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Victory! Rafael Marques is Free!

RafaelMOur friend, a human rights activist facing ten years in prison and $1.2 million in fines for speaking out on behalf of artisanal diamond miners and their families, walked out of court a free man today. Along with a coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International, two jewelers spoke out in support of Rafael while the entire diamond and jewelry industry remained largely silent, despite the diligent reporting on his case by some of the best journalists in the US jewelry trade journals.

He is allowed to continue to monitor the situation in Angola’s diamond fields, and the generals agreed to ensure the human rights situation  is improved. Which in the end, is all he really wanted.

This one counts in the “victory” column. I strongly suspect that if individuals hadn’t spoken up on his behalf, the results may have been very, very different.

Two Jewelers Take a Stand

RafaelA short while ago, we were approached by a coalition of NGOs hoping to get retail jewelers to speak up on behalf of investigative journalist, Rafael Marques de Morais, whose book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, features detailed accounts of torture and human rights abuses in Angola’s diamond sector. We have known Rafael for many years and have highlighted his work in the past.

The major jewelry and diamond companies in the US were approached to make a statement of support. All but two remained silent.

As I told an industry trade publication, “For many in our industry, ethical issues are all about damage control. It’s disappointing that people don’t want to take a proactive stand.”

I have no doubt now that we have taken a stand, both with our initial statement in March and with this joint public letter, other jewelry companies will follow our lead (once their PR department’s tell them it’s a good idea) now that two prominent jewelers have made public statements calling for the charges against Rafael Marques to be dropped and requesting Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos “to order the formation of an independent commission that will fairly and objectively investigate the allegations of human rights abuses committed against artisanal diamond mining communities reported by Rafael Marques.”.

We will continue our efforts to speak up on behalf of Rafael, as well as the countless artisanal diamond miners who have been victims of Angola’s diamond trade. To us, there are many things far more important than trying to protect the image of the global diamond industry.

Eleanor in Blue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe create numerous variations on our Eleanor engagement ring making it suitable for rounds, ovals, cushions, princess, and emerald cuts. But somehow, adding color just makes this ring extra special.

Our Eleanor, set with a blue sapphire center surrounded by Canadian diamonds, is one example. Colored stones. No two are exactly alike. Just like your special someone.

Burma’s First Cardinal Speaks Out

FatherCharlesWe first met Charles Maung Bo (or Father Charles as he likes to be called) many years back and we had a wonderful, conversation-filled dinner at a small Thai restaurant. When one pictures a Roman Catholic church official, one conjures up an image of formality. But Father Charles, who at the time was Burma’s first Archbishop, was anything but. He was funny. Interesting. And certainly full of stories of life behind the iron borders of Burma.

In February, Pope Francis promoted him to Cardinal. In his first Easter message Cardinal Maung Bo  spoke out against “international looters and cronies” who have long-exploited Burma’s finite natural resources.

“Evil does not give up easily…Ceasefire interludes are used by all armed people – state and non-state actors – to loot the resources of the people. The teak, timber and jade, and other treasures of the people, are open to merciless looting…Do not bury our people once again into poverty. Do not open their resources to the international looters and cronies.”

During the Vatican ceremony in which Father Charles became Burma’s first cardinal, Pope Francis whispered something in his ear that sounded, according to sources, like “go for it”. It was a special moment of empowerment that Father Charles says he won’t forget.

Neither will we forget individuals like Father Charles, who really is doing something to change the world for the better.

“I believe in the power of solidarity.”

RafaelOn March 18, 2015, our friend Rafael Marques de Morais accepted The Voice of Free Expression journalism award in London. Less than one week later, he faced trial in Angola for speaking the truth.

Rafael has long been the voice of artisanal miners in Angola who have suffered abuses, violence, and killings at the hands of Angola’s military and a private security firm hired by diamond mining interests. For his groundbreaking work, “Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola,” he is now being charged with libel against senior generals, all of whom are also shareholders in a diamond mining company.

When he spoke last week at the awards ceremony he said, “I believe in the power of solidarity. I have experienced troubles of my own. It has been the solidarity of others that has helped to strengthen my courage and resolve to continue my journey.”

Now is the time for all those who believe in the right to free speech and freedom of the press to use their voice in defense of Rafael.

Spring is Here!

03.15R13583AquaDiaEtrnt00006MR“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” -Mark Twain

The snow is finally gone and the grass is turning from brown to green. For us Midwesterners, this is a reason to rejoice. So why not treat yourself to something to celebrate?

Maybe it’s a new piece of jewelry, like this Earthwise Jewelry® Collection 18k white gold aquamarine and diamond eternity band, or maybe it’s just a long walk in the park on a sunny day. Either way, you’ve earned it. You survived another winter.

Burmese gem trade also bad for the environment

BurmaprotestIt’s well documented that gemstones from Burma are fueling violent conflict in Kachin state and funding a variety of questionable entities. In addition to these reports from Kachin, hundreds of residents in Mogok, the main ruby producing area in Burma, are protesting plans by the Mogok Gems Traders Association to build a new headquarters and possibly a gemstone market, museum and restaurants, on a scenic lake in the town’s center.

“This lake is a famous landmark of our city and the public area is also a recreation area for residents. If buildings will be built around the lake, the beauty of city will be ruined and the environment will be destroyed.”

Monks, environmental groups, religious organizations and environmental groups have all joined the protest, which was launched on February 21.

Think Green

1.61TsavThe world may be all snowy white but, believe it or not, Spring is just around the corner. Really.

With that in mind, a little dose of green can help brighten up your winter blahs. This particular green is a stunning 1.61ct oval tsavorite from southeast Kenya.

Tsavorite, a rare member of the garnet family, is one of our favorite gemstones. The color is a nicer green than 99% of any emerald you’ll find. The sourcing is more responsible. And the price is nice too. We have fine quality tsavorites starting for under $300. Perfect for setting in any one of our many Earthwise Jewelry® settings!

There’s Gold in Them Thar Stars

supernovaWe’ve had several people ask where our gold comes from. Naturally, we use 100% recycled gold, but where does it come from at the very beginning?

The answer is straight up. (So to speak.) While every element that makes up our world came from space, gold is a little different. Unlike elements like carbon or iron, it cannot be created within a star as part of the body’s normal fusion process. Instead, it comes from something far more explosive.

Scientists discovered that during the merger of two neutron stars (the dead cores of stars that had supernovaed) a microsecond gamma ray burst was generated that ejected gold. Lots and lots of it. According to Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “We estimate that the amount of gold produced and ejected during the merger of the two neutron stars may be as large as 10 moon masses – quite a lot of bling!”

Fortunately, this event occurred at a distance of 3.9 billion light-years from Earth, which is far enough that it should discourage all those big mining companies from trying to find a way to exploit one more resource!

At Leber Jeweler, we trace every product we sell back to the source. Even when it’s from the far reaches of the universe.


Brighten Up Your January

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis month’s birthstone, garnet, comes in a range of colors but the burnt reddish-brown is probably the one most familiar hue.

This particular example came from a project in Mozambique, and we also have a wide range of rare collector garnets that are from the Czech Republic. (Formerly Bohemia.) The setting, shown here in 18k yellow gold, is our Ivy.

In addition to the metal shown, we also offer the piece in platinum, palladium, and white gold.