As breathtaking as an intricately designed piece of fine jewelry can be to behold, it may also serve as a magnificent manifestation of empowerment. A special necklace, ring, or earrings bestows the wearer with a certain visible swagger, an unspoken confidence, and can also hold a deeper message honoring the contribution of a culture. That’s just what the De Beers Group x RAD #BlackisBrilliant program sets out to accomplish and ever so stylishly succeeds.
A true celebration of Black excellence, the program invites Black jewelry designers to create jewelry incorporating diamonds from De Beers that are sustainably and ethically sourced from Botswana, Africa. To further amplify the advocacy and exposure, De Beers partnered with RAD, teaming each designer with a leading stylist to give the bespoke pieces the prominence they deserve on illustrious red carpets. “It’s very clear that it’s hard for any independent designer to get their work on the red carpet, so we felt that partnering extraordinary designers with high profile stylists, we would create a two-way conversation to help designers create jewelry with a particular red carpet moment and client in mind,” says De Beers Group PR Director Sally Morrison. In addition, De Beers will be donating to various charities for the philanthropic piece of the program.
Khiry designer Jameel Mohammed is one of the featured artists. Born and raised in Chicago, he is all about changing the conventions of what luxury is. It can, and should, uplift and acknowledge Black people. “What I’m hopefully building with this brand is that a future generation of entrepreneurs, artists, designers will know before they approach the market and the world with their work that there is space for it; that they will have access to the means to realize new visions; and that they will be met with an audience that will in turn understand their history—and value them for it,” he explains.
Mohammed partnered with stylists Wayman and Micah to create pieces for actress Kiki Layne to wear to the 2021 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit, the fashion event of the year. Layne was a regal site to behold in her stunning attire accessorized with dazzling De Beers diamonds and precious metals from the designer’s capsule collection entitled “Black Power International.”
“The Black Power International name came from my recognition that what undergirded the possibility for this collection was a legacy of contribution from Black folks worldwide, including me, Wayman and Micah, Kiki Layne and the Botswanaans who produced the fabulous diamonds,” shares Mohammed. The sensational earrings feature a symbolic pairing of pride and influence. “I wanted the collection to be a reminder of the scale and breadth of Black impact so I used a globe shape for the earrings suspended from a long stem and topped with a Black Power fist.” He also designed for Layne stacking rings that while striking, lend a touch of easy elegance.
Mateo—a self taught jewelry maker born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica and now residing in New York City—is another designer who is part of De Beers’ change-making program. The remarkable earrings he created for the 2021 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards for Emmy-winning actress Sarah Paulson, in collaboration with her stylist Karla Welch, take influence from abstract art.
“The statement earrings were inspired by the works of painter Wassily Kandinsky. I particularly adore the piece entitled ‘Floating’,” says Mateo. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Brilliant ovals and round Botsawanaan diamonds were set in 18k gold to appear to be floating on one’s ear.” For Mateo, the diamonds are a work of art within themselves needing just a gilded setting made with love. With over 26 carats in diamonds, it is a party for the ears that demands attention.
Make no mistake: The spectacular selection of jewelry from the #BlackisBrilliant campaign are clearly precious but also powerful. When a symbiotic relationship between designer, stylist, and celebrity exists to create a memorable and meaningful look, the impact can be far-reaching. “As the designers work with stylists over the course of the project, they are building deeper, longer term relationships which hopefully will mean sustainable ongoing support in the stylist community for these incredible brands,” declares Morrison. “It’s about intentionally building a creative community where the stylists become aware of the new jewelry possibilities, and the designers have ongoing visibility for their creative practice.” And with that vision, the future is looking bright—just like a diamond.