Greetings from the JCK Jewelry Show in Las Vegas. The show is one of the jewelry world's major events where manufacturers and wholesalers show their latest wares to retailers and industry professionals. The keynote speaker this morning was Russell Simmons, the hip hop impresario behind Def Jam Records and Baby Phat and now Simmons Jewelry
and the Diamond Empowerment Fund
. Simmons first became interested in the jewelry business a couple of years ago. He began thinking about jewelry when his then wife, Kimora decided it would be a good idea to make jewelry. His initial response was that he would never buy her fur coats or diamonds, two things he associated with hurt and damage to others.
He changed his mind after doing more research with the Clinton Initiative and other groups and taking his own trip to Africa where he met with Nelson Mandela and learned that while diamonds have caused a lot of pain and suffering they also can do good in the world. He found that in some areas people would starve without the sales of diamonds. This led to the formation of the Diamond Empowerment Fund. DEF works to promote higher education for Africans and so far has raised $9 million for a school in South Africa, the CIDA school which serves 3300 students, It is a four-year school,which is basically a college to teach students and send them back to the townships as teachers. It offers liberal arts education and business classes and the students do all the work at the school except teaching.