My Fair Diamond creates unique jewellery with ethical diamonds
Conflict diamonds don’t stand a chance to make it to Antwerp. The stringent control system, a unique feature of the diamond industry in this city, rules that out. But what about the working conditions in diamond mines? My Fair Diamond’s jewellery marries strong ethical guarantees to an exclusive and captivating design.
My Fair Diamond’s story starts at a company that offers business advice relating to ethical practices and corporate social responsability. Marie d’Huart: “As a social auditor for CAP Conseil, the company I run with my business partner Serge De Backer, I travel around inspecting working conditions in mines and factories. In recent years, we have also reported non-financial information for companies in the diamond industry.”
From these experiences, complemented by intensive contact with the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), it appeared that more and more people in the diamond industry are showing interest in a new business model. Stories about conflict diamonds and whitewashing tend to find their way to the general public and lead a life of their own. Antwerp has a strong position with regard to control and compliance, but the city cannot keep stories originating elsewhere in the world from harming the industry’s reputation.
Marie d’Huart: “We wanted to demonstrate the viability of a different approach and researched the ethical, technical and commercial feasibility of the new business model we envisaged. There appeared to be a great interest among consumers to know the provenance of a diamond, right to the actual location where it was mined. Strangely enough, tracing a diamond back to where it was mined was not possible up to now.”
Turning the new business model into reality, Marie d’Huart and Serge De Backer decided to set up a new enterprise: CAP Source. Marie d’Huart: “CAP Source is a registered diamond company, approved by Diamond Office, enabling us to buy diamonds ourselves. We have set up partnerships with a number of committed actors pursuing an ethical approach.”
One of these partners is DDI (Diamond Development Initiative), a non-governmental organisation working in diamond mines in Sierra Leone and endorsed by the AWDC. DDI wants to put the Maendeleo Diamond Standards into practice to get workers in small-scale mines out of the informal economy and ameliorate their working conditions. Marie d’Huart: “The mines where DDI is present appear to function well enough. They create added value for local communities and families, wages are fair and the absence of forced or child labour is guaranteed. In short: they are an ideal source for our diamonds.”
CAP Source decided to market a jewellery collection with diamonds from Farandu, a certified small-scale mine in Sierra Leone. Marie d’Huart: “CAP Source was the first company to buy ethical diamonds from that mine. We travelled to the site and selected and bought the diamonds ourselves. We started off with caution. For our first collection, we bought diamonds for eight rings.”
CAP Source’s jewellery collection is called My Fair Diamond, a brand name referring to the unique character of each piece and to the ethically responsible origin of the diamonds. For the design of the first My Fair Diamond collection CAP Source called upon StudioNedda, the Antwerp design bureau led by Nedda El-Asmar and Erik Indekeu. Marie d’Huart: “Nedda designed unique rings for us, adapted to each of the eight diamonds. We had the rings made out of Fairmined gold to accentuate our support for ethical small-scale mines. One of the rings was bought by Diva, the diamond and jewellery museum in Antwerp, and included in its collection.”
Know-how from Antwerp
Apart from StudioNedda, a number of other professionals based in Antwerp contributed to the first My Fair Diamond collection. Marie d’Huart: “Antwerp is a must. All the knowledge and expertise you need can be found in this city. We called upon Nicole Despiegelaere to assess the rough diamonds. The stones were cut by Pieter Bombeke, a renowned diamond cutter who found our project exciting enough to join us on our journey to Sierra Leone. The rings were produced by Rayjo and further refined and polished by Tesouro. Finally, the diamonds were set by Luc Ceulemans, well-known for his work on the Diamond Games golden racket.”
For the second My Fair Diamond collection, to be introduced in the near future, CAP Source is going one step further. Marie d’Huart: “It will be an extension of the first collection, with diamonds in new shapes set in new designs. We will offer forty rings, including some models in yellow gold.” My Fair Diamond stays true to the principle of letting the properties of the diamond guide the design of the ring, not the other way around. “You never know in advance what a stone will look like in a piece of jewellery. We bought some heterogeneous batches for the new collection. We want to use all diamonds included in these batches ourselves, including the smaller or less perfect ones.”
For Marie d’Huart and the numerous partners in the project, the new My Fair Diamond collection is instrumental in developing a new approach for the diamond industry. Marie d’Huart: “Going from advice to production was a big adventure for us. Some people thought we were mad and never expected us to succeed. There will always be people who do not want to change anything. But we are focussing on people who do want a change. It’s a niche audience that just keeps growing. We want to exert a positive impact on the whole chain, from mine to market, and make a meaningful difference with My Fair Diamond, especially for those who need it the most.”