Thursday, February 27, 2020

Short Film Details How Diamond Revenues Empower the People of Botswana

In 1967, diamonds were discovered in the newly independent Republic of Botswana. At the time, the land-locked country in Southern Africa was the third-poorest on the continent, but the wealth and opportunity generated by its gleaming natural resource has propelled it into one of Africa's most successful economies.

The key to that success is that for every $1 of diamonds sold, about 80 cents goes back to the government of Botswana. The revenues generated by minerals are put into a central pool and used for the betterment of the country and its people.

Botswana's success story is documented in a short film titled “Fashionscapes: The Diamonds of Botswana." In the film, Livia Firth, co-founder and creative director of Eco-Age, learns first-hand about the impact of diamond mining in a country that has unearthed some of the world's most precious stones, including two diamonds larger than 1,000 carats.

The viewer learns that every person in Botswana is literally a product of the diamond industry.

Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, described how the people of Botswana are critical stakeholders in the business relationship between the mining company and the government. Masisi also acknowledged that diamonds are a finite resource, so building infrastructure and diversifying is a key to future success.

"You only realize excellence through a lot of hard work and that is why we are so keen to diversify," he said. "That's why we are so keen to improve the value chain. And that's why we are so keen to ensure that we unlock more value domestically for our people. So ethics are critical, environmental stewardship is critical. Human rights and workers' rights are critical."

He noted that the distribution of diamond wealth in his country is a "blueprint of excellence."

"What you actually do with the proceeds is telling of who you are and the values you hold," he continued. "Look around. We do have challenges, but we admit them and we want to face them head on."

As the first-ever female managing director of the Korowe mine in Botswana, Naseem Lahri knows firsthand how diamonds have enriched the lives of her people.

"I was born in Botswana, I was schooled in Botswana, I've gone to university in Botswana and it's all because of the diamonds that have actually created the schools and the employment," she said.

As Firth tours the country, she encounters an agricultural site that provides nutritious fresh food for poorer communities, a public school with enthusiastic students and teachers and an environmentalist who manages a wildlife preserve. All of these entities credit their success to the proceeds generated by the diamond industry.

“Fashionscapes: The Diamonds of Botswana” was produced with the support of the government of Botswana and key players in the country’s diamond industry, including the De Beers Group and mining company Lucara Botswana.

Check out the short film here...

Credits: Screen captures via

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Class Ring Lost in Maine 47 Years Ago Is Unearthed in Finland — 4,000 Miles Away

Forty-seven years ago, Debra McKenna lost her boyfriend's high school ring in the bathroom of a Portland, Maine, department store. Shawn's ring was adorned with an oval blue faceted stone and embellished with the tall mast symbol for Morse High School's athletic nickname — the Shipbuilders.

Ironically, the ring was discovered in early February by shipbuilder Marko Saarinen in a densely wooded area near the small town of Kaarina, Finland. The avid metal detectorist located the keepsake under eight inches of soil — about 4,000 miles from where it was originally misplaced.

The markings on the ring provided just enough clues for Saarinen to find the rightful owner. He had the name of the high school, the year of the graduating class and engraved initials inside the band — "S.M." The Finnish Good Samaritan posted a photo of the ring on the Facebook page of Morse High School's Class of 1973.

"Hello from Finland!" his message read. "I was metal detecting in the deep forest and found this high school ring."

Alert followers of the Class of 1973 Facebook page were able to determine that the S.M. initials belonged to Shawn McKenna. The graduating class of barely 200 students included only one male with those initials.

The classmates alerted Debra, who cried when the ring arrived just before Valentine's Day.

Debra and Shawn had met during his senior year and tied the knot in 1977. They were married for 40 years and had three children. In 2017, Shawn passed away after losing a six-year battle with cancer.

Debra said she was shocked by the unbelievable discovery and believes it might be a sign that her husband is still looking after her.

"I was feeling a little lost for a bit, and now I feel like, okay," she told CNN. "He's letting me know that things are good, that the decisions I'm making are right and he's behind me on it. Like he has been through my whole life."

When interviewed by Portland's CBS affiliate WGME-TV, McKenna recounted the day she lost the ring in the bathroom of a local department store. She had set it on the side of the sink while she washed her hands and then forgot to put it back on. Later, when she went back to retrieve it, it was gone.

How and why the ring found its way to a Finnish forest is a mystery that may never be solved.

"I wish it could talk," the 63-year-old McKenna said of the class ring. "I would love to hear the story of how it got from here to there, and if anyone ever knows what it is, I would love to hear what it is. No judgment, just interest."

“It’s very touching in this world of negativity to have decent people step forward and make an effort,” McKenna told the Bangor Daily News. “There are good people in the world, and we need more of them.”

Saarinen, who spends about two hours each week as a metal detector hobbyist, told CNN that he never considered keeping the ring for himself. He was thrilled to mail it back to McKenna.

"This has been an amazing discovery. Best yet," he said.

Credits: Screen captures via WGME-TV.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Couples Spent an Average of $5,900 on Engagement Rings in 2019, Reports The Knot

Couples spent an average of $5,900 on their engagement rings in 2019, according to The Knot's 13th Annual Real Weddings Study. That amount reflected a budget increase of about 4% compared to 2018. The engagement ring continues to be the second-highest-priced item on the list of all wedding expenses (the venue is #1).

Overall, the average cost to host a wedding ceremony/reception in 2019 remained steady at $28,000, although expenditures varied widely by region. Couples in midwestern locales, such as Columbus ($23,500) and St. Louis ($24,000) reported wedding day costs below the $25,000 threshold, while their counterparts in large northeastern cities, such as Boston ($38,600), Washington, DC ($34,700) and Philadelphia ($34,300) reported day-of wedding costs that were significantly higher. The most expensive place in the U.S. to host a wedding in 2019 was Manhattan, where the average outlay was $83,000.

More than half (51%) of survey respondents said they married someone with a different background (race, religion, ethnicity or geographic location). Many of these couples embraced that diversity by asking their wedding planners, DJs or other wedding professionals to find interesting ways to fuse their respective traditions into the celebration.

From Guatemalan coffee to Chinese-crafted candy boxes, many couples selected wedding favors that reflected something unique about them (Nearly 6 in 10 said they distributed party favors).

While couples continued to embrace long-standing wedding traditions, such as the first dance (90%) and cutting the cake (82%), they also continued to break new ground. The concept of couples writing their own vows is now embraced by 44%.

Exactly 72% of those surveyed said their top priority was ensuring their guests were taken care of and had a good time. Besides the expected food, drink and music, nearly half of all couples provided fun entertainment and activities, such as photo booths, cigar-rolling stations and craft margarita bars, to name a few.

Here are some other highlights from The Knot's 2019 Real Wedding Study...

• Average length of an engagement: 15 months (up from 13.6 months in 2018)
• Average marrying age: 32 years (up from bride, 29.1, and groom, 30.5, in 2018)
• Most popular color: dark blue (this color was second to ivory/champagne in 2018)
• Average guest count: 131 (down from 136 in 2018)
• Percentage that have a destination wedding: 21% (down from 23% in 2018)

The Knot's 13th Annual Real Weddings Study reflects the experiences of nearly 27,000 couples married in 2019.

Credit: Image by