Synthetics Promoted as ‘Diamonds for Humanity’

The diamond industry is up in arms after a group called Diamonds for Humanity promoted synthetic diamonds as conflict free at the recent Academy Awards.

Environmental group Global Green USA, working with Diamonds for Humanity, put lab-grown gems from Gemesis, Sarasota, Fla., in the environmentally conscious SWAGG (Sustainability, Wellness, and Green Gifts) bags it gave celebrities participating in its third annual Red Carpet—Green Cars campaign. A release called the stones untouched “by human or environmental sacrifice.”

Diamonds for Humanity tried to get a celebrity on the red carpet to model its conflict-free necklace, consisting of 44 conflict-free Canadian diamonds and 11 Gemesis “cultured” yellows. None took them up on it.

A press release calls Diamonds for Humanity an initiative “by designer Sabiha Foster in reaction to the civil wars and human-rights abuses fueled by trade in illicit diamonds.” Proceeds will go to African-based charities and organizations. The group is also planning an event in April co-sponsored by Harper’s Bazaar .

Efforts to contact Foster were unsuccessful. But Gemesis president David Hellier told JCK the designer “is not pointing a finger at the trade. This doesn’t take away from the fact that a natural certified conflict-free diamond can be a part of this too.

“The purpose of Diamonds for Humanity is to help people affected by issues surrounding the diamond trade,” he added. “It’s a way to work with nongovernmental organizations and give back in a positive way. We are very proud to be doing that.”

Hellier said his company is not actively promoting lab-grown gems as a conflict alternative, but he adds, “We have been very surprised by the number of consumers who have voiced their interest in diamonds that they can feel good about buying. There is no environmental impact with our diamond. For those customers that really value the social-political impact of their products, we offer an exceptional alternative, because you always know its origin.”

De Beers spokeswoman Lynette Hori said her company was “disappointed” in the rhetoric from Diamonds for Humanity.

“The overwhelming majority of the world’s rough diamonds (98.8 percent of global rough diamond production) and all rough diamonds mined by De Beers or its partners are now sold under a rigorous international certification scheme [the Kimberley Process] … subject to exacting independent government scrutiny,” she said. “Anyone who buys a Kimberley Process certified diamond can have confidence that these precious stones have never passed through the hands of those who may have used them to fund conflict, terrorism, or oppression.”

Hori noted that the diamond industry already contributes substantially to African development. “Trade in diamonds underpins three of the most successful African economies: Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa,” she said.