"The idea is that this is a diamond that makes the world a better place", Martin Rapaport is quoted as he named this large Sierra Leone diamond rough found last year. This rough diamond weighs 709 carats. (Photo is by Rappaport Group).
Martin Rapaport does not have a track record for bringing peace to the diamond industry. He has a better record of being disruptive. He isn't someone who is happy with the status quo and it drives him to be innovative, insightful and imaginative in an industry which is loath to bring change with new policies or practices.
The world is changing. A young man, working for $2.50 a day digging in the African dirt for shiny rough pebbles and his 'Supporter', a 44 year old Pastor who scraped up enough of his meager income to hire 5 men to dig for these pebbles, They were digging for diamonds. They were not digging these stones to keep and wear, they were digging with faith that the diamonds, hopefully, would improve their lives. More important to note, Emmanuel Momoh the supporter, believed that he could change his immediate world, and his community, with these diamonds.
This work is a gamble and it paid, but not always, and often not enough. Is the system of small diamond brokers,who buy these diamonds in Sierra Leone Africa broken and in need of fixing? Can we apply American economics and democracy to a developing country where corruption and payoffs are the everyday way of doing business? Martin Rapaport thinks so, and he is working to evolve the model.
Americans have high standards for finished products, but they are more vague on the ethics of the 'how' they came to be than the 'what' or product they desire. There was a client of mine who wanted to purchase a large gem for his wife. It was a substantial item and he was not really willing to invest the money necessary to purchase from a top vendor. The gem was selected from several that were brought in on memo and once the item was made and ready, he wanted a written story about the gem's origins. I wrote the real story about what I knew from the gem vendor. Most likely the gem was smuggled out of the country, (to avoid paying gov't taxes on the sizable gem). The client was not happy and insisted that I make up a story for him. He wasn't unhappy with the gem or it's price, just the story! He was uncomfortable with the truth, but not so uncomfortable that he refused to purchase the item, he just didn't want to REALLY know the origin.
Who cares about the story? Why do the stories matter? We are at the beginning of a generation where they understand that the stories and the origins matter, because there are people and communities affected by those stories. Historically the greed or demand from consumers in developed countries, has driven the depletion of gems, minerals, flora and fauna of many less developed countries.
Finding the Peace Diamond was a blessing for Emmanuel Momoh. The decision he made to follow a moral and ethical high road challenges his government. The government in Sierra Leone has one chance to make a first impression regarding their response to Momoh's good will gesture. Here is a citizen who did not "take the money & run". He gave the lion's share to his country and we are all waiting to see if they do the right thing for the country and Momoh's community.
The young man who found the diamond, that story doesn't have a very happy ending. When someone without the education or experience of any amount of wealth is presented with wealth, they do not always heed good advice.
Let's hope that there will be PEACE, in Kono District's little town of Koryardu in Sierra Leone, this Christmas. Will we have Peace on Earth? That is up to us, and it is more likely when we care as much about the 'how' story as we do about the 'what' of our desires.
Merry Christmas & Blessings for a Bright and Joyous New Year!