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Monday, August 27, 2012

A Brilliant Proposal

When my fiancĂ© (now husband) and I got engaged, one of the first things that came into my mind when he slipped a shiny diamond on my ring finger was- “I hope this diamond is conflict free.”

I wish I was kidding, but after years of learning about the diamond trade in Africa and “blood diamonds,” I didn’t want to carry that weight on my hand or in my heart.

Luckily for me, before I even had to ask, Andrew assured me that the center diamond was a family antique and not a new purchase and that the pave stones he did purchase were conflict-free champagne diamonds from Australia.

I was relieved and thrilled that my husband-to-be had listened to all my diamond apprehensions over the years. The ring was perfect and I was elated.

No engagement is without a teensy hitch- my ring was just tad big (hence the band aid to keep it on).
It did get me thinking though, how can other guys planning to pop the question find stones and rings that are conflict free. One company that I ran across in my research is Brilliant Earth.

Co-founded by Beth Gerstein and Eric Grossberg in 2005, Brilliant Earth donates 5% of its profits to communities impacted by the jewelry trade, which has left a wake of destruction and in some cases war in its wake. Through partnerships with “established, on-the-ground efforts,” Brilliant Earth is working to help communities develop skills to manage their natural resources to help create a self-sustaining jewelry-based economy.

One example of Brilliant Earth’s work in rectifying the destruction caused by the Diamond industry is its investment in the Diamond Development Initiative’s (DDI) Tukudimuna Child Labor program. The initiative is working to end child mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The program removes Congolese children from diamond mines and provides infrastructure that will help foster them into higher education and better economic situations.

Brilliant Earth’s donation of $10,000 sponsors the enrollment of 108 children from the DRC for a full year where they can learn about sustainable occupations that will enable them to leave mining. By introducing young people to healthier opportunities, the program hopes to eventually benefit the communities in which the children live and work as well.

Children from the Tukudimuna Child Labor program. (Picture from internet.)
Beyond its operation in the Congo, DDI is hoping to create a model for other organizations to build upon. Child labor in mines is a global problem, with hundreds of thousands of children laboring in hazardous working conditions.

Brilliant Earth has also joined forces with the Institute of Gemology of Madagascar (IGM), for which it funds two full scholarships for disabled students to learn the art of lapidary (gemstone cutting). The scholarships fund students’ training, as well as equipment and supplies. 

Also, in partnership with The Conflict Free Diamond Council, Brilliant earth is supporting MedShare International. The Atlanta based non-profit sends essential medical supplies to hospitals in Sierra Leone., where diamonds helped fuel civil war that left thousands of victims, many of whom lost limbs. MedShare efforts in Sierra Leone are solely dedicated to their treatment and care. Brilliant Earth also is working with One Sky and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) to support redevelopment efforts in areas where the land was devastated by unregulated mining. 

In addition to the multiple socially conscious partnerships and programs Brilliant Earth is involved with, they also deliver high-quality and versatile jewelry pieces for women and men, even offering a "build your own engagement ring" option. For ladies, like myself who have already tied the knot, the create your own earrings or pendant sections offer a great option for an anniversary gift. You can also peruse the site's top-selling rings and other jewelry to find the perfect gift

So, for all you guys (and gals) out there looking to buy a diamond that makes a positive difference, Brilliant Earth might be your new best friend ;) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

California Givin'

I'm not even going to try to explain away my very long blogging hiatus, but in hopes of continuing to bring friends and the readers I have left new socially conscious wedding content, I've decided to make Monday "Matrimony Monday," so keep an eye out on Monday's for new ways to give back with your big day.

Ah, sunny San Diego. If you’ve been there, you probably wish you could go back. Andrew and I went in 2010 and had a blast checking out the local missions, the fish taco stands, Torrey Pines State Park, and of course, the beaches. (I may have accidentally driven our rental car to Mexico too, but that's another story for another time.) All in all, we had a wonderful time and took a ton of pictures, so many in fact that people thought it was our engagement album. We did in fact get engaged later that year – on the other coast, in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Yet, I think San Diego would be a beautiful site for an engagement- or a wedding.

Me sans ring, looking really young!
If you are planning to say "I do" in San Diego or in the area it just so happens that there is a charitable option nearby! Brookside Farm, just east of San Diego off of Interstate 94, offers couples the opportunity to have a beautiful open air wedding ceremony and reception. 

Brookside Farm is available for rental from April through October. The venue accommodates 125 guests and is full of “romantic, shaded terraces towered over by billowing oaks and a formidable natural rock formation.”  In addition to the natural beauty of the site, Brookside also has a qualified staff to assist couples with coordination for their big day. 

Not sold yet? Well, all proceeds from every wedding, reception and any other event held on the site are donated to charity.  You see, Brookside Farm is owned and operated by Family Care Foundation (FCF). FCF “operates programs in developing nations, makes grants, and provides training for grassroots organizations in the Third World, participating in a wide variety of community-based initiatives.
The Family Care Foundation network identifies existing programs that align with their mission and then help them build their capacity by providing a support network, education & training, technical assistance, and seed funds. FCF also monitors, evaluates and administers grants as an intermediary for funders. 

All proceeds from weddings held at Brookside Farm support the charity work of family car foundation, which helps provide humanitarian development and disaster relief in over 35 countries. 

What more can you ask for, a venue with a fantastic mission in a beautiful part of the country. Since I've already tied the knot, would someone else have a wedding there so I can go back to San Diego? I'm missing the beaches and the fish tacos ;)