April 15, 2005
Diamonds For Humanity Jewelry Debuts in New York
A collection of natural and Gemesis synthetic diamond jewelry by Sabiha Foster, an architect and jewelry designer, was launched April 13 at an event for her company, Diamonds for Humanity. The benefit was held at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. About 200 guests were in attendance.
Several of the designed pieces were also auctioned throughout the evening. Foster, who is president of Diamonds for Humanity, says the proceeds of the evening were going to establish health program grants for women and children in Africa, as well as educational scholarships for the poor in African countries. "We are aiming to help countries with porous borders that have been hurt by civil wars. I see the initiative as an ongoing global one to help Africans," Foster told Professional Jeweler.
"A lot is being done to clean the business through the Kimberley Process, but not enough is being done for the people," believes Foster. "So Diamonds for Humanity sees this as an opportunity for individuals and businesses of all kinds to work together with us to make a difference." Diamonds for Humanity funds will go to the International League for Human Rights and the Africa America Institute, both non-governmental organizations with a strong African presence.
Foster says she approached Gemesis Corp., Sarasota, FL, with her idea about Diamonds for Humanity following an article she had read in Wired magazine highlighting the synthetic diamond manufacturer. "I was fascinated with the product because of its beauty and obvious non-conflict positioning. My approach to life is that beauty is beauty, whether natural or man-made; in designing jewels I use whatever materials might come my way," she adds.
The promotion for Diamonds for Humanity has triggered a reaction in the natural diamond trade. Some believe the message of the effort has been to indirectly disparage and cast doubt among consumers about purchasing natural African diamonds, a charge Foster says lies far from Diamonds for Humanity's intention. A Harper's Bazaar April ad for Diamonds for Humanity asks consumers the question: "Can Luxury and Conscience Coexist?" and the theme was also echoed throughout the April 13 event.
While the man-made and Canadian diamonds used in the collection are obviously conflict free, no effort was made to explain to consumers that avoiding the purchase of natural diamonds from Africa could in fact devastate workers in many African nations whose jobs and health benefits depend on the legitimate diamond trade. Talk show host Montel Williams, who was master of ceremonies at the Lincoln Center event, might well have exacerbated that misconception when he asked: "I own lots of diamonds... are they blood diamonds?"
Charles Meyer, the newly hired vice president of sales at Gemesis, says the mission of Diamonds for Humanity is quite different. "We are not trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater," he says. "Diamonds for Humanity's clear mission is simply to empower African people."
Diamonds for Humanity follows, and in many ways is similar to, the Diamond Development Initiative launched in early March by De Beers in conjunction with Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada and the World Bank. The aim of this group is to change the working conditions and empower artisanal diamond miners, their communities and governments.
The Diamonds for Humanity event was underwritten by Gemesis, Harper's Bazaar magazine and Tundra Diamonds, a brand of natural Canadian diamonds distributed by diamond wholesaler M. Ben-Dor Diamonds in New York City.
- by Robert Weldon, G.G.