Ella Stein Polishing Lives with “Conflict-Free” Diamonds

If you’ve ever seen Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio (playing Jack) and Kate Winslet (playing Rose), you’ve seen the famous ending where Rose drops the Heart of the Ocean blue diamond necklace into the ocean.  Many people have made hilarious parodies of that scene over the years.  But if you also remember the rest of the movie, the necklace bought all sorts of “conflicts” for Rose and everyone around her.

If you don’t want to end up like them, Ella Stein’s jewelry are made with conflict-free diamonds!  *Wink eyes*


But what really makes a diamond conflict-free?  Let’s find the story behind it and define it because I’m curious myself, too.

Almost two decades ago, a civil war broke in Sierra Leone (on the coast of West Africa).  Instead of reducing the tension, the Liberian president Charles Taylor fueled the efforts of the rebels and coerced the civilians in exchange for mining diamonds for him.  As a result, conflict diamonds, or “blood diamonds” was coined from this unfortunate event.  Things got ugly quick when children, men, and women were exploited as slaves to mine for diamonds under the toiling sun and back-breaking conditions.  One of the most excruciating parts of the mining was they had to dig with their bare hands into mud and gravel.  In an attempt to end all of this, the Kimberley Process was born, and it started in Kimberley, South Africa.  Everyone in the United Nations, European Union, and other diamond-producing states in Africa gathered together to come up with a strategy to prevent or eradicate the circulation and trade of “conflict diamonds.”  From there, the Kimberley Process defined conflict diamonds as “rough diamonds used to finance wars against governments.”

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So that’s that.  We have the story and the definition, but doesn’t something feel amiss?  If you take a good look at the Kimberley Process’ definition of conflict diamonds, it’s a very limited definition that doesn’t take into account other forms of violence and abuse that easily comes with working near diamonds.  It excludes the children, men, and women who are often abused and earn low wages for laborious, inhumane work environments.  This is why even if we see diamond certified by the Kimberley Process, it doesn’t warrant that it’s free from all forms of violence.  This is where the emergence of Fair Trade is so beneficial and crucial to our society, and Ella Stein bridges the indulgence of luxury and ethical craftsmanship together.  Prior to this, it was a rare consideration in the jewelry business, and now we’re consciously shifting away from that gradually.

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Ella Stein revolutionized the world of diamonds when they handed it to women in India to polish and craft into bracelets, necklaces, and rings.  Not only were these diamonds conflict-free, but these women were earning fair livable wages, retirement packages, medical/life insurance, paid six months maternity leave, as well as a paid four months vacation.  How incredible is that?!  This is practically equivalent to the benefits offered by major corporations in America!

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Deep down, I didn’t know the actual circumstances and disadvantages those third world countries experienced other than starvation.  I also quietly questioned how effective are our donations to those countries if they don’t have jobs or opportunities?  But now that I am older and have been in the work force for awhile, I understand empowerment trumps charity.  Confidence in the future and oneself is built through developing skills and witnessing the magic of your work come to life.  These ladies in India are no longer bounded by their upbringing, past, and male figures in their life–be it their father or husband.  And if more startups and other existing businesses continue to build their system on people, the profits will follow and slowly but surely, there will no longer be a stratification of the first, second, or third countries.

Here’s my “Wishbone” ring from Ella Stein, promising to commit myself to this cause.

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