September 2005 (v8 i1)
Having Fleeting Delusions of Grandeur Since 1997
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Engagement ring costs arm, leg
Diamond a symbol of love, commitment, horrific brutality
by Chanice Jan, Associate Editor

Losing a hand is forever.
HARTFORD, Conn. — After a romantic dinner, 26-year-old Mike Wilson proposed to girlfriend Melanie Grabel with a sparkling, three-carat diamond engagement ring, causing her eyes to light up with the kind of joy that someone like Angolan diamond miner Azekel Kimuezo may never experience in his miserable, war-torn life.

Wilson and Grabel met in college, a situation Kimuezo would not understand since his life of poverty has not afforded him any formal education. The couple dated for six years, which is how old Kimuezo was when he began working in the diamond mine near the village where he was born.

After deciding he would ask Grabel to marry him, Wilson spent a full week anxiously looking for the perfect engagement ring. After days of what he described as "pure agony," Wilson finally decided on a three-karat, pear-cut design.

Kimuezo, too, knows what it feels like to be anxious. The violent rebel army that controls the mine where he works will sometimes hack off the limbs of workers suspected of stealing diamonds, a practice known to some as "hobbling."

"Eesh," Wilson grimaced when he was informed of the final price of the diamond he selected. "Guess they weren't kidding about the two months' salary thing. This diamond is going to cost me an arm and a leg!"

Kimuezo experienced a similar shock, when after a full day of mining, he discovered that he was still short of his quota. "Mercy, please, I must work faster. I must meet quota, I do not want to be accused of stealing. I do not want these diamonds to cost me my arm or my leg."

Ever the considerate gentleman, Wilson even kept up the tradition of asking his intended's father for permission to marry her, a tactic Kimuezo might have used himself if his father-in-law hadn't been killed by stray guerilla gunfire a week before Kimuezo and his wife were married.

"Mike is a caring, intelligent young man," said Hank Grabel, Melanie's father, who didn't hesitate with his blessing. "I think he'll make Mel very happy. I would gladly let him take my daughter's hand."

On the big night, Wilson treated Grabel to a decadent steak dinner that could have fed Kimuezo's entire starving family of six, then got down on his knees, the way that Kimuezo did when a group of particularly ruthless rebels threatened to mutilate his 7-year-old daughter out of spite.

"I threw myself at the feet of those men and desperately begged for mercy," said Kimuezo. "I could not let them take my daughter's hand."
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