Fred Cuellar, The Diamond Guy®, and Dr. Mark Mehaffey discuss the truth about removing wedding bands–including gold, platinum, silver, titanium, stainless steel, cobalt, and tungsten. The equipment to remove or cut tungsten and cobalt wedding rings are not as readily available as some have lead you to believe. Fred shows you how to remove these tungsten and conbalt rings.
I’m constantly asked to compare engagement rings from Harry Winston and Tiffany & Co. “Fred, is the Tiffany Embrace® better than the micro pave Harry Winston? Is the classic Winston better than a classic Tiffany? Or is the double claw prong solitaire of the Winston better than a Butter Cup Tiffany solitaire?” The answer? Depends.
Environment regulates behavior—so what’s your lifestyle? If you are a rock climber or a neurosurgeon, you need a ring that can handle that environment, if that is your choice. Not all wedding ring styles are as resilient as others. A six prong head is more secure than a four prong head; and the more diamonds in the ring the more possibility that one of them may fall out. So what is a person to do?
The task of any setting is to balance beauty and durability. If we want to be 100% sure your diamond won’t fall out, we can bury it in a block of platinum with a wall of metal surrounding the entire perimeter of the diamond. The diamond will be safe but the sparkle will be compromised because of the fortress that you’ve built around it. But today’s popular ring styles leaves the diamond almost “naked.” The shanks (the part that slides on your finger) are very thin and delicate. The head (the part that holds the center diamond) is mounted fairly high and tends to be decorated with a crown (halo) of small diamonds. Less metal and many small diamonds are what is selling these days to decorate the diamond you have chosen. Are they beautiful? Absolutely! Are they easily damaged? You bet! We are back again to the balance between beauty and safety—which is a lot like life. You can buy a castle and hide away in it and be “technically” safe but you will miss some beautiful experiences that always come with their share of risks. So what are my recommendations when it comes to these beautiful settings? Simple, pick what you love, pick what calls out to you. You know that life and rings don’t come with any lifetime guarantee to never fall apart or get hurt. But, if you are in a rock solid relationship with your jeweler they will give you lifetime repair guarantees that will cover any damage you might inflict on your beautiful new ring, at no cost to you, as long as you keep up with annual checkups. So don’t worry, while your wedding ring is a “symbol” of your love for each other and can be damaged, smashed, trashed or even lost, your love for each other is invicible! Have a great day! Hug a diamond. Talk to you next time.
By MICHAEL ALLEN from Wall Street Journal
CAFUNFO, Angola—On paper, Angola is a poster child for the global effort to keep “blood diamonds” out of the world’s jewelry stores.
International pressure helped end a vicious civil war a decade ago by strangling the ability of rebels to trade diamonds for weapons. Angola is now a leading member of the so-called Kimberley Process, an industry-wide effort to prevent commerce in rough diamonds by insurgent groups. Today, Angola is the world’s fifth-largest diamond producer by value, and its gems are coveted for their size and purity.
But a visit to Angola’s diamond heartland reveals that plenty of blood still spills over those precious stones. Here in the sprawling jungle of northeast Angola, a violent economy prevails in which thousands of peasant miners eke out a living searching for diamonds with shovels and sieves. Because they lack government permits, miners and their families say they are routinely beaten and shaken down for bribes by soldiers and private security guards—and, in extreme cases, killed.
The Kimberly Process has never been more than a country of origin repackaging and rubber stamp. –Fred Cuellar
This sort of violence, which has made headlines in nearby Zimbabwe, is threatening to tear the Kimberley Process apart. Diamond retailers can ill afford more bad publicity about tainted stones. But many of Africa’s diamond-producing nations are wary about any effort to beef up the industry’s policing of human rights.
Around Angola’s mines, tales of confrontation abound. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Linda Moisés da Rosa, 55 years old, denounced the killings of her two sons, both diamond miners. In September, she said, Angolan soldiers descended on a large mine near here to chase away diggers. When some refused to leave, she said, the soldiers caved in the mine, burying alive around 45 men, including her son Pereira Eduardo Antonio, 21. “These kids were stubborn,” she said, adding that the soldiers said that the killings “should serve as a lesson to anyone who wants to come dig here again.”
In February, she said, her oldest son, 33-year-old Tito Eduardo, the family’s sole breadwinner, got into a dispute with private security guards at another mining site. She said the guards had agreed to let local diggers sift gravel for diamonds in exchange for around $30 a day. They accused her son of failing to pay the bribe, and when he argued back, she said, “they killed him with a machete.”
Military officials didn’t respond to requests for comment. Angola’s secretary of state for human rights, António Bento Bembe, blames his nation’s long civil war for creating a climate of abuse. “I know lots of these cases happen, and I know of many other cases you haven’t heard of yet,” he said in an interview in Luanda, Angola’s capital. “It is urgent to cultivate a culture of human rights.”
The issue has plunged the Kimberley Process into the worst crisis in its brief history. Born at a time of great bloodshed on the African continent, the 75-nation Kimberley Process was initially lauded for its commitment to human rights. Rebel movements had seized control of diamond regions in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo and used the gems to finance marauding guerrilla armies. Facing a public-relations nightmare, world diamond companies agreed to buy rough stones only if they are certified by internationally recognized governments. The Kimberley Process says well over 99% of the world’s rough-diamond trade is now “conflict-free.”
The Kimberly Process was destined to fail because you can’t have an industry regulate itself. It’s back to the fox guarding the hen house. Self-regulation doesn’t work when there are piles of money on the table. –Fred Cuellar
But critics say there’s a big loophole in that definition: It doesn’t take into account human-rights abuses in diamond territory controlled by governments themselves. “The Kimberley Process cut the financial lifeline of rebels, but at the same time it gave legitimacy to corrupt governments that abuse their own people,” says Rafael Marques, a human-rights activist who has worked extensively in northeastern Angola.
Much of the recent controversy is focused on Zimbabwe, where the group Human Rights Watch last year reported that government soldiers massacred over 200 people in a fight to control diamond fields in the east of the country, raped local women and press-ganged peasants into mining work. The Kimberley Process temporarily suspended exports from the area on the grounds that the turmoil was allowing undocumented stones to be smuggled into the world market. Last month, a monitor installed by the Kimberley Process recommended that the ban be lifted, kicking off a fierce debate. A Kimberley Process committee has been deliberating the recommendation and the issue will be taken up in a meeting of the entire group in Tel Aviv starting Monday.
Global Witness, a human-rights organization that helped conceive the Kimberley Process, called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the group. “Thanks to the impunity and violence in Zimbabwe, blood diamonds are back on the international market,” said Elly Harrowell, a Global Witness activist.
Jewelers are starting to worry that the bad publicity could spook consumers. Matthew Runci, chief executive of Jewelers of America, a trade group which represents jewelry chains from Tiffany & Co. to Zale Corp., says the Kimberley Process should either figure out a way to incorporate human-rights monitoring into its oversight of member countries or invite an outside organization to do it for them. “It’s essential that the public’s confidence in diamonds be maintained at a high level,” he says. Once a diamond has been cut and polished, it’s virtually impossible for the consumer to tell its country of origin.
Tiffany’s can’t take the human rights stage and at the same time run sweatshops out of Botswana. –Fred Cuellar
Cecilia Gardner, a former New York federal prosecutor who serves as the general counsel of the World Diamond Council, says the Kimberley Process is a voluntary organization and isn’t equipped to enforce human-rights compliance. “We don’t have an army, we don’t have a police force,” she says.
In Angola, which far overshadows Zimbabwe in importance to the jewelry market, the Kimberley Process appears to have little appetite for human-rights issues. Last August, when a Kimberley Process peer-review team arrived to check the country’s compliance procedures, Angolan forces were just mopping up a major operation to expel some 30,000 illegal Congolese miners from Angolan territory near here. According to a U.S. State Department report citing local media and nongovernmental organizations, military and police “arbitrarily beat and raped detainees” and forced them to march to the border without food or water. The government has denied committing abuses and says the army was merely securing the nation’s borders.
A confidential Kimberley Process report on the review visit makes no mention of alleged human-rights abuses, although it criticizes Angola for failing to present a plan to better document the output of peasant mining. The group spent just two days in Lunda Norte, an area near the Congo border that has become a flashpoint for clashes between diggers and security forces. According to a draft of the internal report, the delegation intended to visit the site of a large illegal mining operation but was thwarted by “a last-minute decision to participate in a graduation ceremony for new border patrol security officers.” As the team was preparing to depart, the chairman of the Kimberley Process at the time, Namibian politician Bernhard Esau, pronounced the visit a success and brushed off questions about alleged abuses of peasant miners. “The Kimberley Process is not a human-rights organization,” he told reporters.
The roots of Angola’s current blood-diamond problems have much to do with geology. Unlike in Botswana and South Africa, where multinational corporations use heavy machinery to extract diamonds out of deep shafts, much of Angola’s diamond reserves are alluvial, meaning the stones have been washed out of the earth and scattered across the countryside. They’re available to anyone with a shovel and wood-framed sieve, and are difficult for mining companies to secure. More than a million people world-wide earn a living from artisanal mining in alluvial fields, including tens of thousands in Angola alone.
Angola’s artisanal miners, known in Portuguese as garimpeiros, played a pivotal role in the country’s civil war, which lasted for 27 years and left at least a half-million people dead. U.S.-backed troops of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, fighting to depose a Soviet-supported socialist government, controlled much of the country’s diamond territory. To fund their war effort, they enlisted peasant diggers from here as well as neighboring Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
While UNITA forces committed plenty of atrocities, some people here in Cafunfo say they generally treated garimpeiros fairly. They allowed diggers to keep a percentage of the diamonds they found and established an immigration policy to bring in Congolese workers on 30-day permits, says Enoque Jeremias, a local human-rights investigator. “It was a fair system,” he adds.
The war’s end led to a surge in diamond production, as large mining companies dusted off old claims and launched new operations. Among the players are Odebrecht SA of Brazil, Russia’s state-owned Alrosa; and a company controlled by Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev, all of which operate in joint ventures with the government diamond company Endiama.
But the garimpeiros were hardly prepared to put away their shovels. There’s little agriculture here and almost no jobs outside of the mining sector. Plus, vast parts of the countryside haven’t even been explored yet, much less mined. The peasants proved adept at finding diamond deposits that the big companies missed, and this so-called informal production continued to account for more than one-quarter of the country’s diamond exports, according to the Partnership Africa Canada, an Ottawa-based nongovernmental agency that deals with mining issues.
To soak up those diamonds, Angola authorized foreign-run buying operations to be established in the bush. U.S. diamond giant Lazare Kaplan International Inc. became a fixture in the area, signing a technical agreement with the government to set up buying houses. Lazare Kaplan says it let the agreement expire in 2008, when world diamond prices collapsed, and is now winding down operations in Angola. Lazare Kaplan Chairman Maurice Tempelsman, the late-life companion of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, says the company was trying to bring development to the area and help strengthen Angola’s Kimberley Process controls. “I am strongly committed to the protection of human rights,” Mr. Tempelsman says, adding: “I believe in this imperfect world, involvement in trying to bring about constructive change is the best course.”
Lazare Kaplan’s withdrawal has left a wide-open field for other buyers, including a company controlled by Israel’s Mr. Leviev, as well as a flood of newcomers from West Africa and the Middle East. Their storefronts line the muddy streets of Cafunfo, trying to outdo each other with mirror-signed bling.
For Ahmad Mouein, a Lebanese buyer who bills himself as “Boss Mouein,” it’s a great business opportunity despite the recession in the diamond market. “Sometimes a digger here can sell you a $500,000 stone for $5,000, $10,000,” he marvels. He says the Kimberley Process hasn’t succeeded in its primary mission of halting smuggling. “Kimberley or not Kimberley, my friend, for the diamond, you can do what you want.”
By many accounts, the presence of these buying houses has only fanned the violence by encouraging more peasants to get into the mining business at the same time that government security forces have been tasked with stopping them.
At one such illegal mine, an hour’s motorcycle ride over trails outside of Cafunfo, a Dantesque scene unfolds. Perhaps 500 young men are clambering over a vast pit dug deep into the red earth. They’ve been at it for a year now, and figure they have months to go until they hit a vein of gravel they believe will contain diamonds. Their tools are rudimentary—pikes and shovels—and the work is backbreaking, alleviated only by the homegrown marijuana many smoke and the small sachets of alcohol that can be had everywhere for a dollar.
They live on the site in homemade tents and work in shifts. To support themselves, they say, they make agreements with buyers, especially the West Africans, to split the take.
Caxaculo Milonga, 44, says he’s on the hook with a man he knows as Boss Ibrahim from Senegal. Although Boss Ibrahim paid medical expenses when a run-in with police and soldiers sent him to the hospital, Mr. Milonga complains that the deal is unfair because he has to give Boss Ibrahim 50% of all production, then sell the rest to him at a rock-bottom price. “We work like slaves and they’re cheating us,” he says. “You can’t argue or he’ll call the police.” Another garimpeiro says his sponsor at one time was a police investigator in Cafunfo, making any negotiation pointless.
Concerns about security forces are never far away. Last year, as part of the latest effort to expel Congolese diggers, the Angolan army moved into the area in force. In recent months patrols have paid a visit to the mine, harassing miners and slapping them with the flat side of their machetes, the miners say. The diggers worry that the army is just waiting until they hit gravel so they can move in and take the diamonds for themselves.
Near another illegal mining site, peasants described a similar scenario. In December, an army patrol swept through the village of Bundo in search of mining tools, says Cazanguia Andre, the 60-year-old deputy chief of the village. He says he ran into them on the way back from tilling his field, and they accused him of being a garimpeiro. They then hit him twice in the head with a rifle butt and struck him with a pole, he adds, breaking his arm. Later, after they discovered shovels at the local church, which Mr. Andre says were being used for construction, they arrested three people.
A lieutenant at a nearby temporary army encampment declined to be interviewed but said his squad hasn’t committed any abuses of the local population and isn’t involved in any mining activities.
Back in Bundo, four garimpeiros give a different story. They say when soldiers swept through they discovered the garimpeiros working with a water pump in a pit. The soldiers confiscated the pump. Then a negotiation ensued, says one garimpeiro, and the soldiers agreed to give back the pump in exchange for $54—as well as a split of the action. “When we hit the gravel, the soldiers will be present to get their share,” he says.
Blood diamonds were bred out of civil wars. The wars maybe over but the corruption has just gone higher up the ladder. Puppet masters of blood diamonds are the governments themselves. If the U.S. continues to barter and trade with corrupt regimes, then the U.S. buying public has no one to blame for the blood that is on our hands. –Fred Cuellar
Recommended Article: Blood Diamonds
More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,” Jesus commanded his disciples, “but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Some take this biblical passage and others like it as a direct assault on capitalist aspirations. But that’s a misreading of the text, and of capitalism.
Look carefully at the command. Whom does Jesus have in mind here? Clearly, he’s not referring to just anyone engaged in commerce or investment, or even to someone who happens to be rich. He’s talking about the person hoards his wealth-that is, a miser.
Misers keep their wealth, or rather, their money, safe. They hole up in their bedrooms, counting their gold bullion and hiding it in their mattresses. Jesus is condemning the person who by hoarding trusts his possessions rather than God. As he puts it elsewhere: “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).
For sustained prosperity, policy makers need to ask what policies best encourage entrepreneurs to act like entrepreneurs, and not like misers.
Many of the biblical warnings about wealth seem to apply to misers. But how many misers like Ebenezer Scrooge have you met? Do you know anyone who keeps a bag of money in his mattress, where he can count it? Probably not. We see misers on TV, read about them in children’s books and in Dickens. Sure, there are a few survivalists, who fear the imminent arrival of Armageddon. They separate themselves from society, and store up food, water, and guns for the dark night ahead.
But in capitalist societies, misers are hard to find. That’s because capitalism, when functioning properly, discourages miserliness, and encourages its near opposite: enterprise.
“The grasping or hoarding rich man is the antithesis of capitalism, not its epitome,” writes George Gilder, “more a feudal figure than a bourgeois one.” If you compare the miser with the entrepreneur, you’ll see that on the crucial points they are opposites. The miser prefers the certainty and security of his booty. Entrepreneurs, in contrast, assume risk. They cast their bread upon the waters of uncertainty, hoping that the bread will return with fish. They delay whatever gratification their wealth might provide now for the hope of future gain. The miser treats his bullion as an end in itself. The entrepreneur, whatever his motives-including the desire for more money-uses money as a tool. The carpenter uses hammer and saw; the doctor, scalpel and stethoscope; the entrepreneur, cash and credit. Only by the constant din of stereotype could we come to mistake the entrepreneur for the miser.
Capitalism, when functioning properly, discourages miserliness, and encourages its near opposite: enterprise.
In his modern classic, Wealth & Poverty, George Gilder explores a surprising feature of enterprise: supply precedes demand. After all, before you can exchange, you must first have something to exchange. I must have a good or service, a coconut or a potholder or an iPod that someone wants for trade to ever get started. Right off the bat, if I’m an entrepreneur, I have to think about the wants and needs of others. Great entrepreneurs succeed by anticipating and meeting the desires of others. In that sense, Gilder argues, they are altruistic-alter in Latin means “other.” Entrepreneurial investments, he argues, are like gifts, since they are made without a predetermined return. Competition between entrepreneurs in a free economy thus becomes an altruistic competition, not because the entrepreneurs have warm fuzzies in their hearts, or are unconcerned with personal wealth, but because they seek to meet the desires of others better than their competitors do.
Not for nothing did Ayn Rand dedicate her final lecture to a tirade against Gilder. But her official view of the capitalist, in the end, was skewed by the Marxist stereotype she had officially rejected. Gilder’s view captures much better the nature and subtlety of entrepreneurial capitalism.
‘The grasping or hoarding rich man is the antithesis of capitalism, not its epitome.’
Far from requiring vice, entrepreneurial capitalism requires a whole host of virtues. Before entrepreneurs can invest capital, for instance, they must first accumulate it. So, unlike gluttons and hedonists, entrepreneurs set aside rather than consume much of their wealth. Unlike misers and cowards, they risk rather than hoard what they have saved, providing stability for those employed by their endeavors. Unlike skeptics, they have faith in their neighbors, their partners, their society, their employees, “in the compensatory logic of the cosmos.” Unlike the self-absorbed, they anticipate the needs of others, even needs that no one else may have imagined. Unlike the impetuous, they make disciplined choices. Unlike the automaton, they freely discover new ways of creating and combining resources to meet the needs of others. This cluster of virtues, not the vice of greed, is the essence of what Rev. Robert Sirico calls the “entrepreneurial vocation.” Similarly, AEI’s Michael Novak has talked about business as a “calling.”
So why do so many defenders of capitalism turn, not to the insights of thinkers like George Gilder and Michael Novak, but to apostles of greed like Ayn Rand? My guess is that Rand continues to be popular because of a key literary insight: However much she officially praised selfishness, her protagonists are not misers. On the contrary, the heroes of her novels are entrepreneurs. How many other authors or playwrights have done that? Survey novels, plays, and movies with business people as characters. Ordinarily, those characters are the villains, not the heroes. In fact, I can think of only two well-known movies in which a business man qua business man is the hero: It’s a Wonderful Life and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And even here there are dissonant notes. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is balanced by the easy-to hate, greedy banker, Mr. Potter. And Willy Wonka, though an entrepreneur, is a bit antisocial and eccentric.
The miser treats his bullion as an end in itself. The entrepreneur uses money as a tool.
So Rand stands out from the pack. Whatever her philosophical failings, she recognized the heroic aspects of entrepreneurship. Without entrepreneurs, little of what we take for granted in our economy and our everyday lives would exist. Here in my office, the concrete forms of entrepreneurial imagination are everywhere: paper, scissors, pens, highlighters, ink, CDs, an empty Tupperware container that held the pork loin I ate for lunch, a flat-screen monitor, fonts, lamps, lightbulbs, windows, sheet rock, speakers, a laptop computer, and an optical mouse. Behind all these visible objects lie real but less visible innovations in finance, manufacturing, and transport that I scarcely comprehend. All of these things are gifts from entrepreneurs.
Of course, entrepreneurial capitalism doesn’t exist in an anarchic vacuum. Some individuals may have an entrepreneurial vocation. For an economy to channel their energy into productive ends, however, it needs to provide incentives. On the one hand, if financial policies encourage entrepreneurs to take unsustainable risks-in the reasonable hope of a government bailout or a quick sale of a bad loan to a government-sponsored enterprise-then they’ll take those risks. On the other hand, if unvetted federal officials capriciously dictate limits to compensation for corporate executives, and politicians consistently debase the currency, entrepreneurs may become averse to productive risk-converting investments from risky, illiquid, long-range ventures into much safer silver and gold. So for sustained prosperity, policy makers need to ask what policies best encourage entrepreneurs to act like entrepreneurs, and not like misers. Now that I think of it, perhaps that ought to be the economic question of the day.
1. George Gilder, Wealth & Poverty (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1993), p. 30.
2. Ibid., p. 27.
3. Ibid., pp. 20-24.
4. Ibid., p. 37.
5. Robert A. Sirico, The Entrepreneurial Vocation (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2001).
6. Michael Novak, Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life (New York: The Free Press, 1996).
Image by Darren Wambold/Bergman Group.
The Kimberley Process and World Diamond Council are a sham.
Severe human rights violations, including murder, rape and forced labor, have taken place in the diamond fields of Marange, Zimbabwe. Recent reports from Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicate that these horrific conditions continue to take place.
Blood diamonds from Marange, Zimbabwe, have been issued Kimberley Process (KP) certificates and imported into the cutting centers, where they were cut and polished and then sold to dealers, jewelry manufacturers and retailers. Tens of thousands of carats of blood diamonds are now in dealers’ inventories and jewelers’ showcases — and are being actively sold to consumers.
The jewelry trade’s purchase and distribution of blood diamonds is funding a continuing cycle of horrific human rights violations. Our industry is providing money and distribution to those who murder, rape and enslave. Every time we buy or sell a blood diamond, we are sending a message of encouragement to the perpetrators of these inhuman crimes. We are legitimizing their dirty business. We become their partners in crime.
We must face the fact that the KP has been issuing certificates for Marange blood diamonds. The KP has made these “certified blood diamonds” perfectly legal. Customs officials did not — and do not — have the right to stop Marange diamonds with KP certificates. Instead of eliminating blood diamonds, the KP has become a process for the systematic legalization and legitimization of blood diamonds. When you get right down to it, the KP has become a blood diamond laundering system. The KP is not just a sham; it’s a scam.
To understand how this could happen, we must define “blood diamonds” and compare our definition to the KP definition of “conflict diamonds.”
Rapaport definition:“Blood diamonds are diamonds involved in murder, mutilation, rape or forced servitude.”
KP definition:“Conflict diamonds means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments, as described in relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions insofar as they remain in effect, or in other similar UNSC resolutions which may be adopted in the future, and as understood and recognised in United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 55/56, or in other similar UNGA resolutions which may be adopted in future…”
The KP definition of conflict diamonds does not address human rights violations and does not include blood diamonds. It is a legal definition established by governments to limit the scope and authority of the KP. The KP is a highly politicized process controlled by governments for governments. Its primary function is to protect governments and their revenue — legitimate or not — from rebel forces and consumer boycotts. The KP is essentially agnostic when it comes to human rights. As HRW concluded in its November 6, 2009, report: “This diamond monitoring body has utterly lost credibility.”
In spite of the above, there is a common misconception in the jewelry trade that diamonds with KP certificates are free of human rights abuses. Trade organizations, under the misguided leadership of the World Diamond Council (WDC), have promoted and continue to promote the KP as an acceptable standard for ensuring human rights compliance, even though they know that the KP has been issuing certificates for blood diamonds that have penetrated the diamond and jewelry supply chain. The WDC refuses to inform the trade that the KP cannot be relied upon to ensure human rights compliance and that polished blood diamonds are in the supply chain. The WDC has lost its moral compass. Its primary loyalty is now to the KP and not to the diamond industry or even the basic principles of human decency.
- Any diamond that was mined using oppressed labor in unsanitary working conditions.
- Any diamond whose oppressed labor force was victimized in the form of rape, mutilations (loss of arms or legs), beatings, verbal abuse, unconscionable working hours, and below poverty wage structure.
- Any diamond that the company who mined it or controls its tariffs is part of a monopoly.
- Any diamond that funds wars or corporate greed where profits supersede human life.
- Any diamond that is used to oppress any human life or the extinction of any race, tribe or sub-culture.
- Any diamond that is purposely graded incorrectly and marketed for corporate profits instead of consumer satisfaction.
- Any diamond that is sold at a price above its secondary market resale value forcing the consumer to take a significant loss if it was to be resold.”
What To Do?
• Raise Consciousness. We need to raise consciousness within the jewelry industry about the problem of blood diamonds so that people will stop trading them. Industry organizations that should play a role need to be awakened. I suggest sending emails to Terry Burman, chairman of Jewelers of America (JA), director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and the WDC, at email@example.com; Matt Runci, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of JA, chairman of the RJC, director of the WDC, at firstname.lastname@example.org; Cecilia Gardner, president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), director of the WDC and CIBJO, at email@example.com. You might want to cc the email to other leaders and send a copy to us.
Ask these leaders to confirm that polished blood diamonds are in the distribution system and ask what you or they can do about it. Ask them to use their organizations to inform the trade about the problem. If you know anyone on the board of these organizations, give them a call and ask them to have their organization let people know about blood diamonds.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help us raise consciousness. We will be holding conferences to discuss the issue at BaselWorld on Friday, March 19, 2010, at the Basel Congress Center from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and the JCK Vegas Show, Monday, June 7, 2010, at the Sands Convention Center from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. We need new ideas and solutions. We need your help to get organized.
• Stay informed. Visit diamonds.net/zimbabwe for background information and google Marange diamonds to stay up to date. Help us stay informed. If you know about people or companies that are selling Marange diamonds, email us. While we don’t have the resources to investigate all claims, if a name comes up enough or the case is compelling, we will quietly notify relevant investigative authorities.
• Return diamonds that you suspect may be blood diamonds. Pay careful attention to diamonds that have a green hue. Unless you are absolutely sure of where the diamond came from, it is probably a good idea to return all diamonds with a green or green/gray hue in the D to Z and light green color range, not fancy green colors. While there are green diamonds from other places, about 60 percent of Marange’s cuttable diamonds are green and tens of thousands of carats have come onto the market over the past year. Furthermore, we are getting reports that the color of some green Marange diamonds is unstable and may worsen.
While many in the industry are opposed to the idea of returns, the hard fact is that you are going to have to make a personal decision about what to do. Thanks to the KP, blood diamonds are perfectly legal and you have no right to return them. On the other hand, do you really want to be selling what may be blood diamonds? It’s a financial and ethical issue with a high dose of uncertainty. There may be no clear answers. You might want to talk to a spiritual or ethical adviser.
• Ask Before You Buy. As noted in the HRW campaign*, “Zimbabwe’s Blood Diamonds, Ask Before You Buy,” asking is probably the most important thing you can and should do. Recognize that you are responsible for what you buy and that someone’s life may be at stake. Make sure you know who your suppliers are and ask them serious questions to ensure that the diamonds you buy are not from Marange nor involved in other serious human rights abuses. Err on the side of caution. Tell your supplier you really care about where your diamonds come from. If they know you care, they also will care. Make it a point to personally talk to every diamond supplier about human rights issues and how important they are to you.
You will also want your supplier to sign a document promising to refund payment for any diamonds that turn out to be associated with human rights violations. But don’t rely solely on the paper; remember to have the talk.
It’s time to transcend Kimberley and the WDC. One wonders how many lives will have to be destroyed before the demonstrations begin — before victims come marching down Fifth Avenue, as they did a decade ago. What will it take to get our trade to stop buying and selling blood diamonds?
I know that there are many good and decent people in the diamond and jewelry trade. And I know that many of you care but are frustrated and feel the situation is hopeless. I urge you to reconsider. I urge you not to give up.
We can and will beat this problem. It will take time and unprecedented levels of cooperation. But I do believe that there are enough people in our industry who really care about human rights and that we can make a difference by working together. There is so much good that we can do. I am confident that when the right people come together, we can and will build a more fair and ethical diamond market. We can and will create solutions that will make the world proud of us and our diamonds.
By Martin Rapaport
January 29, 2009
You see or hear the ads all the time—we sell only GIA, AGS, EGL etc “certified” diamonds with a “certificate” to back it up. Thanks for telling me—RUN! “Certified” is a word that is supposed to put you at ease, make you relax, so you put your guard down. But it is meaningless.
The lab “certificates” are riddled with disclaimers that specify it is strictly a bought opinion and in no way guarantees anything, making the “certificates” worthless. The jeweler will pretend he bears no responsibility because someone else graded it, so who or what “guarantees” the diamond? Nothing and nobody! Guess who is left holding the bag? Any jeweler who doesn’t tell you that “certified” does not guarantee anything, belongs in the same cell as Bernie Madoff. Look up the definition of certify (verb: certified) which includes “to guarantee as meeting a standard or to confirm formally as true, accurate or genuine.”
Do you know where the safest country in the world to buy a diamond is? Well, it’s not the United States anymore! It’s India where jewelers are buying back the diamonds they sell to customers who aren’t happy! “They’re not just selling diamonds, they’re selling security and trust”, said Marc Goldstein from Rapaport.* India is the first country whose jewelers stand behind the merchandise they sell with a lifetime buyback policy!
Currently only about twenty percent of jewelers in the U.S sell fully bonded diamonds! (Diamonds with a lifetime buyback policy). Disgraceful! I’m sick and tired of seeing a young couple down on their luck and being forced to sell their diamond to find out that it is only worth an average of 19.7% of what they PAID! Their usual response when they find out that they have been taken to the cleaners? “But it was “certified”?! Buying a “certified” diamond is about as safe as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and told to flap your arms! I can’t be more serious about this pandemic that is destroying the integrity of diamonds. Please DO NOT buy a diamond from anyone who even whispers the word “certified”. Let 2010 be the year that we banish the dirty word “certified” from the diamond business forever and replace it with a fully bonded appraisal (F.B.A). That leaves you 100% in the driver’s seat! By refusing to buy any diamond that is misrepresented and only comes with a 30-90 day return policy you will never find yourself with a diamond you don’t want and no where to turn. Don’t buy “certified” diamonds from anyone! Fairness has to mean something again in the diamond industry!
*Goldstein, Marc. Rapaport. December 2009. Vol. 32 No. 12. Pg 49.
Anything is possible
My story begins about ten years ago when I met Cecilia (my wife). She was 21 and I was 24. Because we had both just come out of failed marriages, her family and mine opposed of our relationship. No matter how difficult it was she never gave up on us. She stood up for us and went against all odds. Years later we had a son. Cecilia wanted my parents to meet our son. At the time my father was sick with cancer. He never got to meet Jonas. My mother lived all her life with Scleroderma. After my father’s passing, my mother became very ill. Cecilia wanted to meet my mother regardless of how my mother felt about her. The day my mother met Cecilia and Jonas, it changed her whole perception. My mother loved them both. She died shortly after. The title of my story is Anything is Possible because our lives have changed so much. When we first moved in together we had nothing. We didn’t even have a vehicle. Once in a while I would use my work van to take us out!
We had a tiny apartment with no furniture and just a bunch of sheets to sleep on the floor. We didn’t have much but we were happy, we were in love. Little by little, together we have worked so hard and 4 years ago we bought a house. Cecilia and I got married in 2008 ( I have yet to buy her a wedding ring). We went to the justice of the peace and there in the judge’s office we got married. Jonas, our son, was our witness. Together we have 5 kids in the house (2 from her previous marriage, 2 from mine and together 1). Cecilia works full time, goes to school, takes care of our home, kids and myself. She wakes up at 4am to make me breakfast and lunch so I can take it to work. She comes home from work and makes dinner and still makes time for the kids and myself. She will be finishing her MBA in April of 2010. She works so hard to make us all happy and never thinks of herself. She never gave up on our relationship, she never gave up on meeting my mother and she never gives up now. I have always told everybody, she is the rock that holds our home together. Our life is simple but yet we both know how much it has cost us to be where we’re at and we cherish every bit of it. Her love for us is so immense that she sacrifices every bit of energy she’s got to make sure we are all happy. I wish my parents were here to see how far we have come. But I know they are in heaven watching over me. My father always taught me that family comes first. No matter how hard things may get, I know I have a strong woman by my side and that my parents would be so proud of us. Every day I thank the lord for putting Cecilia in my path. Ten years have flown by, yet we love each other more than ever. We have conquered every obstacle, every bump on the road and we’re still strong. This isn’t a fairy tale, this is real life. I’m so lucky to have my wife in my life. The love we have for each other is so strong and we have proved to everybody that together anything is possible!
It only took 28 years…
In 1981 I was a 19 year old Front Desk Clerk at the St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South in Manhattan.
One night the most gorgeous man I had ever seen walked up to the desk and asked me to go out to dinner with him. He was a Swedish Tour Guide named Mats. We went out to restaurants and clubs and laughed and danced and fell in love.
One night while we were having dinner at Un Deux Trois, Mats proclaimed that we would be married within a year. We were both radiantly happy and completely in love.
Then Mats decided that he wanted to finish his studies in Stockholm and that he wasn’t sure if we should get married. He went back to Sweden and left me heartbroken.
I was an undergraduate at Hunter College with a Double Major in Chinese and Latin and poured myself into my studies to recover.
THEN, In 1984 Mats called me at my apartment on the Upper West Side and said, “Louise, it’s me, Mats. Please come to Sweden, I have finished my studies and am ready for us to get married now.”
I hopped on the next flight to Stockholm. Mats and I bought our wedding bands and then traveled all over Europe. We laughed and danced all over France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Sweden.
THEN, when we were supposed to get married, Mats decided that he wasn’t ready.
I went home, heartbroken again.
When I got back to New York I mailed my ring back to him in Sweden. That was THAT!
THEN, in 1986 I went to live in Taipei, Taiwan for a year to complete my studies in Chinese Language and Literature. I had sublet my apartment in Manhattan.
In 1987, when I returned from Taipei, they guy who was staying at my apartment gave me a piece of paper and said, “This guy Mats called you about 2 weeks after you left.”
I called Mats back immediately and said, “Hey! It’s me, Louise, what did you want when you called? I’ve been in Taiwan for a year.”
Mats said, “Louise, I was calling you to ask you to come to Sweden and marry me!”
I said, “I still love you and I’ll take the next flight to Stockholm.”
Mats: “But I called you a year ago!”
Me: “So what”
Mats: “Well, I met somebody else.”
Well, you can imagine…that was the end of that.
I ended up buying a house on a mountain top in North Carolina and went on to become an International Hotel Accounting Consultant.
I have been a Financial Controller or Consultant in Barbados, Philadelphia, Manhattan, Antigua, Taiwan, Peter Island, Key West, Miami, Durham, Aruba, Marco Island, St. Louis, and Puerto Rico.
NOW, on November 11, 2009 my telephone in “The Middle of Nowhere Next to a Cow Pasture,” North Carolina rang.
You guessed it!
Mats: “Louise, it’s me, Mats is Sweden. I have been looking for you for ten years. Please come to Sweden and marry me. You are the only woman I have ever loved.”
After I was over the shock, I told Mats that he had to convince me.
Mats HAS convinced me and we are to be married, FINALLY! in January 2010 in North Carolina.
We are both as happy and as in love as we were 28 years ago in 1981.
We have both had full and interesting lives and now, as Mats say, “It is finally time for us.”
So, for all those people who have been alone and wondering what happened to their one true love. I wish you the courage to pick up the phone, hire a detective, do an internet search, ANYTHING to find him or her, because they may be out there missing you, too.
This Thanksgiving I have even more for which to be thankful.
My Mother Always Says…
…that everything happens for a reason. So, in the middle of a tumultuous divorce in January ’92, as I arrived home to a pile of ashes on Sargent Beach, Texas, I wondered how this would play out to her standard doctrine. All that was most cherished and dear to me, a fine ornate iron bed I bought 20 years ago from Benny Luckenbach, pictures of my kids, old dishes from my great grandma, etc. was now ashes or melted. (Luckily, my sister had insisted on confiscating my gun collection, with the divorce drama going on) It took a week to locate another rental, this time I settled in Surfside. Given the recent loss, this time it seemed a good idea to get renter’s insurance. Over the phone I got coverage from a local agent, and felt like a clean new start with a new tv, futon, and microwave oven just in time for the Super Bowl. It had been a long week, staying at my mother’s. By mid summer, the deal was done on the divorce, and I carried on, with weekend visitations with my two young daughters. By September, I was told by a girl at work that her agent sent a message to me via her, about my coverage; turns out we were both her accounts. I asked if she looked as good as she had sounded on the phone, and was quickly informed that was the case, and that she was also single. I then decided it was time for me to hand deliver my monthly payment, and was needless to say speechless when I did so. Suddenly, I was a 41 year old teenager, alive again! We later had good exchanges on the phone, and eventually I finally asked her out… Well, suffice it to say I was elated when she accepted, but thought I blew it when we went out and, to get a feel for her age I popped off that I recall being in the 5th grade at school when John F. Kennedy was shot and we all went out by the flagpole and prayed, where were you? She said she was born the year after that…I could have died right there…but she laughed, and we continued to see each other…and my 6 year old and 18 month old daughters played well with her 5 year old daughter…Everything seemed to be so perfect with Regina, life was really good again! That pile of ashes from my rented burned out beach-house led to me getting insurance on the next one, and meeting Regina!! Mother’s prophecy did play out with that total loss. As our hearts melded more and more, I had my 6 year old help me pick out a pave wedding band for Regina, and I wrote the following to surprise her with:
“Enamored” is the term I think,
for what we seem to be.
I know this thing is wonderful
between my you and me…
It seems this thing is much beyond
my sense of self control,
This way I think and feel for you
from deep within my soul…
I know to have you close beside,
and in my arms is sweet…
My love you are my heart’s desire,
my love for you complete.
So let’s enjoy this love we share
and savor life so sweet,
And worry not what ‘morrow brings
’till we, the tomorrow meet…
If then we find we’re still this way,
so smitten with our love…
Then us as family evermore,
is what I’m thinking of!!
As it was Easter, I put this and the ring into a small plastic Easter egg, then that egg into a larger one, and those into a larger one, etc. and my oldest daughter placed it high in a hanging plant as I held her up. I assured Bogie the Easter Bunny needed help with the diamond ring, but he will be along later to hide more eggs for you girls, his limit is chocolate…and Easter morning after the girls found all the eggs that E.B. left for them, Bogie told Regina to look in the hanging plant. When she opened the egg, and finally got to the smallest egg, she beamed when she found the ring…and waterworks followed when she read the poem. It looked like a favorable reception, so I dropped to my knee and the girls cheered when I proposed and Regina made me the happiest man alive with her answer. Ok, so maybe there was a little pressure with the girls as witness, but hey-I knew I needed all the help I could get! We set the date for July, Regina got the printed napkins, matchbooks, invitations were sent out, 3 matching dresses for the kids that were same color as her wedding dress for the procession, reserved the Ima Hogg plantation mansion in West Columbia for the ceremony-EVERYTHING…
Then in June, she had a seizure. It had happened in the middle of the night and scared her and her daughter badly; when she told me about it the next day I urged her to see her doctor…as a matter of procedure, he had her undergo an MRI. Two days later she called me, very upset. I left work in the Dow plant to meet her at her parent’s home in nearby Lake Jackson, and learned her doctor told her she had a massive brain tumor, and she needed to see a specialist right away. We made arrangements to meet with a brain surgeon at Methodist Hospital in Houston, bringing the MRI’s with us…He advised us to have it removed immediately, and showed us the mass was the size of a large bar of soap in her left frontal lobe, but appeared to be operable. He recommended proceeding with surgery asap- she asked about our pending wedding the next month, but he said to not worry about that, to delay this surgery longer for the ceremony would be life threatening. IF she survived the surgery, there could be loss of speech or blindness or partial paralysis-deal with the wedding later. How could this happen to a beautiful 29 year old girl? Needless to say, we were in shock. He said we’d hear from his office for the scheduled surgery date. As we drove back to her parent’s, I suggested we elope IMMEDIATELY. I convinced her we’d blow off the wedding, and just cruise the Texas hill country that we both love, and get away from it all. We stopped off at the courthouse in Angleton, got a marriage license, packed and took off. I showed her my great grandparent’s old abandoned house in Sabinal, my high hill country stompin grounds through Leakey, Hunt, Luckenbach, etc…stopped by my home town of Cameron, Texas a few days later and did a quick ceremony at the Magnolia House. I called an old family friend, Mrs. Edna von Rosenberg ahead of time and she arranged for her Reverend Don Hogg to perform the service, while she served as the entire wedding party…best man, bridesmaid, ring bearer, everything! (we just went to her 100th birthday party this October). I have pictures since I placed my Nikon camera on a tripod and used the timer…
I must say, although this was not my first time to make the vow, I had forgotten until I was told to repeat the passage “till death do we part..” How I kept my composure as I said those words I’ll never know. My guts were ripping apart, yet happy at the same time.Mr. and Mrs. Bo Durr returned to the coast the next day, with a message awaiting us…her surgery was scheduled to be in 3 days. Three of the longest days of my life surpassed in length only by the 12 hours it took for her surgery. I last saw her in pre-op as they prepared to shave half her head for surgery. Finally, when they wheeled her out of surgery, Dr. Jerry Bob told me it went well. To prove it, he asked my semi-conscious Regina what her name was. Though wed for just 3 days, she was able to say REGINA DURR!!!
After enduring the intensive radiation treatments 3 times a day for 6 weeks, and chemotherapy, she made the transition of having thick auburn hair to mid back, to being bald as a golf ball, to now once again having her hair back. Her badge of honor is her scarves she wears to cover the 25% bald spot on the left front-those 3 titanium plates do not allow hair growth. But my darling bride is the best mother and homemaker on the planet. We are still as blissfully in love and trusting as we were 16 years ago when we wed. At this time I would like to nominate my bride as the recipient of this ring contest. I do believe it was our strong love and the Good Lord was willing, that got us through all of this, and for her to receive $25,000 in jewelry would finally be a reason she could wear!
Every love story has a great beginning. This is ours. When least expected, our soul mate can walk into our lives and change things forever. Such is the case with us, Scott and Leanna.
June of 1982, I was living in the greater Los Angeles area and working for one of the first sexual fantasy phone services, a funky little place called Lips International. Far away in Seattle, Washington, my true love was working for a travel agency at the Sea Tac airport. It would seem impossible for two such people to meet, but never underestimate the power of love.
Since most calls came at night, I was working swing/graveyard shift. Scott worked graveyard. Like most guys, Scott read the current men’s magazines of the time, and like most sexual fantasy businesses, Lips advertised in those magazines with an 800 number no less! Scott would often call our number, but since he didn’t meet the criteria for a paying fantasy (no credit card), he would just chat with some of the girls, including me. One night he called and, being the manager of that shift, the girls passed his call to me. You are such a nice guy, but we can’t keep talking to you for free, was my response. Unbeknownst to Scott, I was planning to meet one of my customers in Seattle the next night. A gentleman I had been talking to for some time, wanted to meet me and was willing to pay for plane fair from LA to Seattle. Recently divorced from my first husband, I figured I had nothing to lose by meeting this guy. So, I told Scott that I would be in! Seattle the next night and I promised to call him. He gave me his work number and we said goodbye for now.
The next evening I arrived at LAX to take the red eye mail flight from LA to Seattle with a stop in San Francisco. I was 28 years old and had never flown on a commercial flight. Sure enough, my ticket was paid for and ready for me to pickup at check in. I settled into a seat and tried to prepare myself for this meeting with my customer. Growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, the distance from LA to Seattle really did not register. It also never occurred to me that the man I was about to meet might be some kind of psycho creep, or worse. I had a one way ticket, $40 bucks, and an ATM card in my purse and I was off on an adventure!
Two hours, five cigarettes (yes, that’s when you could smoke on a plane), and several drinks later I arrived in Seattle. As expected, I met my customer. We were in the process of impressing each other when he announced that he would get his car and drive around to the United terminal entrance. I could get my belongings out of baggage claim and meet him out front. With a few minutes to myself, I thought I could dash to the ladies room and then call Scott, as I had promised. I grabbed my bag, hit the ladies room, and ran to the bank of pay phones. I dialed the number Scott gave me the night before and a nice voice told me that he wasn’t there at the moment. Oh, well, I tried. After all, I promised I would try, I thought. About that same time, it occurred to me that my rendezvous neglected to mention what kind of car he drove.
No big deal, by now it was 1:00am and not too many people at the airport. I walked out the terminal doors and waited by the curb. 30 minutes passed and no car. I went inside and had him paged. No answer. 30 more minutes passed, another page, and still no car or answer. By now, the only people in the airport terminal were me, a clerk at the United counter and a guy pushing a broom. Had I been in a movie, this is where the music would sound very ominous. After waiting for two hours, the gravity of the situation came pressing down hard. What did I get into? Tears were starting to slide down my cheek. I reached into my purse for a Kleenex and saw the slip of paper with Scott’s number. Trying not to panic, I walked back into the terminal and approaching a pay phone, took out the number and once again called Scott’s work. Oh yes, he’s here said the nice voice from before. Hello, this is Scott. I’ve been stood up; I started and then came the tears. And I don’t mean the little ladylike drops, but the big boo hoo kind.
Where are you at, he asked. I’m at the United terminal. Don’t move. I’ll be right there. I hung up and stood right where I was facing the pay phone, not moving. Within a few minutes, Scott came waking around the corner. Leanna? The voice belonged to a young man with kind, brown eyes, a tee shirt and a pair of jeans. Scott, I blubbered? And yes, the stars aligned, time stood still, and two young people looking for, but never expecting it, found each other and an everlasting love. My customer disappeared into the night and only later did I learn than he was using another guy’s credit card to pay for his calls and was afraid he would get caught in the fraud. 24 hours later, I was on a plane back to LA and Scott were back to work. But oh, those 24 hours! The attraction was instant and mutual, and not knowing if we would ever see each other again, we acted on it, becoming each other’s fantasy. As Scott put me on a plane the next night, he looked into my eyes and said I will see you again. That summer I flew back to Seattle twice and drove up once. The romance was on and our phone bills became astronomical. By October, Scott was laid off, and I convinced him to move to Los Angeles.
When people say they started off with nothing, I have always wondered how you have nothing. Looking back, I realize we had literally nothing. We did have a television, although a few years later when the TV died, we went a long time without one. Scott had his stereo and a pillow he swiped from a Motel 6 on his way down to LA. I had a bed (my settlement from my first marriage) and some dishes. Didn’t matter, we had each other. After a short period of living together, I looked Scott straight into his eyes and told him If you want to marry me, don’t just expect it to happen. You will have to ask. Christmas of 1984, he did, on one knee, and with a diamond ring. I said yes and finally my parents stopped referring to him as that guy and started calling Scott by name.
September 7, 1985, we were married on a sunny day in Port Orchard, Washington. The sparkling water of Puget Sound and the sky line of Seattle served as a backdrop to a very happy day. So now the story is supposed to go and they lived happily ever after. Not exactly. It was the 80’s, in Los Angeles, and before long we were living life in the fast lane. Now say what you want and remember what you’ve heard about drugs, but until you live through an addiction, keep your judgment to yourself. Cocaine became our drug of choice and soon snorting wasn’t enough, so free basing took over. As good as the high was and the great sex that came with the altered state of being, the depression and low that followed were abysmal. One day, after spending the rent money and whatever else was in our meager bank account, we took a paper bag and put all the drug paraphernalia inside, grabbed a hammer and smashed everything. You would think that action alone would have broken the habit and for a time it did, but within months we replaced cocaine with another drug crystal meth. At this time in Southern California, meth was making the scene. It’s a wicked little drug that makes one believe you are invincible and able to multi task like the Tasmanian Devil. In truth, you are very vulnerable and running around in circles with one foot tied down. It didn’t take long for the daily use to change our lives completely.
By 1990, during this time of drug abuse, the best friend I will ever have died of AIDS. The loss fueled my drug abuse ever more. Soon, I lost my job, making money even tighter. I became a consummate dumpster diver, hustling cans and bottles to recycle for cash. The next year we had to file bankruptcy and with that came the repo of our car, the loss of our residence, and a huge strain on our relationship. Scott kept up a brave front at his job, but the drugs were taking their toll. Soon we could no longer afford our own place and we moved in with a friend and took up residence in her garage. Scott was still working and I was selling things I would find in dumpsters at the local swap meets. It was spring of 1993 and in Texas, my oldest nephew was planning his wedding. We managed to scrounge up enough money for me to fly to Houston to attend. That separation started a change in our lives we never anticipated. Could there be life away from LA?
The next month my niece was also married in Houston. This time we both came to Texas and so did our little secret. No one in our families really knew what we were going through. They knew we were experiencing some hard times due to job loss and my friend’s death. But no one knew the extent . Later I would learn that this was about the time my sister started praying that someone would come into our lives and help us.
When we came back to LA after the wedding, we began to talk about changing our lives. By September my sister became involved in a writing project that required all of her time. So she invited me to come to Texas for six weeks and help her with the housework and her day to day stuff so she could concentrate on her project. I came and it was the longest time Scott and I had ever spent apart. During those six weeks Scott mailed me enough meth to keep going, but when I returned home, I knew things had to change. How were we going to survive? God responded to the prayers lifted up in our name and doors began to open. That Christmas we flew to Washington to be with Scott’s family and his parents agreed to give us the money to move. Ultimately we knew that the only way to break our addiction was to completely move from California. We could go north to Washington to be close to Scott’s family or east to Texas to be with mine. The U-Haul went east and we became Texans.
Everything we owned went into that U-Haul and our car was hitched behind. Somewhere in the sorting, packing and snorting, my wedding ring was lost.
I cried inconsolably, but I still had Scott. So what’s a ring? Any woman will tell you that her wedding ring is just as much a part of her as her soul. Losing mine was like losing one of the best parts of myself. The diamond wasn’t large, but it was mine, just like the man who gave it to me. When you look into the brilliance of a diamond, you can lose yourself. A jeweler may tell you that it all is in the cut, clarity, and color, but the beauty lies in what each sparkle represents. I would stare into my ring and with each flash of refracted light I could see the possibility of good things to come in our lives together. It was a constant reminder that I truly belonged to someone who loved me. Something inside me still believes that I will find it one day, tucked away in a box long forgotten. Someday . . .
It took four long driving days to reach Texas from California. Compared to starting over in every detail of our lives, the time it took to move was very short. We had no jobs, no money, except the deposit for returning the U-Haul, and no clue what to expect. My sister lovingly opened her home to us and within six weeks we both had jobs and an apartment of our own. Now, you’re thinking, comes the happily ever after. Not quite.
Come this February it will be sixteen years since we came to Texas. In that time, so much has happened. We renewed our wedding vows on our 10th anniversary. We have lost loved ones and gained new members in our families. We have struggled with finances and still have been blessed with abundance. We have enjoyed good times and endured bad times. In short, we have lived life and everything that comes with it. I don’t know if anyone ever lives happily ever after, but I do know that our relationship has survived and flourished. We find the love and commitment we share grows every day by serving others; through our church, our community, and our work. I could list all the things we don’t have, but the reality is that we have everything we need and more. In a quiet moment, sitting on the couch, I can reach out, touch Scott’s arm, and just the feel of his skin on my fingertips stirs feelings of passion and comfort.
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, these are the things we promised and have experienced them all. We were given an extraordinary gift; each other. Through God’s love and mercy we will continue to cherish and culture this great gift.
Congratulations, Diamond Cutters International. We know what twenty-five years is all about. It’s a journey every day. Our story is not complete because we are not finished yet. The next chapter is waiting to be written. One thing, I know for a certainty. When we are really old, we will look back on the improbable beginning of our relationship and through tears and laughter, we will know that this love was truly meant to be.
December 20, 2009
By Jennifer Waters
Wall Street Journal
The holidays can be a romantic time and there will be plenty of guys popping the question along with the champagne corks in the next few weeks. And if you’ll need a diamond to go along with that proposal, now is the time to buy.
While prices vary widely based on the quality of the cut and the rarity of the stone, diamond costs in general remain about 10% below year-ago levels.
Those prices have started to creep up from their lows in March, though, and the relative bargains won’t last long as the effects of the recession wear off and an oversupply of polished gems diminishes, retail diamond sellers say.
“There is a fair amount of inventory still out there because of the weak demand and because of a general aversion to wearing bling during these economic times,” says Dione Kenyon, president of the Jewelers Board of Trade, an industry credit bureau.
But don’t be blinded by love when diamond shopping. The process can be intimidating because of the lofty prices involved and what to the untrained eye can appear to be minor distinctions between stones. Markups on retail sales can be anywhere from 50% to 100%, jewelers say.
“There is a fault line between rough prices and polished prices. Since January rough prices are up 60% while polished goods are down 8%. Expect a 70% major earthquake rise in prices over the next 12-15 months as the structural imbalance re-stabilized into the new reality.” –Fred Cuellar
By Ben Janowski — JCK Online, November 1, 2009
Ads for the new De Beers program, using the brand name Everlon, broke in the consumer press in September. I suppose we must pay attention to any De Beers program, since their advertising and marketing budgets are the largest in the industry. But I don’t get this one.
De Beers’ programs have changed radically. At one time, De Beers would allocate $200 million or so each year for image-building promotions they developed. That was fine when De Beers controlled 75 percent or more of all rough output. As that declined, De Beers became determined that the benefits of the advertising accrued mostly to them and their clients. Even so, as programs were developed with specific product themes and characteristics, the market as a whole emulated the concepts.
These “beacons,” as De Beers calls them, enjoyed varying degrees of success. Many years ago, the Anniversary ring was successful, as were studs, the tennis bracelet, and the three-stone ring. Others were far less successful, but at least the ad programs got attention and provided something to pitch.
De Beers generally went with simple, generic pieces—the idea is to sell diamonds, not fancy jewelry—which made it easy for the trade to participate in or mimic.
But economic times have changed. De Beers is reluctant to back off from its programs entirely, even though other mining companies spend very sparingly on image advertising. A new plan is in the works, which has all major producers contributing to a global diamond campaign. It is as yet unimplemented, and the decline in diamond prices and production may impede the program. De Beers, however, is under unusual financial stress, with some $3 billion in debt maturing over the next year-and-a-half.
So this new “brand,” Everlon, is designed to meet two objectives: offer a line of jewelry available only at De Beers’ downstream stake-holders, and share the cost of the program among both sightholders and participating retailers. The central theme is a knot, a Herculean knot, of sorts.
On the plus side, the design is simple, easy to understand, and uses classic lines the public will probably accept. The pieces use a range of stone sizes (more or less fifths to 1.00 ct., in middle qualities) that De Beers has in excess supply. The design fits well with target customers, mostly chains.
But De Beers has burdened its clients with heavy participation costs. Sightholders work on thin margins when selling to chains, so the added costs for sightholders and retailers could make these basic pieces uncompetitive. De Beers counters, I’m sure, that the advertising and branding more than offset this aspect. But it takes years to build a real brand, and the public may not pick up on it in the four months that it will be promoted before Christmas. And can a brand be built on a long-used design? Does the design even warrant heavy promotion?
Other manufacturers and retailers will “emulate” the pieces. Even if some make straight knockoffs, I doubt any copyrights will stick (assuming De Beers copyrights the designs). This scenario looks like a price war, but with De Beers’ sightholders and their participating retailers on the short end. The retailers, who compete against each other in many markets, will face off with identical items that are branded—the very thing they have long avoided in diamond jewelry. And the competition will have a real price advantage.
As of now, only four sightholders are involved. At the London preview, De Beers refused to show the designs. I presume they feared knockoffs. It was suggested to me that it took some arm-twisting to get this far. Considering the product and the costs, it’s understandable that sightholders and retailers were reluctant. Some major retailers have said they won’t get into this program. Other comments I heard related to the essence of the product. People don’t believe larger diamonds will sell in such designs; some say it will quickly degrade to cheap, smaller diamonds; others say the ring won’t work because the diamond is off-center; nobody I spoke with was excited by the designs. The ads refer the reader to www.adiamondisforever.com to find participating retailers. I tried several times, on different days, and couldn’t get through.
If there was ever a time when innovative and cost-effective programs were needed, it’s now. But this program is a dud.
“If De Beers thinks that tying a knot in a noose that is already around their neck is going to get them out of their $3 billion mess, then I guess they have not met The Hangman, the consumer!” –Fred Cuellar
In the spirit of the holiday season and its meaning, I hope it will inspire you. This story was adapted from Charity: True Stories of Giving and Receiving and edited by Rosemerry Wahtola Trimmer.
In the ‘ 40s and early ‘50s, the plaque of a smiling cat displayed in the window of a home meant that a hobo might find a hot meal there. Tootie’s grandparents didn’t have such a plaque in their window, but because they were just blocks from the train crossing, they would encounter their share of men who were just passing through. Tootie’s grandfather was always willing to pay these fellows a couple of dollars in exchange for their labor.
One morning, Tootie noticed a hobo tending her grandfather’s yard while her grandmother was in the kitchen fixing bacon and scrambled eggs.
“But we’ve already had breakfast,” she said to her grandmother.
“This is for the hobo,” her grandmother said as she collected a jar of peanut butter, crackers, and other food from the pantry. She stuffed the items in a bag, grabbed a table cloth, and headed out to the picnic table in yard.
“Are we going to have a picnic?” Tootie asked.
“No, this is so it’s nice for him, “ the grandmother said. She placed the bag of groceries o the table, “ and so he has something for later until he can get a decent meal.”
Tootie wondered why her grandmother was treating this hobo like he was special, and she said as much.
Her grandmother let out a sigh and told her the story of an uncle who’d gotten into a bit of trouble as a young man during the depression. In a fit of desperation he’d run away from home. A neighbor told the family that he’d seen the uncle hop a train that was going to California. Decades passed, and the family never heard from or saw him again.
Tootie’s grandmother thought of this uncle each time a hobo came past their fence. Somewhere out there these men had family who were missing them and hoping they’d return. A chance to earn their keep, a kind word, a little food, and a prayer was the least anyone could offer someone who’d lost their way.
Over the years, Tootie witnessed her grandparents treat these men with dignity and compassion, never once judging them nor asking them to divulge their secrets.
By VANESSA O’CONNELL
MOGODITSHANE, Botswana — Tiffany & Co.’s iconic blue boxes have long cradled some of the world’s most expensive diamonds. Now, an increasing number contain stones cut by some of the industry’s least-experienced hands.
In a windowless factory in this African village, Tiffany is teaching more than 80 workers to transform raw diamonds into gems for Tiffany engagement rings. As novices recently pressed pea-size stones against whirling blades, a visiting Tiffany executive spied a problem.
“You don’t try to save money by using cheap architect and building a castle on sand!”–Fred Cuellar
Tiffany & Co.’s iconic blue boxes have long cradled some of the world’s most expensive diamonds. Now, an increasing number contain stones cut by some of the industry’s least-experienced hands.
“You can see the polishing lines!” said Mark Hanna, an Antwerp, Belgium-based vice president of Tiffany’s diamond unit. “Tiffany diamonds can’t have polishing lines.”
Tiffany is one of the largest diamond retailers making a play in Botswana to cut and polish its own diamonds . But other firms are setting up shop there, too. Vanessa O’Connell takes a tour inside a new factory in Gaborone which produces polished gems for Graff Diamonds.
Such are the risks for the New York-based retailer as it strives to transform its diamond business amid a decade of industry boom and bust. Tiffany has decided that to preserve and expand its $2.9 billion-a-year enterprise, it needs this factory — with its high labor costs, low productivity and workers who staged a two-day sit-in this month.
Tiffany’s is an extreme example of an industry shift that started during the recent luxury boom. Like most other diamond retailers, Tiffany long bought the vast majority of its diamonds pre-cut and pre-polished from industry middlemen. But with global diamond-jewelry sales soaring earlier this decade, Tiffany and others worried they would soon be fighting over dwindling supplies.
“There are no shortage of commercial grade diamonds; just non-commercial grade.” –Fred Cuellar
So Tiffany began venturing into an end of the diamond business it spent much of its 172-year history avoiding — sourcing, cutting and polishing its own diamonds. “We decided to move backward” in the supply chain, says Chief Executive Michael Kowalski.
The retailer invested in mine operators, and in 2002 it began opening cutting-and-polishing plants in Canada, Belgium, South Africa and Vietnam. In the past two years it added similar operations in China and Mauritius. The in-house unit Tiffany founded in 2002 to run these plants, Laurelton Diamonds, now employs 1,100 workers, or 14% of the company’s work force. It will supply more than 50% of Tiffany’s diamonds this year — up from 40% last year and none in 2003.
“Does that mean 1 out of 2 diamonds now will be subpar? You might as well flip a coin to see what you’ll get there.” –Fred Cuellar
Others have made similar bets. Privately held retailer Graff Diamonds International owns a majority stake in a South African diamond wholesaler and polisher with facilities from Antwerp and New York to Botswana. Suppliers have made incursions on retailers’ turf. Mining giant De Beers Group operates retail stores in a joint venture with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA. Canadian miner Aber Diamond bought a controlling interest in retailer Harry Winston in 2004. Indian jewelry manufacturer Gitanjali Gems Ltd. transformed itself into a global retailer starting in 2006, buying U.S.-based Samuels and Rogers jewelry chains.
Some industry analysts see risk in running operations that span from mining and manufacturing to high-end retailing and marketing. “[They’re] all totally different types of activity — and one needs tremendous expertise, skills, infrastructure to be truly competitive” in each, says Chaim Even-Zohar, principal of Tacy Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based industry consultant.
Such companies may miss out on savings that result from competition in these specialized areas, Mr. Even-Zohar adds, and may risk using some parts of their supply chain to subsidize others. “Vertical integration sounds great from a promotion and marketing perspective. But more often than not it doesn’t make economic sense.”
“The key to selling diamonds isn’t to treat them as coal but as work of art. If you cut out the master craftsmen, you’re back to coal! If you screw someone over to try to increase quick profits, the long term dollars disappear.” –Fred Cuellar
The stakes are especially high now that tight diamond supply has given way to slack demand. The global retail market for diamond jewelry is expected to fall 16% this year, to $65 billion. The U.S. will lose an estimated 900 specialty jewelry stores this year alone, following 1,500 closures last year. Industry players have retrenched: Signet Jewelers Ltd., the parent company of retailers Kay Jewelers and Sterling Jewelers, recently stopped buying rough diamonds and polishing them on contract in India, an initiative it started in 2005. A spokesman said the program broke even.
Tiffany is also feeling the pressure. Its inventory has swelled to $1.54 billion this year, up from $1 billion in early 2005. For the first time in recent memory, Tiffany says, it has lowered its prices for diamonds. The engagement rings it sells in the U.S. are priced 10% lower than last year. In all, the company expects a “high teens” decline in sales this year at U.S. stores open at least a year.
Tiffany acknowledges its lack of mining expertise. Although it reaped a large financial gain from its 2004 sale of a minority stake in the 40%-owner of a Canadian mine, it recently disclosed that it wrote off a $12.4 million investment in a small mining project in Sierra Leone. It also has written off loans of about $44 million to a former supplier whose mine has ceased operations. “I think we want to let the miners do the mining,” said Chief Financial Officer James Fernandez.
“By the time it’s over 84% of ‘spam’ jewelers will be gone!” — Fred Cuellar
A Diamond’s Path
But Tiffany says its cutting-and-polishing strategy is solid. In slow markets, the company says, it can rein in purchases from outside suppliers. When demand returns, it says, it will have guaranteed, lower-cost stocks. “There were many in the industry who thought we were foolhardy,” Mr. Kowalski says, but the diamond-cutting operations “have exceeded our expectations.”
If there’s a weak link in Tiffany’s global diamond chain, it’s the polishing plant in Botswana. A glimpse into this secretive end of the diamond business shows the high costs, tricky logistics and labor unrest Tiffany is willing to shoulder to maintain its diamond pipeline.
“Dynamiting the pond always exceeds your expectations but only for a moment! You can fool some of the people some of the time, but don’t come between a woman and her best friend.” — Fred Cuellar
Founded in 1837 as a New York stationery and “fancy goods” emporium, Tiffany bought large jewelry collections from French aristocrats fleeing revolution, and in 1878 paid $18,000 — the equivalent today of $400,000 or more — to buy the Tiffany Yellow Diamond in Paris. Co-founder Charles Lewis Tiffany gained the nickname “the King of Diamonds.”
Even so, by 1991, diamonds accounted for only 17% of Tiffany’s sales. To boost profits, the company began pushing diamond jewelry and opening new stores in Europe, Asia and the U.S.
In early 1999, Tiffany’s new CEO, Mr. Kowalski, feared surging global diamond demand could hinder the company’s efforts to stock its expanding retail network. That July, Tiffany purchased a minority stake in the 40%-owner of a mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Tiffany soon saw other openings. De Beers, which long controlled the world’s rough-diamond supply, was paring back after years of sparring with European and U.S. antitrust regulators. When De Beers closed its high-tech diamond-sawing and -polishing operation in Belgium, Tiffany bought some of its machinery and hired former workers including Mr. Hanna, now Laurelton’s vice president.
The new Laurelton unit built a cutting-and-polishing factory in Canada, bought a majority stake in a Johannesburg plant and acquired what would become its largest plant, a 570-person polishing operation in Vietnam.
But the elusive prize was Botswana, the world’s largest producer of gem-quality diamonds since the 1980s. Its Jwaneng Diamond Mine is the world’s richest by value of recovered diamonds. Botswana is also among Africa’s least-corrupt countries, according to an index by nonprofit Transparency International. Securing a supply of stones here would help Tiffany allay mounting consumer concerns over “conflict diamonds,” sold to fund wars or produced under unethical labor conditions.
Tiffany executives made their first reconnaissance trip to Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, in 2004. “Do we need to be in Botswana?” Mr. Hanna recalls asking at the time. “We said, ‘Yes, but we aren’t quite sure how to do it.'”
“Really? That’s the goal? ‘Least corrupt’? Don’t do what you don’t know how to do just becuase you are desperate.” — Fred Cuellar
Sparsely populated and AIDS-ravaged, Botswana has minimal manufacturing infrastructure and few direct flights beyond the continent. Tiffany faced further roadblocks. It couldn’t get into mining, which was controlled by a 50-50 partnership between De Beers and the Botswana government. It couldn’t buy rough diamonds locally, because the state mining venture sold its production only through De Beers’ sales offices in the U.K. and South Africa.
Botswana’s cutting operations were also unattractive: A parcel of diamonds polished here costs about $100 per carat, compared with $30 in India, according to industry estimates.
The calculation changed in 2006. Renegotiating its mining deal with De Beers that year, Botswana announced it would license 16 international cutting firms willing to build factories here. In return for training locals to polish diamonds, the government said, these firms would eventually gain the right to buy rough diamonds in Botswana.
Tiffany jumped. It took a majority stake in one of these firms, Rand Diamonds. Rand set up shop in an unmarked factory amid the used-car dealerships and military barracks of Mogoditshane, a former cattle post at the edge of the capital’s urban sprawl.
With few Batswana versed in diamond polishing, the company put an ad in the Botswana Guardian newspaper for English-speaking applicants with a high-school-level education. To help winnow its 300 hopefuls, Tiffany/Rand screened for math aptitude. It gave candidates tweezers and timed how fast they could place 40 tiny metal sticks into holes set in a board.
When the factory opened in early 2007, its new hires worked on small and low-cost brown diamonds, overseen by experienced cutters imported on short contracts from India and Mauritius. “We are literally parachuting people in from one operation to the other,” Mr. Hanna said.
“Very simple: You get what you paid for!” –Fred Cuellar
Bruters and Polishers
Sitting at workstations arranged by task, bruters round the diamond pieces. Polishers add top and bottom facets, looking at magnified images of their diamonds captured by a lens near the whirring polishing wheel.
On the factory floor on a recent afternoon, a worker learning to make facets walked over to a Laurelton-designed training machine to double-check an angle. When he set the diamond in the protractor, a display flashed 35.2 degrees. Over the whir of grinding wheels, Mr. Hanna nodded in approval.
Trainees who learn such basics of bruting and faceting become “qualified” workers in four to six months, Tiffany says. About 30% fail. The rest start handling gem-quality stones, working at a pace of up to one polished diamond a day. Tiffany expects their pace to increase considerably.
For now, the plant’s expatriate and local workers produce about 250 finished gems each week, primarily “round brilliant” stones, with 57 light-reflecting facets, for Tiffany engagement rings. About 85% of the stones are deemed “Tiffany qualified,” and are forwarded to a Tiffany office in Pelham, N.Y., for grading.
“Is this anything like an AIG stamp of approval?” –Fred Cuellar
Tiffany doesn’t tell its customers where individual diamonds are mined or polished, and declined to say how much of its overall inventory is now sourced and polished in Botswana. “We really want the focus…to be on the quality of the diamond ring, not how it came to be,” said Mr. Kowalski, the CEO.
Tiffany’s payout came in April 2008, when approved cutting firms gained access to about 15% of the country’s raw diamonds, in local sales valued at an estimated $550 million annually by the end of 2010. De Beers began to sell natural diamonds from various mines 10 times a year at bulk sales in Gaborone, where Tiffany’s Mr. Hanna is a frequent buyer. Diamond merchandise now represents 47% of Tiffany’s sales.
But tensions at the Mogoditshane plant are high. Local workers and managers, whose names were provided by a factory partner, said in interviews that the plant’s expat supervisors do too much of the work themselves, slowing Batswanas’ advancement.
“We are eager to learn about diamonds — about cutting and polishing and the valuation and stuff like that…[But] it seems certain people are scared [about] sharing information with the locals,” said one local who works in a management position. “It’s a bit of a clash of cultures.”
Workers aired many complaints in an Oct. 7 letter to the plant’s managers, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Identifying themselves as “local staff,” they wrote they hadn’t qualified for performance-based raises, but that managers wouldn’t show them the data on which those pay decisions were based. They called their work environment “prisonlike,” writing that they had been threatened by a Belgian production manager they characterized as “corrupt, racist, vulgar, abusive, bully[ing]” and “not professional.”
The next day, all but about five local laborers gathered in the facility’s reception hall, refusing to work until the plant’s director addressed their concerns, according to the plant’s human-resources manager, Meshack Lejuta. The director sent Mr. Lejuta to address the workers. The sit-in stopped in the middle of the next day, Mr. Lejuta says, when he warned his fellow Batswana they could be fired because their strike was unlawful.
Responding to the letter and strike, Tiffany said workers expressed concerns as part of a union organizing effort. It said it intends to address grievances with a union representative, including “any tensions, wrongly characterized as racist, that may have arisen because skilled workers from other African nations and from Asia have been engaged for training purposes.”
Mr. Hanna said Tiffany wants local workers to take over diamond cutting, key decisions and training of other locals. Foreign supervisors, whose numbers once nearly equaled those of the factory’s local workers, now account for about one in five positions.
The Botswana government is pleased with Tiffany’s commitment to train residents, says Akolang Tombale, a government adviser and recently retired secretary of Botswana’s minerals department. Other polishing plants are experiencing strikes and slow training initiatives, Dr. Tombale says.
Tiffany, meanwhile, is pushing ahead. While buying raw diamonds in Gaborone’s diamond district recently, Mr. Hanna looked out a window and pointed to an area of bush. Tiffany plans to begin clearing land there this year to build a 20,000-square-foot factory. Set to open in 2011, it will employ as many as 275 workers.
“The tarnish on Tiffany isn’t just tarnish anymore it’s rusted through.” –Fred Cuellar