When actress Sarah Paulson wore the “floating” oval and round 18-carat gold Botswana diamond earrings at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards in September, it brought the brightest of smiles from Jamaican-born fine jewelry designer Mateo.
Giving back is the goal of the #BlackisBrilliant — a partnership between the De Beers Group and RAD Red Carpet Advocacy — to bring together exceptional Black jewelry designers and top celebrity stylists.
“Our mission here is to amplify Black creative talent and give younger people coming into our industry some very visible symbols of success,” said Sally Morrison, director of public relations for Natural Diamonds at De Beers Group.
“It’s [evident] that it’s hard for any independent designer to get their work on the red carpet,” Morrison said. “So we felt that by partnering extraordinary designers with high profile stylists, we would create a two-way conversation to help the designers create jewelry with a particular red-carpet moment — and client — in mind. We’re trying to game the system a little bit.”
For Mateo, the world-famous and self-taught designer whose collection earned selection by the Smithsonian Museum for featuring and selling at the African American Museum of Art and Culture, participating in the #BlackisBrilliant campaign is all about helping Africans who need it most.
“I normally ignore everything, but when [De Beers] kept writing, I said, ‘Let me respond,’ because De Beers is synonymous with diamonds,” Mateo told NNPA Newswire.
“Once they mentioned Botswana, that was it,” he said. “You can trace the diamond to helping women in Botswana, and that’s the main reason I joined. We can trace it going back into the villages, communities, and building schools. I’m doing this because it’s helping Black women and Africa where we’ve exploited all these natural resources.”
Through pairings like that with Mateo, De Beers has produced meaningful opportunities for Black designers to create jewelry to showcase on the red carpet, featuring ethically sourced Botswana diamonds.
With each pairing, the company said a donation goes to the charity of the designer’s choice that furthers Black excellence, extending the program’s impact beyond those involved.
Morrison said the overall goal of the partnership is to help level the playing field within the jewelry industry by providing deserved exposure to Black designers.
It’s all part of De Beers’ Building Forever commitment to “accelerating equal opportunity and ensuring that every diamond they discover creates a lasting positive impact.”
The partnership officially launched at the 2021 Met Gala by New York-based fine jewelry designer Jameel Mohammed of Khiry, collaborating with stylists Wayman and Micah to create an opulent suite of jewelry worn by Kiki Layne, titled “Black Power International.”
“The name came from my recognition that what undergirded the possibility for this collection was a legacy of contribution from Black folks worldwide, including me, Wayman and Micah, Kiki Layne and the Botswanans who produced the fabulous diamonds,” Mohammed said.
“It’s a beacon to the broader diaspora and world that there is power in our shared histories and huge possibility in our future collaboration,” Mohammed continued.
With the partnerships, the campaign creates “powerful visual moments that will give immediate impetus to the designers,” Morrison said.
“But well beyond that, as the designers have been working with the stylists over the course of the project, they are building deeper, longer-term relationships, which hopefully will mean ongoing sustainable support in the stylist community for these incredible brands,” she said. “It’s about intentionally building a creative community where the stylists are aware of new jewelry possibilities and, hopefully, the designers will have more possibilities for their work.”
De Beers Group produces natural diamonds and recovers diamonds in Botswana, Canada, Namibia and South Africa.
“We are absolutely committed to sustainable practices are we are proud to be a leader in the industry,” Morrison said. “Our sustainability framework is called ‘Building Forever,’ and as part of that, we have many a number of commitments including increased diversity and inclusion throughout our value chain.
“This project is one discrete piece of that,” she said. “Watch this space. There will be many more exciting pieces to come that will be revealed as we move through the year.”