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How Serena Williams is helping to combat the "Unstoppable" rise of conflict-free diamonds

Not content with being one of the best female tennis players of all time, Serena Williams pivoted into designing her own brand of accessories in 2019. Created in partnership with KP Sanghvi, the Serena Williams Jewelry line is not exactly for the faint of wallet — its cheapest piece is just under $300.

However, despite the somewhat forbidding price tag of its products, the company has been set up to ensure that much of the money it makes will go towards good causes. The Unstoppable range, launched in July 2020, is actually more affordable than its counterparts in the regular Serena Williams collection. This lower price point has allowed the company to donate all of the profits made by the Unstoppable range to the Opportunity Fund, an organisation set up to support Black businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, for its first month on sale. As the fund’s CEO Luz Urrutia explained: “We have an opportunity here to build back something better than we had before by accelerating investments in Black entrepreneurs.”

But even before the pandemic hit, SWJ was doing its part to further good causes, with all of its pieces made from conflict-free stones and ethically-sourced metals. This has been a focal point for much of the industry in recent years, which has responded in kind to the public’s search for sustainability in the products they buy. Here’s how ethically-sourced jewelry became so important to consumers.

What’s so unethical about jewelry?

You’d be forgiven for wondering why items so easily associated with luxury and wealth are surrounded by any kind of controversy, but if you cast your mind back to the nineties, you may remember that the diamond trade was big news as well as big business. This was when the story behind blood diamonds (also known as conflict diamonds) first became a public concern.

The blood diamond controversy, which later inspired and gave its name to a 2006 Leonardo DiCaprio film, revolved around the illegal mining and trading of precious gems, often done to finance anti-government organisations. The most notable country in the scandal was Sierra Leone, which used its booming diamond trade to finance an ongoing civil war, but many African nations also came to rely on illegal and unsafe mining practices including child labor.

How has the industry responded?

Since these issues first came to light, the sector has rallied to find a way to quash these methods of mining for diamonds. While the 2003 introduction of the Kimberley Process has gone some way to providing paper trails for all mass market diamonds, it’s not a perfect system. As ethical jewelers Taylor & Hart have noted, this is because “no one can force the countries in conflict to [participate],” with some “politely declining” the invitation.

This has led to technology being used to a greater extent to both mediate and instigate the process altogether. Lab-grown diamonds, for example, are structurally identical to those mined naturally, but created by artificially generating high pressure to turn carbon into gemstones. As one recent Guardian piece has noted, these kinds of diamonds have a greater appeal to younger, climate change-conscious generations of consumers.

And, in order to combat the potential fraudulence of the paper-certificated Kimberley Process, some companies are beginning to make use of the same blockchain technology which underpins cryptocurrency, more accurately tracking diamonds’ movement from mines to merchants in order to guarantee its conflict-free status.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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