An Open Letter to Leonardo DiCaprio: Taking issue with the star’s rationale for backing a lab-grown diamond company – by Rob Bates (JCK – January 28, 2016)

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Dear, um, Leo:

Back in 2006, before Blood Diamond was released, Nelson Mandela reached out to the stars of the movie and the head of Warner Brothers, worried about its impact on diamond sales and, by association, economies in Africa. You later met with him in Africa.

You seemed to be profoundly impacted by your meeting with one of the great figures of the 20th century. You told one interviewer: “Ultimately, diamonds are a source of social and economic stability in Africa, so this movie isn’t to say people shouldn’t buy diamonds.”

Today, of course, you seem to have changed your tune. As an investor backing Diamond Foundry, the new producer of lab-grown diamonds, you have said the company is “reducing the human and environmental toll of the diamond industry by sustainably culturing diamonds without the destructive use of mining.”

I can understand why you invested in Diamond Foundry, which I talked to here. It has enlisted a lot of extremely talented designers and, recently, two well-respected industry veterans. But I take issue with your rationale, which represents a major departure from your statements in 2007.

Mandela died three years ago, so if you are no longer listening to a genuine icon and hero—who famously turned down an offer to be released from prison—you probably won’t listen to me. (That’s assuming you read this; I’m guessing you won’t.) Regardless, your views are slowly becoming conventional wisdom.

In one recent video produced by the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council, a consumer said that, by buying a lab-grown diamond, “I feel like I’m doing something good for the community.” Author Eric March writes in Upworthy that lab-grown diamonds “hurt pretty much no one.”

Not really. Let’s unpack this:

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