This week, our local news paper The Herts and Essex Observer published an account of our recent trip to Namibia on their website, and are due to publish it in print on Thursday. The title of the article ‘ Stortford Gem hunter Ed Fleming follows in the footsteps of Cecil Rhodes’ may raise an eyebrow or two. It certainly provoked comment.
The title itself was chosen by the Observer and references the articles opening 2 paragraphs, which mention Rhodes, and therefore Bishops Stortfords, connection to De Beers and the international diamond trade.
The upbeat tone of the article may give the impression that the negative aspects of Rhodes impact on Africa are being ignored and that he is in some way being celebrated – he is not.
The article itself is a vastly condensed account of our trip to Namibia, its 5 weeks worth of travelling, meeting people, seeing mines, mining communities and buying stones condensed into just 500 words.
For my part as a jeweller and having grown up in Bishops Stortford, the link between my home town and the profession I chose as 16 year old was too interesting, and relevant not to investigate.
I considered it impossible to write an article without acknowledging the connection, its a fact that Rhodes, from Bishops Stortford founded De Beers. In our opinion, its also a fact that he was a racist who forcibly and dishonestly took land and profited from the virtual enslavement of generations of Africans. He made a considerable contribution to the plundering of the continents natural resources and his impact is still being felt today.
The point of the article and of our business is to create jewellery for which none of that is true. I feel its the responsibility of this generation of jewellers to make sure that the products we create are free from all conflict, unfair labour practises and exploitation.
With the ease of access to information we are better informed and better placed than previous generations to ensure we produce ethical jewellery. The point of the trip was to find out for ourselves what the label ‘ethical’ jewellery meant. By writing articles about the trip, the history and the future of the gemstone and jewellery industry we can give our customers all the knowledge they need about our commitment to making ethical jewellery.
To gloss over the connection would have been misleading and irresponsible, the point of submitting such an article is to encourage conversation and raised awareness about the importance of ethical practises.