Vânia Leles has founded the first luxury jewellery brand using African gemstones only.
Diamonds, rubies, emeralds are among the most well-known and desired precious stones. You can find African gemstones in several countries of the continent. But Anvers, Jaipur or Thailand are known to be their main trading locations. Just few African people benefit from this trade. A part from working in mining industry, they are basically not involved in the industry.
For 7 years an African woman has been changing this situation.
She wants Africa to “shine bright like a diamond”.
Vânia Leles, a former model native from Guinea-Bissau, has launched VanLeles, a luxury jewels brand using African gemstones only. It may sound banal, but it’s not at all. Indeed men and European brands lead this market. Before starting producing and selling jewels, Vânia had to learn the precious stones trade from A to Z. She studied gemmology at Gemelogical Institute of America. Then, she worked for some of the most famous luxury brands, such as Graff, De Beers and even Sotheby’s. She enlarged her contact list, developed her skills and saved for the project.
Vânia openly claims that ” It wasn’t family money, it wasn’t husband money, it was my own and my hard work. I work 10 to 12 hours a day.”
VanLeles Diamonds distinguishes itself in many other ways.
Sustainable jewels from Africa
Even if the jewellery luxury brand is based in London and produces in Italy, it has strong connections with Africa. The brutality of the conflict in Sierra Leone has particularly chocked West African people. The movie”Blood Diamonds” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou illustrates this drama. It has certainly determined Vânia stones choices.
Therefore VanLeles Diamonds is strictly using ethical and conflict-free stones, respecting the international Kimberley certification.
What does it mean?
Since 2003 the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is preventing the entry of diamonds coming from illegal sources or conflict area to enter the mainstream market. It is made to avoid the development of slavery, children enrolment in military conflicts, tortures or any other kind of violence. Many African countries officially comply to this international certification.
African gemstones only
To create her jewels Vânia works with precious stones coming from the whole African continent. She goes on the field, where she observes how the Kimberley Process helps changing life of local people. VanLeles Daimonds sources diamonds from Namibia, Botswana and South Africa mainly. Education, healthcare and food are now more available to workers families.
The entrepreneur from Guinea-Bissau is actually proud and happy to participate in this progress. Only the sky is the limit. Now She wants to see more jobs of the luxury jewellery industry in Africa. Mining is good, transforming, designing, and selling African gemstones in Africa would be even better.
Indeed, Vânia clearly explained her point of view in an interview for Radio France International (RFI). ” We must be able to tell the well established luxury brands that they have to create jobs in Africa, if they want to continue buying our stones. If they disagree, we would see NYC , Anvers or Israel stock exchanges closing. Without Africa, they wouldn’t have any gemstones to sell.”
She is pointing out a reality, which will certainly inspire other designers, creatives and business people. Even though it is slow, the luxury industry is eventually going to grow in Africa.
sources : RFI, VanLeles Diamonds
Author: Christelle Kamanan
Travel addicted willing to explore the world as much as I can. As a native from Africa, I want to tell the world about all the great actions initiated by African people.