Diamonds at the ROM

Last weekend my friend Jenn & I checked out the blingy extravaganza that is the Diamonds exhibit at the ROM.

It starts with a hallway of background info about the formation and chemical composition of diamonds, although unfortunately, the crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder and we weren’t able to read much of it. Our visit coincided with the Santa Claus Parade, so I’d hoped the hordes would be out there instead- but apparently Toronto has more than enough Atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and bachelors to keep the ROM well packed even on that Exmassy day of days. Be warned, the weekends are gonna be nuts there for a while yet.

Next up: diamond jewellery from across the ages. Mughal Indian chokers: strange to see ginormous diamond necklaces that attach with thread cords rather than metal chains. Uncut diamond rings worn by the Romans: pointy! And then, progressively more ornate pieces- turns out the sky’s the limit, design-wise, once you figure out how to cut a diamond. Hint: use another diamond. Or call Nelly and ask to borrow his dentures.

Nelly, now we need to talk about your gums.  They just seem... drab.

Nelly, now we need to talk about your gums. They just seem... drab.

The heart of the exhibit is dominated by a vault in which the really jewel-thief-worthy stuff is ensconced. The centrepiece of the whole shebang is the Incomparable Diamond. I tried to come up with something to compare this gem to, but strangely, nothing came to mind.

It’s a yellow diamond the size of a baby’s fist that was found by a little girl in Congo as she played in the no-doubt delightful playground that is the pile of rubble outside a diamond mine. She gave it to her uncle, who sold it to the jeweller who eventually cut it. No mention is made of the price that Mr. Uncle got for the 890-carat raw diamond, but I’m sure it was totally fair and he gave his niece a generous cut that paid for her University education and her first Honda Civic.

Can I compare thee to a... uh... hmmm.

Can I compare thee to a... uh... hmmm.

elton john diamond shoulder pin brooch

Speaking of prices, actually, one thing that would make the exhibit a bit more accessible/inaccessible would be disclosure of the original & most recent selling prices of the pieces.

I like having financial goals, see, and if I’m gonna buy Elton John’s dangly pavé diamond lapel pin in time for New Years’ Eve, I need to know how many no-whip skinny extra-foam vanilla soy chai mocha macchiattos I’m gonna be giving up.


My favourite piece was this question-mark choker, with its glitzy roses that cunningly draw the eye down into a lady’s magical pillowy area. It was hard to pick a favourite, though- there really are some lovely pieces. A pair of black lacework diamond cuffs stood out, as did some gorgeous corset-brooches, very romantically called “stomachers”.

Linguistic nerd that I am, I was pleased to learn the literal meaning of a phrase I use so often it’s become run-of-the-mill. The phrase I’m referencing is in fact “run-of-the-mill”, see what I did there? I’d never given this any thought, but it literally means the hourly output, or run, of an actual mill- the various uncut diamonds in assorted sizes that a specific diamond mill is able to process in an hour. The ROM showed one particular mill’s run: a heaping palmful of diamonds, ranging in size from “dot” to “pea”. Those are totally the actual gemologist terms. There’s also “gumball”, “junebug”, “nostril”, “nipple”, and “oh my sweet lord put that in your pocket and let’s get out of here before the alarm goes off”.

So that’s my trip to the ROM. The coverage of the blood diamond aspect of the industry is much too thin- it feels weird to be all “ooh pretty shiny diamonds and science” for two hours and then “boo, conflict and dead Africans” for three minutes and then “but ooh so shiny pretty” the rest of the time. Shiny! Then die-y! But then Sparkly! It’s understandable even if it’s not right, though: the exhibit is sponsored by a major diamond company, so while it would be noble of them to go deeper into it, their gentle skirting of the issue is at least predictable. Too much Liberal guilt would probably dampen enthusiasm for sales, and Secular Consumerist Christmas is coming, after all. If anyone’s interested, I’d like a Ring Pop, but with an actual diamond on the plastic part. And a set of Nelly-brand Rapper-Teeth Grillz.


One Response to Diamonds at the ROM

  1. […] More on diamonds: De Beer$ sponsored the recent diamond exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum- you can read my review of that exhibit here. […]

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