An Interview with Alex Twersky from Finesse Diamonds about Kalahari Diamonds & Ethical Diamond Sourcing

By Page on March 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Page talks with Alex Twersky, Vice-President of Finesse Diamonds about ethically sourced Kalahari diamonds and Finesse’s patented 88 cut.

 Can you talk about the relationship between the Namibian mine and De Beers? Many of our customers don’t want to have anything to do with De Beers because of its bloody history. How are customers assured that the Kalahari diamonds are not just a positive PR campaign for De Beers?

De Beers suffers from a bad public relations problem There is a reason why De Beers earned a nasty reputation and is associated with bad corporate behavior. However, the De Beers of today is not the same as the one 50 to 100 years ago. Firstly, they are no longer a monopoly. They were forced to change their practices because of all the terrible press and market pressures. If you are a consumer looking for a diamond with a verified origin, there are very few mines in which you can buy the stone and have it be certified. Currently, De Beers is the only major diamond supplier that you can buy a diamond that has a verified origin.

The largest mine that De Beers operates is in Botswana. The Botswana mine is a joint venture between the Boatswain government and De Beers in which the Botswana government owns 15% of the mine. One of the reasons why Botswana has the social progressive programs that it does is because of the capital generated from the mine.

De Beers has a very similar relationship with Namibia in which Namibia owns a portion of the mine, however, it is not as extensive as the Botswana arrangement. Because of its image, its partnership with the governments, and to some extent its dependency on these countries’ resources, De Beers has a big stake in operating fairly. There is a collision of interests between these African governments and De Beers as a corporation.

Continue reading An Interview with Alex Twersky from Finesse Diamonds about Kalahari Diamonds & Ethical Diamond Sourcing

From the New York Times: Diamonds from Sierra Leone

By Page on June 24, 2011 at 2:08 pm

We found this article on diamond mining in Sierra Leone in the New York Times archive from 2007. It illuminates some of the sticky and trying intricacies behind diamond mining and the international diamond market, as well as some things that are being done to help improve the industry.  The article reveals how the situation remains far from just, though work has been done to improve the human rights and environmental issues surrounding diamond mining even in the three years since the article was written.  We believe it is important to be informed of issues behind the diamond mining industry so that we can source our diamonds and other materials from the most environmentally and socially just places possible.

Diamonds Move From Blood to Sweat and Tears


By Page on June 22, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Summery fun bead necklaces made from leather string and Ghanaian trade beads. Available for purchase at the Bario-Neal store.

A little background info: these historical glass beads continue to serve as currency in Ghana, and they fluctuate in value like gold does. Some beads, especially older ones, may be as expensive as gold rings.  The beads for sale at Bario-Neal are newer and less expensive, made from melted beer and soda bottles–still beautiful no less!

Some photos from Page’s trip to Ghana where she found these beads:


By Page on May 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm

*Click on the image to view this ring on our website
At Bario-Neal jewelry we source our sapphires from the Chimwadzulu Hill Mine in Southern Malawi. Malawi‘s shallow deposits of sapphires promote small scale mining activity that lessens its impact on the surrounding area. The Chimwadzulu Hill Mine protects wildlife habitats, streams, watersheds, and groundwater by operating only during the dry season from April to October. The mining operation is kept modest in scope to improve future reclamation efforts after the projected 20-year lifespan of the mine. Today, 70 people work at the Chimwadzulu Hill Mine, making it the largest operation of its kind in Malawi and an important contributor to the local economy. The mine embraces fair trade principlesby paying above-average wages and offering health benefits to all workers. The sapphires are cut and polished at a factory in China which is a pioneer in the jewelry industry, paying workers three times the minimum wage and offering comprehensive employee benefits. 

The Chimwadzulu Hill Mine was formed through a pioneering lease with the Malawi Mining Agency that addresses community concerns from health and education to long-term community development. Through the agreement, the mine has built an elementary school in the surrounding area that supports 450 pupils. The agreement also includes rebuilding a local medical clinic and building four teacher housing units at the school. The mine is also setting up a subsidiary to train local artisans, benefiting local economic development.



Hearts of Darkness: An expose of semi-precious gemstone polishing in India

By Page on April 3, 2011 at 8:25 pm


More than 2,000 men, women and children in India have died miserable deaths due to silicosis, while polishing gemstones for export to the U.S. and Europe.

Agate and other semi-precious gemstone hearts, beads pendants, earrings, bracelets, ornaments””and even rosary beads and the Star of David are made in India.

Workers are paid just 17 ½ to 33 ½ cents an hour to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, squatting in front of primitive grinding wheels, using their fingers to press agate and other semi-precious stones against the wheels to shape them. In the process they are covered with silica dust.

Many workers start when they are 12 or 13 years old. The National Labor Committee met an eight-year-old boy who was covered with silica dust as he worked shaping agate beads.

The child workers are paid 11 to 13 ½ cents an hour.

Thirty percent of all gemstone grinders will die of silicosis.

Six to ten percent of non-working family members and neighbors will also die of silicosis due to exposure to the airborne silica dust.

Scores of others are reduced to skin and bones, unable to walk and struggling to breathe.

When poor workers borrow money from their “trader”””who supplies the raw stones, organizes the manufacture and export of gemstones””they become “bonded labor.” If the worker dies, his wife is asked to take over the grinding. If she dies, her children will be asked to do so.

Silicosis is 100 percent preventable. But without proper occupational safeguards, with continued exposure, silicosis becomes 100 percent fatal.

It does not have to be this way. With simple technology””a wet grinding process in combination with exhaust ventilation systems can drastically reduce exposure to silica dust.

The government of India has also failed to enforce every single one of its labor laws to protect the lives of the agate grinders.

The National Labor Committee is calling upon the American people to sign a letter to the International Colored Gemstone Association, based in New York City and Idar-Oberstein, Germany, urging that we act together to end the exploitation, misery and wreckless homicide of India’s gemstone grinders. We are also asking the U.S. Government to help.

To learn more about the issues with stone polishing please visit this link to read The Hearts of Darkness report: hearts_of_darkness1-12