Not Such a Clear Process
Last week, De Beers released a reprint of a very recent article entitled “Dirty Diamonds,” which was featured in the August 27 issue of “Time.” The article highlighted the conflict and misery still found in the diamond mines of the Congo and pointed out the pitfalls of the Kimberley Process.
As I’m sure all of you know, the Kimberley Process, established in 2003, is an international certification system designed to reassure consumers that the diamonds they purchased are conflict-free, meaning they didn’t fund a rebel movement intended to destabilize a legitimate government. The article goes on to mention that, although the Kimberley Process did help to minimize the percentage of diamonds sold to fund rebel movements, today’s consumers are looking for ways to improve the working and living conditions of miners, too. Currently, the Kimberley Process does not touch on these particular efforts. In the words of the miners making $1.25 a day, literally stuck between a rock and a hard place, “If people don’t buy our diamonds, we won’t be able to eat…how does that help us?”
The article mentions a few major players — Tiffany & Co., Rio Tinto, Signet and De Beers’ Forevermark brand — who have issued strict sourcing policies for their diamonds, as well as Brilliant Earth, one of the first jewelry companies to make responsible sourcing a selling point. However, although jewelry industry executives will be meeting in New York next March to hammer out an industry-wide transparency process, it does little to help fine jewelry retailers now. They’re faced with a stagnant market, a looming 4th quarter they’re banking on — and now may have to deal with this, too.
So what are you, one of these fine jewelry retailers reading this article, to do?
1. Be prepared. Articles like these tend to have a trickle-down effect and it only takes one major story, launched nationally, for issues to be brought down to a local level. You may be contacted by a local news station for your comments. If you carry Forevermark, you have already received a heads up statement from them. Keep in mind their statement only covers their diamonds. It is nearly impossible to say with with complete certainty that ALL of your diamonds are ensured to be conflict-free, especially if you have old inventory or old diamonds in your vault. But…
2. You can state that, although the Kimberley Process is not foolproof, you do your due diligence in carefully selecting and purchasing your diamonds from companies who comply. Mention your desire to see the ability of the industry to be able to effectively trace the diamonds you sell from mine to finger in the near future. Point them to your website, which should already have this type of verbiage and your code of ethics front and center on your diamonds page. If it’s not there, prepare to be questioned.
3. Use this as a learning lesson. Some retailers faced issues when the movie “Blood Diamond” came out. Others didn’t. Some consumers care about responsible sourcing. Others don’t. Some people who say they care may be the same who don’t realize the $100 shirt they’re wearing was made by a 5 year old in a Chinese factory, making 50¢. That’s ignorance. Being knowledgeable about your diamonds, and doing your due diligence to buy conflict-free, is your best defense. If it’s something you stand behind, advocating for the industry to develop diamond-sourcing transparency is one thing that should be as clear as the diamond you’re hoping to sell across the counter.