If your FYP/Twitter feed/timeline etc., has been anything like mine this past week, then you may have come across some of the outrage being directed towards Beyoncé regarding ‘blood diamonds’. Which is obviously not a string of words most of us were expecting to read with our own two eyes, but 2021 never ceases to surprise.
For those of you who haven’t come across this specific issue, you’re probably wondering what the fuck is going on. Take a seat my friends, for I am here to educate.
Our story begins on Monday, 23 August, when it was announced that Tiffany & Co. was collaborating with Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z in a new ad campaign called ‘About Love’.
— Alexandre Arnault (@alexarnault) August 23, 2021
In the promotional images, Beyoncé is pictured in Tiffany’s iconic famed 128.54 carat yellow Tiffany diamond, which was “discovered” in South Africa in 1877 at the Kimberley Mine by Charles Lewis Tiffany. Yes, the word ‘discovered’ is very important here, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Beyoncé is only the fourth woman ever to wear this very famous necklace – the only women before her to wear it were Mary Whitehouse (the wife of American diplomat Edwin Sheldon Whitehouse), Audrey Hepburn, and Lady Gaga.
More importantly, Beyoncé is the first Black woman to ever wear the jewels – something Tiffany & Co. was excited to announce as part of what seems to be a rebrand to a more ethical and inclusive brand. Buuuut, there’s only so much room for ethics when a diamond is sourced through colonial and exploited Black labour – and that’s what brings us to the conflict we are breaking down today.
You see, the Tiffany Diamond wasn’t ‘discovered’ by Charles Tiffany, it was dug up from the Beers’ Kimberly Mine in colonial South Africa in 1877 by poorly-paid Black labourers in horrendous, and sometimes fatal conditions.
If you haven’t heard the terms ‘blood diamonds’ or ‘conflict diamonds’ before, it’s when diamonds are mined in a war zone or some kind of conflict, and then sold to finance invading armies, warlords, or other relevant conflicts.
The term is usually only applied to quite specific circumstances, but it’s not a stretch to call the Tiffany diamond a blood diamond considering it was mined during a time of British colonialism that saw the exploitation and degradation of African people and tribes.
Anyway, the announcement of this ad campaign divided the internet because heaps of people – fans of Beyoncé and otherwise, are saying that it’ll never be liberating for a Black woman to wear a diamond mined from the exploitation of African workers. Really, it just reinforces the diamond as a symbol of colonialism. There’s a really good article here about it.
Some were frustrated because of Beyoncé’s recent music being a loving ode to Africa, so the optics of now partnering up with Tiffany & Co. to wear this unethically sourced African diamond is icky to say the least.
Others pointed out that other celebrities haven’t and probably never would get hate for wearing blood diamonds like Beyoncé is, and they’re right. Lady Gaga absolutely didn’t get slammed in the way Beyoncé has been. But Lady Gaga was also never a symbol for Black success or feminism. She never represented African roots or African people. She hasn’t built a career off creating Black liberation content. So maybe it makes sense that no one cared when she wore it, because she never promised anything more.
its the fact that beyonce did a whole album and went mama africa then went to wear a blood diamond. abeg. i love beyonce but its very contradictory https://t.co/uHTEw5TW43
— Mide (@Ewmide) August 24, 2021
So, what’s Beyoncé got to say about this, you may be wondering?
Well, it turns out she is “disappointed and angry” that the jewels she wore were compared to blood diamonds, according to a ~source~ (grain of salt, etc.).
“Beyonce is aware of the criticism and is disappointed and angry that she wasn’t made aware of questions about its history,” the source said, according to The Sun.
“She thought that every final detail had been vetted, but now she realises that the diamond itself was overlooked.”
I can understand that perhaps she or someone on her team didn’t think to research the diamond’s origin – but also, during a time where most of us are pretty conscious of things like sustainability and ethical fashion, it seems like a piss-weak excuse.
I mean, I’m constantly seeing low-level influencers on TikTok and Instagram be held accountable for Shein hauls and other fast-fashion glorifications, so it seems fair to also hold Beyoncé accountable for wearing a blood diamond.
Meanwhile, according to Page Six, Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles-Lawson defended her by commenting on an Instagram post, “How many of you socially conscious activist[s] own diamonds? I thought so! Well guess what did you go to try to check to see where the diamond came from? Probably not.”
Imagine thinking we can afford diamonds, honestly.
On the bright side, Tiffany & Co. pledged that as part of its campaign it will give $2 million USD to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Which isn’t a huge amount of money considering the fact that in 2020, the brand was worth nearly $5 billion USD, but hey – it’s better than nothing.