I was sitting in the soft grass of Battery Park in New York City. The harbor in front of me, holding The Statue of Liberty gave off a cool, breeze and the sun was warm on my cheeks. I sat and waited on my then boyfriend to set up the camera for what I thought was to take pictures of the two of us together with this incredible backdrop. When he came and sat beside me, I took in the moment of love and simplicity as one that I knew I’d never forget. Then, it was there. Right in front of me, in his hand was my beautiful, small, blue diamond ring. Completely shocked and overwhelmed, I froze. This was the moment I had been waiting for, but at the same time was so sincerely surprised by that I sat at an utter loss for words. I had never given much thought about diamonds until the months leading up to that moment. Questions often ran through my head such as, “What do I want it to look like?” or “How big/small should it be?” Even though I never could clearly envision the perfect ring, I knew one thing: my ring had to be conflict free.
In 2013, I was introduced to the concept of fair trade. When I began exploring what this meant I realized how exploitative the world of consumerism really is. Unfair wages, horrible working conditions, indentured servitude and even death tend to come with many mass produced products floating around in the stores we shop in daily. I remember questioning everything I purchased at that time because I was so fearful of buying something that may have caused the person who created the product suffering. It was all overwhelming, to say the least. As I ventured further into the understanding of what I could do to fight these injustices, I realized that the best thing for me to do was to start small and be wise about my purchases as I go. This started with chocolate. For example, instead of buying Nestle chocolate bars, I would buy a brand called Equal Exchange from the coffee shop that I work in because they practice more ethical business. Their employees are paid well, they work under fair conditions and this is followed throughout the entire production process.
In 2017, my now fiancé and I began talking more and more about marriage. One night, over dinner, we discussed what I really wanted in a ring. Although I had no clue what I wanted it to look like, I knew that it had to be conflict free. I knew that wearing the suffering of another human being was something that I didn’t want to take part in. The diamond industry is large and growing. It is an industry full of corruption, greed, violence, and pollution. There are nearly one million diamond miners in Africa who work on less than one dollar a day. Many are forced to work in conditions that are breeding grounds for deadly landslides, mine collapses, diseases and sexual abuse. Children are often recruited as miners because of how cheap their labor actually is. These young girls and boys miss out on so many opportunities, including the simplicity of just being able to be a child. The diamond production companies in these various third world countries also fail to contribute to their own country’s economic growth, continuing to perpetuate the rise in poverty levels and robbing the poor of opportunities to grow.
With this knowledge, I knew how important it was to find a reliable source to point my fiancé to as he was searching for my ring. I found Brilliant Earth through a blog post on the best fair trade diamond sources. They stood out to me to be the place with the best value economically and the best mission. 5% of all of their profits are sent to communities that have been affected by unethical practices. The diamonds that they offer go beyond what typical “conflict free diamonds” are considered. Although some jewelers actually do offer conflict free diamonds, the conflict that they are referring to is limited to diamonds that fund rebel movements against the government in their respective countries. Brilliant Earth only offers diamonds, as well as silver and gold that are free of all conflict including human rights abuse, poverty and environmental degradation.
Once I found Brilliant Earth, I felt relieved. With so much suffering in the world, I feel as if it is so important to always search for a way to contribute to freedom. Once I saw my gorgeous blue diamond ring, I fell in love. Ethical diamonds do not look different. They do not wear out more easily and they are not too expensive. They do, however, give hope to so many in situations of oppression and grief. For those who have rings that may not be ethical, I encourage you to cherish the diamonds that you have now, but in the future, take suffering into consideration when making jewelry purchases. Remember that beauty in the form of diamonds does not have to come at such a high price. The suffering of human beings in the diamond industry is ugly; it leaves a bad taste in the back of my throat and brings forth angry tears. With conscious thinking and committed hearts, I believe that everyone can make the ugly, corrupt diamond industry a little less ugly each and every day by taking the right steps toward freedom.
Author - Sam Harrelson
The Mailroom Barber Co product line was born out of a need for ethically sourced grooming and the stance toward freedom that is at the backbone of everything we make and plan to do. Read more about our commitment to ethical sourcing here.