The World Diamond Council’s DiamondFacts.org Web site has inspired another site—RealDiamondFacts.org—that is as negative about the diamond industry as the WDC’s is positive.
The site, which calls itself a parody and perfectly mimics the look and feel of the original, was created by Diamonds for Africa Fund, an Austin, Texas, group that encourages people to donate their diamonds to communities “impacted by the diamond industry.”
Rupert Isaacson, co-founder of Diamonds for Africa Fund and a journalist/activist involved in the San Bushmen’s fight to stay on their land in Botswana, said he set up the site because the original DiamondFacts.org “left out a lot of information. We were on the ground in Africa and have not seen any wholehearted benefit from the diamond industry.”
Diamonds for Africa Fund is associated with Brilliant Earth, a San Francisco retailer of Canadian stones that donates 5 percent of its profits to Diamonds for Africa Fund. The two co-founders of Brilliant Earth are advisory board members of Diamonds for Africa. In addition, the group and company seem to share the same public relations person, and some of the language—including criticism of the Kimberley Process—on the two sites is similar.
Indeed, the RealDiamondFacts.org site encourages consumers to buy “ethical” Canadian diamonds, with Brilliant Earth listed as the first of three choices, one of which does not sell mined diamonds. “Canadian diamonds are currently the only diamonds that can be tracked from their point of origin,” the site says. “Other trackable diamonds that are ethically mined, cut, and polished may soon become available. Fair trade diamonds from Western Africa are hopefully just a few years away—we wholeheartedly support these efforts!”
The site originally referred to Canadian stones as “Fair Trade,” but that was changed when the site was informed that “Fair Trade” is a trade name restricted to products from Third World countries.
Some nongovernmental organizations—including Partnership Africa Canada and Global Witness—have criticized attempts to sell Canadian diamonds to socially conscious consumers, noting that Canadian stones don’t help African countries. Isaacson dismissed the criticisms, saying “we are not an NGO that exists just to perpetuate themselves” and arguing that he wants consumers to have the choice of an ethically mined diamond.
He added that Brilliant Earth is not “the organization. The organization is me and my keyboard.”
He argued that the diamond industry is in no danger from his site, noting that only one person has so far donated a diamond for the Diamonds for Africa Fund.
“I don’t think our site will have any effect,” Isaacson says. “We have little resources. We don’t have a budget. The diamond industry can look after themselves. I’m sure they will.”
Originally, funk legend George Clinton was supposed to headline a Diamonds for Africa benefit, but Isaacson says those plans are “up in the air.”
He added, “We’re reasonable people. If something on the site is not true we will amend it.”
Indeed, after talking with JCK, Isaacson did change references to the now-settled war in Sierra Leone, from the present tense to the past tense. Still, other possible points of dispute remain, such as the site’s contention that “FBI reports and a Washington Post investigation have linked Al Qaeda money-laundering efforts to the rough diamond trade in Sierra Leone.” This was true for the conflict diamond trade, but—at press time—no one has suggested it’s true for the current rough trade there.
Despite the hostile tone of RealDiamondFacts.org, Isaacson said his group will work with anybody. “We would work with De Beers tomorrow. Anything that will help the people on the ground.
“We want to keep the dialogue going,” he said. “Criticism is great. We also welcome donations.”