By Michelle Graff
Last week, I attended an event held by De Beers/Forevermark here in New York City called (and hash-tagged, naturally) #TheOne, which references the diamond brand’s new holiday commercial (It’s a Long Journey to Become the One) and, with it, the return of “A Diamond is Forever.”

At the event, I got into a discussion with a fellow journalist who’s covered jewelry and watches for a long time.

Michelle-blogWhen I asked his opinion of the commercial, he gave a sort of lukewarm shrug and then made an absolutely brilliant point. De Beers should have taken this opportunity to show where Forevermark diamonds come from and how they are helping the communities where they are mined, instead of going back to their old advertising agency, JWT, and rehashing an old, though undoubtedly very successful, tagline in A Diamond is Forever.

He pointed out the success watch company Shinola has had in emphasizing its origins and the story behind its brand: It’s made in Detroit and employs people there. It’s doing its part to help bring industry back to the once-mighty Motor City, which has fallen on hard times over the past few decades.

Its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. AdWeek dubbed Shinola the “coolest brand in America” earlier this year,  a move that is indicative of what people now value in brands—authenticity and giving back.

Later on in the evening, as I made my way into the back corner of the event space where there was a display of Forevermark jewelry guests could try on, I grabbed a few minutes with Forevermark U.S. President Charles Stanley and brought this point up to him.

Why didn’t Forevermark emphasize its responsibly sourced origins in this year’s holiday advertising campaign? They certainly can go that way, and, as it turns out, perhaps they will.

As I learned from Stanley and others at the event, De Beers hired a National Geographic photographer and videographer to travel to Africa and document the good Forevermark diamonds do there, specifically for the environment and the advancement of women.

That photographer was, quite fittingly, Annie Griffiths, one of the first women to shoot for National Geographic. Griffiths has worked in more than 100 countries for some of the industry’s top magazines and also is committed to aid work. She started Ripple Effect, a collective of photojournalists who are documenting how climate change is impacting women worldwide, and collaborated on a book with one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, called Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands. Proceeds from that book benefit grassroots land conversation efforts.

There is an amazing video of Griffiths’ African journey with De Beers that you can see here on the Forevermark website. After watching it, I couldn’t help thinking how impactful it would be to have a commercial that shows the landscapes, the people employed by De Beers and the way diamonds have helped their communities, especially in light of all the “blood” diamonds news that has surfaced lately—the Time article, the Amnesty International report on the Central African Republic—and, as I understand, is going to come up again soon.

Yes, there are problems with diamonds in some parts of the world. But that is not the whole story.

As I noted above, Griffiths has a special interest in women’s issues. While in Africa, she took some time to document what De Beers is doing specifically to improve the lives of women there. In many cases, it starts by simply by giving them a job.

“Women,” she says in the video, “are the best investment we can make in our shared future,” and she’s right. A family, and as a result, a nation will be stronger if women are empowered, and that is exactly what De Beers is doing in Africa. I know not just because I watched the video, but because I saw it myself on a trip with De Beers to Africa several years back.

It’s a powerful story to tell about a product that, the vast majority of the time, is being bought by or for women.

A Diamond is Forever is a great tagline, without question.

But “For Women. Forever.” has a nice ring to it too.

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