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A fair trade approach to Africa's diamonds

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TCP: We are developing strong relationships with a handful of mining initiatives across Namibia, South Africa, and Sierra Leone. Some mines are cooperatives and are community owned. Others are owned by small companies or single landholders. These types of artisanal, or small scale, mining projects are our ideal sources, where we feel we can have the biggest impact. In each case it is a process of reinforcing their good work while helping them move toward increasingly responsible practices. As you can probably imagine, it takes a long time to build trusting, productive relationships in this industry – with miners, their communities, and their allies. We work with our customers on an individual basis to inform them where their diamond came from.

JM: With no background in the business at first, how did you learn to do this?

TCP: We're actively educating ourselves – we're studying gemology and taking diamond evaluation and licensing courses. We also work with people we trust who can evaluate our stones.

JM: The diamond business doesn't seem all that warm and fuzzy; who did you get to teach you what you needed to know, and how?

TCP: There are people who have worked in the diamond industry for many years (literally decades) trying to get more socially responsible diamonds to market. We've had a few great mentors, one of which is a German geologist and anthropologist named Thomas. Coincidentally, he is a big fan of Mother Jones and recognized my name from the masthead when we first reached out to him. We instantly bonded. We've traveled with Thomas throughout several countries in Africa, and through him we've met a lot of incredibly inspiring people, with whom we've developed deep, trusting relationships. He's been kind enough to take us under his wing. There are several others too, and because the industry tends to be secretive, it's taken a lot of research and effort to build these relationships, and we value them immensely.

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