When her boyfriend proposed to her in 1999, Anna-Mieke Anderson became the proud owner of a diamond engagement ring. All was bliss until her father asked her where the diamond itself came from. Little did he know his question would alter the course of her life.
In researching an answer to her dad’s question, Anderson learned that diamond mines have a reputation for fostering corruption and exploiting workers, their families and the communities in which they exist, reports the Financial Times. They’re also associated with “environmental devastation, severely damaging the land and water,” according to Brilliant Earth. Seven years later, Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2006 film Blood Diamond would help create mainstream awareness of these issues.
Hoping to make even a small difference, Anderson found an organization that advocates for mining communities and sponsored a 7-year-old boy named PonPon. As she exchanged letters with him, a stark picture of his life in Liberia developed. “It wasn’t until he wrote to me and said, ‘I had a great summer because only one of my classmates was killed,’ that I realized how severe this was,” says Anderson.
With PonPon in mind, Anderson decided to make a bold move and launch her own line of conflict-free fine jewelry. But she wanted to define “conflict-free diamond” on her own terms. Currently, the designation is under the purview of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, created in 2003 to prevent the import of diamonds “used by rebel movements to finance military action opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments,” according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.