Today, inquiring minds increasingly want to know where things they consume come from. They have questions. Were the materials responsibly sourced? Who made it? Where was it made? How were the workers treated? How do the businesses impact the community?
On Wednesday, the sustainability and communications consultancy group Eco Age hosted a webinar to discuss supply chain questions as they relate to diamonds. While that might sound like a heavy topic, and it is, the organization’s Founder and Creative Director Livia Firth made it accessible during her interview with De Beers Group VP of Corporate Affairs & Government Relations Pat Dambe, fashion designer and celebrity stylist Jason Rembert and jewelry designer and founder of WWAKE Wing Yau.
Highlights of the conversation (that can be seen in its entirety here) include Livia’s honest and frank disclosure of her preconceived notions about what she thought diamond mining in Botswana would be like before she visited the mines. And how, after she went, she had a very different point of view. “It was one of the best supply chains I have ever encountered,” explained the expert who visits supply chain sources globally. A 14-minute film about what she appreciated at the mine, The Diamonds of Botswana, was the source of inspiration for the webinar. (The movie can be viewed on Amazon Prime.)
Pat Dambe from De Beers elaborated on how the corporation and the government in Botswana have worked together to benefit the community for many years. She explained that the mining, sorting and other activities related to the DeBeers business moved from London and have been centralized in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana, since 2013. And above all how profits are poured back into the community that provides free education and program housing. Over the last 50-years since diamonds were discovered in Botswana, the nation has gone from being one of the poorest in Africa to one of the most prosperous.
Lebogang Mmono, an entrepreneur from Botswana, participated in the webinar to represent what the diamond business has done for locals and the communities. She explained how one program made it possible for her to develop her artisanal ginger beer company called Just Ginger. And how she was able to generate a business plan through a program offered by De Beers.
While the diamond business in Botswana is a bright light in the industry, the messaging doesn’t always make its way to America clearly and that was covered as well. Two other members of the panel expressed how they wanted to know more about the supply chain once diamonds left Botswana for cutting, polishing entering the diamond trade and being set in jewels.
“As a stylist it is my job to educate clients about how they can make a decision,” explained Jason Rembert who has dressed and bejeweled Lizzo, Winnie Harlow, Michael B. Jordan and Billy Porter among many other super talents. “It is important to understand where it came from and who made it. It is important to wear pieces you can stand behind. It almost goes hand in hand with the integrity.”
Wing Yau, whose WWAKE collection of cool jewels has been worn by Rihanna, Cate Blanchett and Emily Watson among many others, expressed her frustration about how difficult it was to access information about diamond mining and the traceability of gems. She also explained her desire to support artisanal diamond mining.
Wing’s thoughts clearly tapped into why the conversation was called “The Future of Transparency In The Diamond Supply Chain.” There is a lot more work to be done.
Pat acknowledged the importance of a gem’s provenance and how it can help the country from which it comes. For the time being, she suggested that everyone confirm the diamonds they buy have been certified by the Kimberley Process. And she mentioned a technological platform, that is still in development called Tracr. It will give brands access to sourcing information and enable designers and consumers to feel confident about the provenance of gems.
Pat also mentioned how the artisanal mining was a good thing in its “pure sense” and that De Beers was working with these independents to make sure that they were following best practices and structured routes to market with Gemfair. [For more information on artisanal mining a July 15, 2020 article on Gemfair and its fight against dangers like precious mineral smuggling was linked in the comments and can be read here.]