Before the premiere of their highly anticipated film Blondin which she portrays Marilyn Monroe, Ana De Armas delves into a world Monroe knew quite a bit about: diamonds.
The film and fashion icon famously sang “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” in the 1953 film. Gentlemen prefer blondes, and was known for her elegant style and love of high jewelry (remember when she wore the spectacular yellow diamond necklace called The Moon of Baroda?). However, at that time, the diamond industry was considered untouchable and unattainable for both ordinary buyers and small jewelry designers. and only big names like De Beers and Tiffany & Co. got the business and notoriety. At the same time, conflict diamonds and diamond smuggling became real problems.
Now the Natural Diamond Council, together with brand ambassador De Armas, wants to change that by supporting young designers from around the world and educating buyers on the current state of the industry as it moves towards a more sustainable and inclusive future.
“I started working with the NDC in 2020 and I think it was a learning curve for me,” says De Armas BAZAAR.com at the NDC launch event on June 14 at the Beekman Hotel penthouse in New York City, adding that she got to see women in Botswana operating diamond mines and tractors, and essentially getting to know the community behind the gemstones.
On Tuesday, the NDC unveiled the second tier artist collections of its Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, launched in January 2021 with a $1 million diamond fund to support emerging BIPOC jewelry designers in partnership with Lorraine Schwartz.
“The EDDI program was created specifically to help break down the generally very high barriers to entry into the diamond industry,” said Grant Mobley, diamond and fine jewelry specialist at NDC. He adds that not only is the world of diamonds very tight-knit, but it is also very difficult for designers to access such expensive, rare and valuable diamonds to incorporate into their designs.
“We wanted to break down those barriers so designers who don’t typically get a chance to break into the industry could actually share these incredible designs,” he says.
De Armas, who wears a brilliant ring and necklace by Dorian Webb and a ring from Halle Millen’s Heart The Stones, says it’s powerful how the NDC supports — and financially supports — artists in the community who need the space just to do what they are good at.
“As a minority, I remember the days when I just wanted a chance to be in the room. I just wanted to be there. Give me the opportunity and I’ll show you what I can offer,” says De Armas. “The fact that they mentor and support these guys and open the doors of relationships, careers and resources for them and give them recognition is incredible.”
The Cuban actress is no stranger to red carpet glamor and has been diamond-studded for roles several times throughout her film career, but she says the passion and originality of the diamond pieces from up-and-coming jewelry designers shows her there are still ways to Breaking boundaries in the diamond world.
“It is the new generations who will reinterpret jewelry. We don’t always have to wear or interpret jewelry the same way,” she says.
Jewelry, and diamonds in particular, the actress agrees, can be incredibly personal. They can be much more than just beautiful, high-priced pieces that we love to look at. A jewelery collection can be passed down through the generations, it can carry different meanings and change and modernize over the years – take for example the jewelery inherited from Duchess Kate by Princess Diana.
De Armas says there’s one piece she bought herself that she treasures more than anyone else: an antique ring that reminds her of her grandmother.
“I had a ring from my grandma which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a diamond but it was this dark red stone with little things around it and I lost it at the airport and I was like, like, like, so sad,” she recalled speaking to BAZAAR. “And years went by and then I was shooting a movie and we were shooting on the street and I came across an antique shop and I found the version of this ring – same color but real diamonds this time – and I had to have it. It wasn’t my grandma’s ring, but it just reminds me of her. I actually have it here because I always wear it.”
Perhaps not as meaningful, but just as dazzling were the jewels De Armas got to wear while filming the 2021 James Bond film no time to die With Daniel Craig.
“That was beautiful — such an incredible touch for the character. Everything was so simple, but I just felt like the jewelry really suited her personality: so sparkly and shiny and happy,” says De Armas.
Touring the NDC event where the young designers showcased their diamond creations, the actress couldn’t take her eyes off Birthright Foundry’s Heritage Diamond Ula Nifo Necklace, crafted from 18k yellow gold and natural white diamonds but inspired by Samoan whale tooth necklaces became. Worn by Samoan chiefs and their children in ancient times, the Ula Nifo necklace signified wealth and status, explains designer Constance Polamalu.
“It’s just so different,” says De Armas.
Diamond expert Mobley tells BAZAAR how rare and exciting it is to see a high jewel so influenced by a designer’s underrepresented culture and yet so wearable today.
“If you think back to those incredible Samoan jewelry designs with the amazing necklaces from well over 100 years ago, it transforms it into something that makes sense for today, and it does the same with fine jewelry materials: gold, diamonds,” he says “It’s something that might have been worn by her ancestors hundreds of years ago, but she makes it into something she would wear and be seen on the red carpet.”
The collections from the latest EDDI designer class – Casey Perez, Corey Anthony Jones, Lana Ogilvie (Sabre Jewelry), Mckenzie Liautaud, Halle Millien (Heart the Stones) and Ruben Manuel – are launching at 1st Dibs this Friday, June 17th.
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