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Why Leonardo DiCaprio is Right

DiCaprio with children from the SOS Children’s Village in Maputo,
Mozambique during the filming of Blood Diamond

In the past months,  there has been great deal of hype around Leonardo DiCaprio and other celebrities’ decision to invest in the Diamond Foundry, the synthetic diamond manufacturer.

I think the Hollywood star and his partners made an excellent PR and self-promotion decision and I salute their agents’ sophistication and vision. Apart from obvious image benefits, it might well be an interesting business venture with enormous potential for growth, especially in medical, defence and electronics applications. Proximity to Silicon Valley giants is not accidental.

What was our industry response? Defensive at its best and hysterical at its the worst. Rob Bates wrote an excellent open letter to Mr. DiCaprio which was logical and raised important issues. I’m with you, Rob and so are most of the others in the industry.

The fact of the matter is that our industry has become irrelevant in the real world. In their eyes we are at best the shadowy servants of some big spenders, who themselves are often of dubious background, and at the worst — the dishonest back-stabbing pedlars capable of all possible sins, from exploiting  ethnic cleansing and terrorism to mixing synthetic and real products for profit.

So why should DiCaprio listen to us? Why should he refuse a perfectly sound, clean and potentially profitable offer and associate himself instead with “those fellows”? Put yourself in his place and give an honest answer.

So what’s the good news? I see plenty and here’s some.

  • When 100 million dollars is invested by serious people in a serious venture, it means that that they will not engage in all sorts of cheating, mixing and other unsavoury activities.
  • Investing serious money means planning profits for shareholders, resulting in technology improvements and production expansion, making synthetic diamonds cheaper and cheaper in the long run.
  • Opening a level field for competition where we are certain to win if we play it right.
  • Opportunity for the us to use the celebrities’ status in our own promotional effort without investing too much money.
  • The list goes on and on, even before involving producing countries’ well-being and development and other important considerations.

In conclusion — it’s all in our hands. We can let it be, transfer Indian factories to polishing of synthetics and close the bourses, or we can do something about it and use it to our advantage. But that is a conversation on a different topic.


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Marketing and public relation are essential but the end does not always justify the means. Leonardo DiCaprio and may have made an excellent decision for himself and the other investors in The Diamond Foundry, but it is one that is disingenuous and morally apathetic. What he suggests that you should avoid the mistreatment of innocents in Africa by not buying from Africa at all. That is like saying you can prevent the mistreatment of minorities in the workplace by never hiring minorities in the first place. While he proposes to provide solutions for affluent Western consumers, whose jewelry definitely would not be tainted by conflict diamonds, he at the same time has exacerbated the plight of literally million in Africa whose diamond resources would no longer represent a pathway to economic and social well being. The problem is not synthetic diamonds, which are legitimate and deserve to find their place in the market. The problem is how they are being marketed.
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