An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beaded bracelets, bling and beyond: is all that sparkles fair?

When a customer at a local market first saw this bracelet she said ‘what great bling’. I thought, well it might be great 'bling' but it's almost impossible to photograph - it's so shiny and sparkly that the camera seems to just give up. Then I thought again - I wonder what she meant. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the word but I have never been quite sure what it means. Wikipedia came to the rescue describing bling as:
  • ‘fashy or elaborate jewelry and ornamented accessories that are carried, worn or installed, such as cell phones or tooth caps. The concept is often associated with rappers.’.
Well I know we are all looking for new ideas as beaders and beadweavers so maybe tooth caps could be the next thing for Etsy. The origins of the word are apparently ideophonic. Back to Wikipedia to explain:
  • ‘In linguistics terms, bling is an ideophone intended to evoke the "sound" of light hitting silver, platinum, or diamonds. It is not onomatopoeia, because the act of jewelry shining does not make a sound. ….The origins of the term are disputed and claimed by various artists.’

However, I've learnt that the origins of the word are not the only controversy that surrounds because of the widespread use of diamonds in bling jewelry. Diamond mining has been linked to major conflict, wars and worker exploitation and diamonds mined in war zones where profits benefit warloads and the diamond industry are known as ‘blood diamonds’. The term was popularised in the 2006 film - ''Blood Diamond'' starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou.

As always, it seems the everyday is political. A simple term like ‘bling’ seems so harmless yet it is important to think about how our everyday links to those beyond us. There are some terrific programs attempting to bring equity and fairness into the mining of diamonds and other precious minerals used in bling jewelry, such as gold and silvet. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) called Diamonds for Development (D4D) is one such program.

BLING is less well-known film than ‘Blood Diamond’ but is linked to the D4D program. It looks at the complex relationship between “blood” diamonds, conflict, the influence of Hip-Hop music and culture, and community development. It is produced by VH1 Rock Docs, Article 19 Films and UNDP with Hip-Hop artists from the US and Sierra Leone. If anyone has seen it I’d love to know what you felt about it. You can see a trailor of it at:

So, when you next think bling, think fairness and equity for those who produce the sparkle that blings.



Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

Who knew. I thought bling could only be achieved with Swarovski crystals! Thanks for broadening my mind with another well researched post.

Ruthie said...

I never saw either of those movies, but the second one sounds really interesting. Even though I can't imagine myself ever working with's good to know about various aspects of the jewelry industry, don't you think?

Glenda of Dax Designs said...

This was emailed to me by es....

wicked! thats an interesting read since i'd never stood still at the
fact that it was worth wondering about LOL IT IS!. I adore the movie
blood diamond, sadly reality is just that. I always check nowadays
when buying mats how they came to be. esp after once buying a piece of
coral and then finding out the person dove for it himself. now i used to dive myself and the code of conduct is that your not allowed to
bring up anything without a permit. I finally traded for the piece i
made with it since it was for myself "unsellable" its a silly example but it shows how unthoughtfullness can ruin our gorgeous planet...
definatally a thing to consider when purchasing natural mats :)

Dax Designs - now on Artisan Co-op