Beyonce is said to have been left ‘disappointed and angry’ after unknowingly modeling a ‘blood diamond’ in her new Tiffany & Co. campaign.
The singer, 39, wore the famed 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond, in a photoshoot with her husband Jay Z, which debuted last week – becoming just the fourth female – and the first black woman – to ever wear the gem.
However the chart-topper and the luxury jewelry brand have come under furious fire over the decision to showcase the controversial diamond, with many social media users calling attention to its contentious history and the circumstances under which it was mined.
The diamond was discovered in a colonial mine in Kimberley, South Africa, in 1877 – at a time when the country, and its mines, were under British colonial rule – and when predominantly black migrant workers were subjected to horrific conditions while receiving paltry pay in return.
Striking: The singer, 39, modelled the famed 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond, making her the fourth female to ever wear the gem, in a photoshoot alongside her husband Jay Z last week
A blood diamond, as defined by the United Nations (UN), is any gem that is mined and sold to fund military action against a government.
Beyonce reportedly had no idea about the diamond’s history, with a source telling The Sun: ‘Beyonce is aware of the criticism and is disappointed and angry that she wasn’t made aware of questions about its history.
‘She thought that every final detail had been vetted, but now she realises that the diamond itself was overlooked.’
The Tiffany diamond was dug from the Beers’ Kimberly Mine in colonial South Africa in 1877 when black laborers were forced to work in horrendous conditions for miniscule pay.
The work was dangerous and unhealthy, with workers forced to work in cramped conditions, often causing fatal accidents.
Conditions outside of the mine were no better, with the housing for the workers featuring no natural water or waste disposal, with 1,144 dying from a range of illnesses including pneumonia and scurvy between 1897 and 1899 alone.
Tiffany founder Charles Tiffany purchased the stone from the mine in 1879.
Hitting back: Beyonce’s mother Tina Knowles defended her daughter after her new campaign for Tiffany & Co. caused backlash online (pictured with Beyonce in 2012)
Defending her daughter: Tina asked if any of the ‘activists’ defending Beyonce had researched the origin of their own gems
Taking to Instagram on Thursday, she wrote: ‘How many of you socially conscious activist own diamonds ? I thought so ! Well guess what did you go to try to check to see where the diamond came from? Probably not.’
She added: ‘So when you guys get engaged you won’t have a diamond you gonna put on a sterling silver band And you better check out where it came from and the origin of where came from and why you add it check out the calls for the Leather that you weird because they made it came from another country to to ban and not buy diamonds right because your righteous !!’
Writer Zoe Samudzi tweeted: ‘Tiffany’s put Beyoncé in a diamond —’discovered’ in a colonial mine in Kimberly in 1877—that no black woman has ever worn before in an ad with a never-ever-before-seen Basquiat and then pledged $2 million in scholarships & internships to HBCUs.’
Some fans pointed out that Beyonce was the unfair target of criticism, as Lady Gaga had also worn the diamond with little backlash.
Still, others were not satisfied with one user writing: ‘This is not just ‘a necklace’ it’s a blood diamond that was mined off the blood of south africans, if they didn’t meet their quota their hands and feet were mutilated or were just killed.’
Another said: ‘[Lady Gaga] is a capitalist exploiter too, but only in the case of Beyoncé is her blackness being invoked as an ‘accomplishment’ for wearing it despite the Africans it harmed. That’s the difference.’
Prior to Beyonce, the massive yellow diamond had previously only been worn by four women: Mary Whitehouse, Audrey Hepburn and Lady Gaga.
The gem is said to be worth $30 million, according to estimates from Tiffany & Co.
Whitehouse was the first to wear the gemstone after it was set in necklace form at the 1957 Tiffany Feather Ball in Rhode Island, and Hepburn later donned the gem in promotional images for Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
Gaga dazzled in the diamond as she wore it to the 2019 Academy Awards.
It was first reset in necklace form in 2012 to mark the 175th anniversary of Tiffany & Co.
Despite a handful of iconic starlets having tried the diamond on for size, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s shoot marks the first time the diamond was featured in a campaign.
Debate: Beyonce’s campaign divided Twitter as some fans defended her
In a statement on its website, the jeweller says it has taken ‘rigorous steps’ to ensure that conflict diamonds do not enter its inventory.
It reads: ‘As global leaders in sustainable luxury, Tiffany & Co. is committed to sourcing natural and precious materials in an ethical and sustainable manner.
‘We have a zero-tolerance policy toward conflict diamonds, and source our diamonds only from known sources and countries that are participants in the Kimberley Process.’
The Kimberley Process is a certification scheme established by the UN in 2003 which aims to prevent blood diamonds from entering the mainstream rough diamond market.
Also worn by: Lady Gaga dazzled in the diamond as she wore it to the 2019 Academy Awards