A Boy Named Ponpon

Article by MiaDonna

The MiaDonna story starts off a little differently than most lab-grown diamond companies. It all started with one little boy named Ponpon, a 7-year-old boy living in extreme poverty in war-torn Liberia, Africa who asked for help. 

Like so many women, our founder Anna-Mieke Anderson couldn’t wait for her dream engagement ring and her dream family. But her engagement ring changed her life, just not in the way you think it would. When she discovered her engagement ring most likely held a conflict diamond, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. In 2005, as Anna-Mieke’s discovery about her conflict diamond unfolded, she uncovered a living nightmare.  

“What I discovered horrified me and I couldn’t erase the images of suffering from my mind.  I really felt connected with these mothers and children. My mother passed away when I was a child, and I had to live in foster care. I was also a mother of two children – two small beings that own my heart and soul – I couldn’t let this continue. Someone needed to step in!” - Anna-Mieke Anderson

She couldn’t believe it was women like her; the wives, sisters, and mothers of the world, the ones who are hardwired to protect children, who were unknowingly and unintentionally hurting a whole generation of children by being the driving force behind the sale of earth-mined diamonds. We all know diamonds are gorgeous, but at what cost? The mining and sale of those gems can have a devastating effect on the planet we live on and the lives of those who inhabit the regions in which they are mined. Despite what we are being told, the harvesting and trading of conflict diamonds, gold, and gems is not a problem of the past, it is still very much a reality. Many children, women, and men are still caught in the middle of the fight for the wealth within their soil. 

Anna-Mieke needed to do something to make things right in her own mind, so she started sponsoring a 7-year-old child named Ponpon, living in Liberia, Africa. They exchanged letters and she got a first-hand look at what it was like for a child to grow up in a diamond mining community. Those letters opened Anna-Mieke’s eyes to the harsh realities of life for children in places where diamonds are mined. But it wasn’t until Ponpon asked for help that Anna-Mieke knew she had to do more. 

“I will never forget the day he wrote to me and said, 'I had a great summer because only one of my classmates was killed.' That, right there, changed my life forever, so I did something about it.” - Anna-Mieke Anderson

Anna-Mieke took off her earth mined diamond ring and decided to make a difference. MiaDonna & Company (named after her daughter Mia and her late mother Donna) was created in 2006 in the attic of her home. The mission was simple; sell truly conflict-free diamond jewelry in order to give consumers a truly humane and environmentally friendly fine jewelry option, and use the profits to help as many children as she could to live a life free of poverty and conflict - just like she had done for Ponpon. However, Anna-Mieke soon discovered there is no such thing as a conflict-free diamond if it is mined from the earth and that is when she turned to science. 

“I knew NASA was creating diamond to coat the Hubble, they called it Ultra C Diamond, and we have been using crystallized carbon for industrial purposes for decades. The question now was, how do we get lab-grown diamond into gem-quality?” - Anna-Mieke Anderson

While raising two young children, Anna-Mieke worked with scientists to grow truly conflict-free diamonds in a modern-day lab environment. Diamonds that are identical in every way to those mined from the earth but come free of any humanitarian or environmental abuses. Diamonds that women could be proud to wear as a symbol of love and fidelity. As a result, she pioneered the retail market for lab-grown diamonds, and accidentally created one of the first social enterprises in the diamond industry.

In the beginning, many people belittled and ridiculed Anna-Mieke and the idea of lab-grown diamonds. It was especially hard being a woman in the ‘boys club’ of the diamond industry. But it turns out, a mother’s love was exactly what this industry needed. Today, MiaDonna is the leader of this new, greener diamond industry that is threatening the dominance of the earth-mined diamond conglomerates, all while supporting diamond-mining communities. By creating and funding programs focused on education, training, agriculture, and urgent relief, we are helping to give a voice to those who have been oppressed for far too long. 

Oh, and that little boy, Ponpon? He is now 20-years-old, he just finished university and runs our foundation’s projects in Liberia, Africa.