Since it’s diamond’s birthstone month, I’m writing today to call your attention to a great organization the diamond and jewelry industry supports via our many fundraising activities. The group is called the Diamond Development Initiative. It works to empower over 1.5 million of the poorest people in the world – who have no way to earn money in their countries other than digging for diamonds. In fact, they are key to the economies of more than 15 African countries.

Women Diamond Miners These so-called “artisanal miners” dig up about 20% of the world’s diamonds using mostly hand tools, in places where diamonds are very close to the surface of the earth. They work for themselves and sell their diamonds on to brokers who may not give them what they’re really worth.

The DDI is working to improve conditions on the ground for these desperately poor people, on a number of fronts:

  • It provides education on safer mining practices that don’t harm the environment or the workers themselves.
  • It works with sponsors to fund mobile schools near the diamond mine sites so that children are not working in the mines and are instead getting an education. (We Americans take for granted our universal education system, which doesn’t exist in many poor countries.)
  • It champions the causes of women and girls – so that they are able to become miners themselves and earn money, get an education, and receive protection from harassment and violence.
  • It educates miners on the true value of the diamonds they dig up – often they don’t have this knowledge and are exploited as a result.

African Students The DDI does this and so much more – quietly, and with little fanfare. Development work is hard, slow, and incremental – but it’s essential to these poorest workers in our trade.

DDI’s ultimate goal – and one that is not far from being realized – is to make sure that miners they’ve worked with have a direct outlet to sell their responsibly produced diamonds on the world market – and directly reap the profits from these sales, via a kind of fair-trade system. I will be watching closely when these kinds of responsible diamonds become available for purchase and I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, you can be assured the diamonds Fortunoff Jewelry sells now are purchased from companies that buy their gems from responsible sources. Most diamonds (80%) are unearthed by big mining companies that are carefully monitored to ensure they protect their workers and the environment around their mines.
But we’d like to support the small miners, too, so they can afford to send their children to school and live a better, healthier life. That’s what DDI is all about.
If you too want to support DDI’s work, you can contribute in a number of ways here: