It is Valentine’s Day and chances are that somewhere tonight some lover would pop the question – and back up the proposal by a little something that sparkles.
If you live in the United States, that little something has four out of five chances of being a diamond, largely thanks to the timeless and ingenius “A Diamond is Forever” campaign by De Beers launched in the 1930s. However, ever since Kate Middleton received a sapphire as her engagement ring, gemstones other than diamonds have also seen a surge in popularity.
These precious stones (measured in carats) are sure to be set in an equally precious metal: platinum, silver or gold (with the purity of the latter measured in karats). Hence the topic of this week’s article dedicated to the letter “K”: k/carats and their karma.
A diamond ring given as a betrothal gift is supposed to symbolize unbreakable love. Imagine therefore my despair when a few years into my marriage, my precious diamond solitaire fell out of its engagement ring setting and disappeared down the plughole. I was devastated. And I feared this would bring bad karma to my relationship!
However, my diamond’s karma did not start at the point of its loss, and not even at the point of purchase. It started somewhere far away, perhaps in Africa, which accounts for half of the world’s diamond production.
I won’t go into details of unsustainable and inhumane practices that still exist in some exporting countries of gemstones and precious metals. You have certainly seen the 2006 Hollywood film Blood Diamonds, which put the global spotlight on the so-called conflict diamonds and sent ripples through the luxury industry.
As note the authors of the 2007 Deeper Luxury report by WWF-UK, diamonds were conspicuous by their absence at that year’s Academy Awards. One of the report’s authors, Dr Jem Bendell, followed up in 2011 with another report titled Uplifting The Earth, which looks specifically at the ethical performance of the luxury jewellery brands. The verdict, alas, is that the industry – with a few notable exceptions – has yet to clean up its act and is doing little beyond merely complying with existing (and often weak) national laws.
And yet there are some promising developments, which can – if supported by us, consumers – turn the industry on its head. For example, Brilliant Earth offers ethical diamond engagement rings and more (I spotted a sapphire ring very much like Kate’s! – see below). Oro Verde, based in Colombia, provides gold with a difference – supporting local communities and the environment.
Some of the big brands are joining in. Tiffany & Co., for example, supports marine conservation and Sustainable Pearls projects. Cartier has partnered with Goldlake’s Eurocantera mine in Honduras, which it states is “committed to operating to high ethical, social and environmental standards”.
According to Marc Choyt, co-founder of Fair Jewelry Action, “We now have the opportunity to actually create an aspirational message with jewelry that will create a virtuous cycle.”
Speaking of virtuous cycles, I cherish the hope that my long-lost engagement diamond has somehow made its way back into the African soil from where it came from in the first place. Surely, that must be good karma!
Happy Valentine’s Day!