Brilliant Earth Non-Profit Fund
Brilliant Earth is excited to fund an initiative to help transform the lives of artisanal diamond diggers around the world. Our contribution is helping to establish new artisanal diamond mining programs that pay fair wages and that respect workers and the environment. Our non-profit partner, the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), has launched pilot programs in Sierra Leone and in Brazil. Both pilot projects produce “development diamonds,” or diamonds that are a precursor to fair trade diamonds that act as a tool of development rather than a source of suffering.
More than a million diamond diggers in developing countries live and work in extreme poverty, usually earning less than a dollar a day. Diamond diggers endure dangerous and abusive working conditions, and many deal with the physical and emotional scars left by civil war. We believe that new approaches to artisanal diamond mining can help address these problems.
Many of the profits in artisanal diamond mining are kept by diamond traders who visit local communities and buy up diamonds at bargain prices. The pilot programs in Sierra Leone and Brazil aim to cut out these middlemen, simplify the supply chain, and provide development diamonds directly to socially conscious consumers – including Brilliant Earth customers. Diamond diggers will take home a greater share of the economic value, benefiting their families and communities.
*Image Courtesy of DDI
Empowering local diamond diggers is essential to changing the dynamics of artisanal diamond mining. The pilot programs involve cooperatives, or businesses owned by the diamond diggers themselves. However, to be successful, the programs undertaken accommodate existing cultural and business practices. A team funded by Brilliant Earth has been working in Sierra Leone since 2011 to evaluate the technical and market factors necessary to launch a new mining cooperative. The DDI has undertaken a similar study in Brazil in 2012, where the cooperative model is already in use by some artisanal diamond diggers.
The short-term goal is for these pilot projects to grow into a stable and profitable enterprise. The DDI plans to launch more initiatives to support development diamonds, applying the lessons it learns in Sierra Leone and Brazil. In the long term, we envision the adoption of a certification system for fair trade diamonds that links together responsible artisanal diamond mining businesses and markets their diamonds to consumers worldwide.