In the webinar entitled “Basic Training on Rough Diamond Grading and Valuation in Liberia” held on 30th May 2022, three speakers described this innovative 2-day training workshop and other associated activities run by Empowerment Works and Diamonds for Peace in collaboration with the International Gemological Institute (IGI), from January to May 2022 funded by the World Bank’s EGPS Trust Fund, bringing diamond education to those who are doing the work everyday and who have little or no idea of the value of the diamonds they find:
- Chie Murakami, project manager of the project and founder of Diamonds for Peace.
- Hitindra Misttry, Assistant General Manager Education, International Gemological Institute, and trainer for the project
- Beth West, Fellow and Diamond Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A), member of the Federation of European Education in Gemmology, and trainer on site for the project.
22 participants joined the webinar which underlined again the extraordinarily rudimentary conditions in which these mining communities in Liberia are living and working and the extreme poverty of their situations (the majority live on less than 1.90$ a day). Reiterating the important principal behind the work done at Diamonds for Peace, which is to help the miners to help themselves, Chie Murakami described how the different candidates for the training were selected out of 90 volunteers as trusted members of the community, with a minimum level of reading and writing ability in English so as to be able to grasp the concepts, do basic calculations and above all pass on the information, ensuring that they did not keep the knowledge for themselves but could help those around them to better their circumstances also.
The training proposed to them, offered the basic principles of diamond formation and structure, the shape colour and clarity of the most valuable stones, as well as fluorescence and how to distinguish between the highly included and the more valuable less flawed pieces. It also explained the possible cutting methods for adding worth and the value of coloured diamonds, which buyers had persuaded the diggers were worthless. The training was specially created for the project to offer the maximum amount of “useful” information, to enable the participants to be able to work out a rough value of their stones and be better able to negotiate with buyers. This training was accompanied by a dedicated practical kit of basic diamond grading equipment (manual, scale, fluorescent torch, calculator …) formally delivered to each village representative. In all 25 people (5 of which were women) were trained from 17 communities, and their knowledge after the training was tested – with pleasingly positive results.
They went on to train 381 people in total in follow-up knowledge-sharing sessions, and their progress will continue to be monitored by Diamonds for Peace. In her moving speech, Beth West described her adventure of travelling to a region where most airlines refuse to land, the hunger to learn of the participants and the revelation that the training was for many of them who, despite having been miners for years, were unaware that a diamond could be cut and polished and used in jewellery. Some thought the stone was just hard glass and many consider the stone as holding magical powers (such as enabling aeroplanes to fly!). The consensus above all was before the training – and even more so afterwards with the additional awareness – that the diamonds are something that should help them be able to improve their future. Although, of course, Diamonds for Peace cannot guarantee the prices that the diggers will be able to obtain for their stones, they have at least opened their eyes to their potential worth, helping them have a better base for negotiation with their buyers. It is a first ethical step towards offering the basic right of education to these communities and promoting a more equitable share of wealth in the diamond supply chain.
You can watch the webinar recording at the following link:
Front cover photo courtesy of Tomo, April 2022