity Fair.

Warners took out the VF ad as part of a larger media buy targeting issue-oriented mags, including Time and Newsweek, and not because it just happened to be the time of year when diamond retailers pull out all the stops. But the coincidence is certainly awkward for the diamond trade.

Led by giant De Beers, the industry is worried that the film could hurt sales, since it brings attention to so-called conflict, or blood, diamonds. Pic is set in the 1990s in Sierra Leone, when a brutal civil war was funded by the illegal trading of diamonds, with rebels forcing their prisoners to work in the mines.

Zwick has taken a personal interest in the subject, and last week turned up at an Amnesty Intl. event in L.A. Amnesty screened an unrelated docu on blood diamonds, followed by a panel discussion.

One woman who attended says she wanted to turn her ring around and hide her own diamond. “I wish I knew where it came from. I certainly will ask from now on,” she says, adding that she heard others making the same proclamation.

Anticipating just such reactions to “Blood Diamond,” the World Diamond Council hired veteran spin doctor Allen Mayer and took out double-truck ads in the world’s top newspapers explaining what steps the industry has taken to make sure diamonds today are clean.

Diamond lovers are encouraged to ask their friendly jeweler to see a certificate proving that the stone they adore hasn’t caused a death somewhere else.

Who would have imagined that a trip Tiffany’s might suddenly be like visiting a used car lot?

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