Vania Leles, Cutting Barriers in the Diamond Industry


Vania Leles, founder and Creative Director of Vanleles, exemplifies what it means to be a Third Culture African. She is a world citizen who exudes a rare mix of vibrant African heritage, European sensibility, American dynamism, and a global flair for design and creativity. As a Gemmologist, she sources stones from Africa and produces the jewelry fairly. She is on a mission to become the world’s first African fine jewelry house among the top ten global brands.


This episode will open your eyes to the jewelry industry. While you may have heard of blood diamonds and ethical sourcing, you may not be aware of the other barriers preventing diverse creatives and entrepreneurs from entering the industry. 

Vania Leles gives us an insider’s perspective on how the mining industry works. Most of the stones leave Africa unpolished and unpriced, meaning the continent is missing out on an opportunity to build industry and wealth. She is passionate about changing this and inspiring other Africans to get into the fine jewelry industry. 

You’ll hear how Vania’s career evolved and the decisions she made that set up Vanleles for success. Your reputation is precious, maybe even more so than the stones she deals with. So is being persistent in educating others about your product and inspiration. Stand up for yourself and your work.

Tune in to this episode for an insightful journey from the African precious stone mines, across the globe, and back again.

Highlights of the episode:

  • 8:46: History of precious stone and metal crafting in Africa and how slavery brought the skills to a stop.
  • 11:24: The track of Vania’s early career in jewelry and having to work hard to break into an institutionalized industry
  • 18:26: How the reputation she’d built for herself was crucial to getting her business off the ground.
  • 27:53: Earning accolades as one of the great British luxury brands and how proud she was to have an African brand acknowledged as having high-level craftsmanship and quality.
  • 30:31: The importance of educating people on the inspiration and the history of the product. How that story resonates with the audience.
  • 39:10: Explaining the diamond industry process from rough stone to exported to an auction house; let’s cut the middleman and bring it back to Africa.
  • 44:43: Talking about some of the roadblocks countries have thrown up to allow diversity in the industry

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