By – Jean-Marc Lieberherr
Valentine’s Day is the ideal opportunity for all of us in the trade to remind ourselves and consumers why diamonds are the ultimate symbol of authentic love and commitment. Because they are billion-year-old miracles of nature, diamonds have the magic to communicate sincerity and depth of emotion in a way that words often cannot. This power cannot be replicated, or simulated. It finds its source hundreds of miles underneath the Earth’s mantle, and it is as old as time itself.
Today, diamonds are a life-affirming force that must be celebrated with consumers. When I joined the diamond sector in 2005, with no mining experience whatsoever, little did I know that I would become part of an incredibly diverse and committed community involving millions of people the world over. I discovered the significant contribution diamond mining makes to entire regions and communities, through local employment and investments, construction of infrastructure, and development of health and education programs. I would assume that—like me 10 years ago—most consumers today are not aware of the contribution diamonds make to the world. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for us all to share our pride in being part of this industry.
Recently, I attended a preview of A United Kingdom, a moving true love story depicting how Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana defied racial prejudices to marry a white English woman and become the first president of the Republic of Botswana. The film ends when the young Seretse discovers that diamonds have been found in Botswana, potentially changing the destiny of his country. Botswana is now the second largest diamond producer in the world, and in the 50 years since their discovery, diamonds have transformed it. From six miles of paved roads, Botswana now counts 7,000. Every child in Botswana receives free education until the age of 13, and the country now has 300 secondary schools compared with just three back in 1966.
There are many such examples of how diamonds have transformed mining regions and communities. In my 10 years in diamond mining, I have seen how mines have developed and supported entire communities, providing skills and employment to men and women of talent who would otherwise never have fulfilled their potential, helping communities maintain and promote their traditional way of life while bettering their future, giving children opportunities to learn and dream of better lives. Beyond mining, diamonds provide livelihood, health, and education to close to a million people in India. Many successful Indian diamantaires are responsible for some of the most remarkable and innovative social programs I have seen, without seeking any credit or recognition for creating them.
Is that to say that all is perfect in the world of diamonds? Like any industry, the diamond sector has challenges, but few industries face the same level of scrutiny, and have done as much to transform themselves, as ours has during the past 15 years. Beyond the Kimberley Process, the industry has developed voluntary standards, such as the Responsible Jewellery Council Code of Practices, that apply from diamond mining to diamond retailing. Many companies have gone over and beyond these standards and developed their own strict protocols, principles, and confidence programs. The industry has engaged with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help raise mining standards and working conditions in the artisanal sector. The list is long of what the diamond sector has done, and will continue to do, to offer consumers a product they can be proud of, a unique symbol of love and sincerity, a true miracle of nature.
Diamonds matter to the livelihood of millions, and they matter to all of us who want to express to our loved ones the sincerity of our commitment. Not all is perfect, but it is good today, and it will be better tomorrow. I take pride in the fact that diamonds make the world a better place.