In early 2013 I decided I wanted to get married to the woman of my dreams, Catherine. Having zero trust for the diamond industry, I was heavily researching oil paintings by Catherine’s favorite artist, Edgar Degas, and tried to quietly convince her that diamonds were not that cool. She disagreed (and deep down, I did too, having always loved the glimmer and fire of that beautiful stone).
Having traveled the world making documentaries and teaching photography, often in resourced-cursed communities like those where our world’s supply of diamonds derives, I refused to buy a diamond from the stores. From all of my questions to even the most dedicated humanitarian jewelers, I learned that no one knows, nor can know, exactly where a stone was born, how it was mined, by whom, and what the conditions were like. Even the Kimberley Process, which is the scheme that everyone who touches diamonds along the supply-chain hinges their integrity upon, is extraordinarily weak and flawed. And beyond the Kimberley Process, there are still leaks at every stage. I had no one to trust and felt lost. More so, I felt absolutely discouraged from spending so much money on something I would see on Catherine’s finger, that did not represent love to me, but poverty, pain, and mystery.
I then embarked on a two year journey to find a way to deliver exquisite diamond jewelry to consumers who want to be assured that their most precious possessions helped the world, not enslaved men, women, and children, while devastating the environment. First, I structured a concept and plans for a series of voyages to bring people to mine their own diamonds in Sierra Leone. Then, with a team, for one year we established our own diamond mining operations and worked with the Development Diamond Initiative to oversee artisanal mining practices and help improve the working conditions and compensation practices. We conducted a global search for productive, conscious, and ethical artisanal teams with a steady supply of diamonds. We contacted respectable leaders in the field, amazing, skilled humanitarians trying to do it right — but there was always a hitch. Without exception, everyone was doing something that did not fit with our code of ethics we wanted Clarity Project to embody, or working entirely illegally. We left no stone unturned, yet did not discover a scalable and viable source. We were devastated. And then it got worse.
Enter Ebola. Beginning in April, when Catherine and I were in Sierra Leone, the ebola virus began making its way across West Africa. In the countries Clarity Project had promised to help, thousands of people have died and we were powerless to help in the way we had desired.
Meanwhile, a new option arose. Since the early 1950s scientists have been trying to create gem quality diamonds. Beginning in the early 2000s, consumers could purchase small colored stones. Overtime, production of white stones has increased but remained poor in quality. Finally, in the summer of 2014, two labs made impressive breakthroughs and can now produce true, pure, high quality diamonds. Not cubic zirconia, not moissanite, diamonds – certified by the same governing body (International Gemological Institute) as those found in the ground.
Hallelujah! Finally a diamond I can give Catherine without flinching or cringing each time I peer at her left hand. A diamond I am not worried has a stained history of violence, environmental degradation, and enslavement. A diamond I can be proud to give and Catherine can be proud to wear.
I am a social entrepreneur, a philanthropist, who dabbles in finance. Catherine is a teacher, bringing up a new crop of young minds every year to make the world a better place. There is no room on our fingers, our necks, our wrists, for anything that has had such a destructive impact on people and their land.
But we love diamonds and we love what they can represent.
Clarity now sells jewelry that customers can be excited to talk about and share the journey of their diamond’s lifetime. Every diamond not only represents the love you share with your partner, the day you committed your life to one another, or brings back a memory of the loved one who gifted this heirloom to you, but something more – something greater.
When you purchase jewelry from Clarity Project, a microfinance loan is made in honor of that purchase. The glory of giving through microfinance, instead of straight donations, is, once that person has initiated their business, their farm, their venture, within approximately 1.5 – 3 years, that loan will be repaid. Upon repayment, the capital will be reallocated to do it again. And again. And again.
Imagine this scenario: Today, at twenty-six years old, you create the diamond ring of your partner’s dreams. They say yes. (They shout, YES!) We will distribute the profit from your ring to a woman in Ghana who makes shea butter (also known as Women’s Gold). And in three years, she has built her enterprise and repaid the loan. Look forward to the call you receive from us telling you who is on tap next to benefit from the love you and your partner share.
Then, at twenty-nine, you decide to have a child. After nine-months of pregnancy and labor you decide to offer your beautiful bride a gift to commemorate that day. Remembering that every three years there will be another community leader benefitting from your gift and multiply that out. By the time your child is ready to marry, we will have regifted, reloaned, reallocated, nearly ten times. All in the name of your child, the changemaker.
No more forced labor. No more bloodshed. No more environmental degradation. No more confusion.
We welcome you to get engaged.
We welcome you to get engaged.