The De Beers Group is the market leader in mining and trading diamonds and maintained a global near-monopoly for much of the 20th century, either convincing competitors to join them or flooding the market with diamonds similar to those sold by the competition. At times it also hoarded diamonds to artificially decrease supply and thus drive up prices. The company faced numerous criticisms for selling so-called "blood diamonds" - diamonds mined in war zones (mainly in Africa) by various insurgent factions under inhumane conditions in order to finance their insurgencies.
Game and Story Use
- The same principle that was applied to diamonds can be applied to any other material or substance in your campaign setting that can be sold as "fashionable" - establish a monopoly through means fair and foul (foul ones are more fun for gaming…) and then increase prices via artificial scarcity and expert marketing.
- And if your player characters get involved in efforts to circumvent this monopoly, there will be… trouble.
- As for "those RPGs" that require "500gp of diamond dust" and the like as spell components … how exactly does the underlying fabric of the universe respond when a cartel1 artificially raises the price of diamonds by 500% - does the spell still work with a fifth of the amount of actual diamond dust that it needed a century ago? If so, why the hell did it need all that much to start with?