A few days ago, I got an email from a freelance reporter working on a story for a very well-known and respected daily newspaper. She had a few questions about the diamond industry and mentioned as a matter of fact the “death tolls” of the diamond industry. This came just a few days after the Huffington Post published an article that was riddled with misconceptions and errors about the diamond industry, including the name of Botswana’s capital city. Following the publication of that article, a discussion on Twitter went further, and tossed around baseless theories about diamond bank financing, transparency and more as if they were solid, well-researched facts. They were not; in fact, they just were urban legends.
[two_third]As someone who spends much of his time researching the diamond industry, reading all those errors annoyed, amused, dismayed and ultimately concerned me. It’s okay to hold to your beliefs, even if they are wrong, that is a private matter. However, insisting on spreading ignorance is not at all okay. Therefore, here is some information about the diamond industry that we can all be proud of:
The diamond industry provides jobs for about a million people. In India alone, the polishing industry employs some 650,000 people. The diamond industry brings mining work to tens of thousands of people in remote locations in Africa, Canada, Russia and Australia. There are also diamond polishing and jewelry-manufacturing operations in China, Thailand and many other developing countries that feed many more families and raise their standard of living. These are the salaried and contract workers. With their dependents, the diamond industry supports several million people.[/two_third]
“The diamond industry provides jobs for about a million people. In India alone, the polishing industry employs some 650,000 people.”
Artisanal alluvial diamond digging is source of an estimated 14%-15% of the world’s rough diamonds. These are people hard at work, not companies, let alone large international corporations.
Diamond mines in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Sierra Leone, Namibia and other countries brought health services to populations that otherwise would not have access to them. That alone is a good enough reason to buy diamonds. These services include HIV testing, treatment, and education about this insidious disease.
[two_third]A large part of the cost of diamonds is salaries, royalty payments and taxes paid in Africa. On top of that, other local expenses by the mines include purchasing food, services and supplies that benefit local economies. Add to this new water and filtration systems, educational programs, medical clinics and ready supplies of hard-to-get medicines, new housing provided around mines and there is all of a sudden a level of support for disadvantaged communities that none of the folks boycotting diamonds in the name of “ethical standards” are providing to anyone. Anywhere.
The majority of the world’s diamonds are polished in Surat, a city in Gujarat, India. According to the Indian government, Surat has the highest average income in India. The fact that diamonds and textiles are the main economic sectors in the city means that diamond (and textile) workers are some of the best-paid laborers in the country.
“There is all of a sudden a level of support for disadvantaged communities that none of the folks boycotting diamonds in the name of “ethical standards” are providing to anyone.”
Also in India, many diamond firms have opened schools. They provide free education to children. Some of these schools are for the children of their employees, while others are open to any child in the area. A few of them actively seek homeless children and provide them with a place to live in, addition to an education.
These schools provide free meals and a vocation in diamond polishing (not a requirement, but an open invitation) and an opportunity where it does not otherwise exist. One firm (that does not have a school) regularly recognizes and praises the good grades children in their community achieve in their internal newsletter.
There is a diamond firm that donates a third of their profits to projects supporting the communities where they operate (another third is set aside to R&D). One firm, in another country, finances one of the largest local projects of free meal for the homeless and needy. Many other firms donate a tenth of their profits to worthy causes.
[two_third]No one outside of the diamond industry, and only a few in it, know of any of these projects. It’s no coincidence – these projects are not financed for show or eye-candy in their annual reports. They are doing it out of a belief that they should share their good fortune with others. I’m not mentioning their names because they don’t want to be named. They are humble and prefer acting to publicity.
If you have ever read this column before, you know that there are many areas that could stand improving in the diamond industry. However, occasionally it’s important to look around and mention some of the good deeds, the benefits and yes, the ethical behavior that does take place.
“These projects are not financed for show or eye-candy in their annual reports. They are humble and prefer acting to publicity.”
So the next time you hear someone saying that diamonds are just an evil ploy by “The Cartel” and it brings death and devastation, don’t lose heart. Answer with all the above, and mention some the good things that organizations such as the Diamond Development Initiative, Diamond Empowerment Fund, Jewelers for Children and many more do. There is much to be proud of in the diamond business and it is our job to spread some positive reality in the public sector and not just let the painfully uninformed spread non-facts and harmful mistakes.