Professional Jeweler Archive: A Conflict Diamonds Bill Jewelers Can Support

June 2001

Editorial


A Conflict Diamonds Bill Jewelers Can Support


For readers who don’t check the news online at www.professionaljeweler.com, I’m glad to report U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) introduced the Conflict Diamonds Act of 2001, S. 787, on April 26. It’s the second conflict diamonds bill introduced in Congress this year. The other is the Clean Diamonds Act (H.R. 918), which U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) introduced March 7.

Both bills laudably seek to ban conflict diamonds from the U.S. and call for an international certification program to stop conflict diamond trade worldwide. But Gregg’s bill cuts out some burdensome paperwork that Hall’s bill would require and acknowledges the leadership role the diamond and jewelry industry has played in this issue. This is important because it would serve as official government notice that the industry didn’t sit around doing nothing while innocent people were maimed and killed in a fight for diamonds.

Now both bills can progress through the legislative system and meet in a conference committee, if all goes well, later this year. Then, quick passage is the goal. Given the horrific human rights abuses the bills seek to end, industry leaders are moderately hopeful a bill will be passed by the end of this year.

Matthew Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America, immediately endorsed Gregg’s bill. “Sen. Judd Gregg has made a major contribution to the campaign against the illegal and immoral trade in conflict diamonds. The Gregg bill deserves the vigorous support of all segments of the diamond industry here and abroad. We are asking the more than 10,000 members of Jewelers of America, as well as related associations, to work hard for ... prompt passage ... [The bill] builds on the proposals of the World Diamond Council, created by the industry last year for the express purpose of eliminating conflict diamonds,” said Runci, who also is executive director of the council.

Runci’s comments came just two weeks after JA asked members not to support a human rights organization’s campaign in favor of Hall’s bill. JA, which disagrees with some provisions of that bill, asked members to wait for the new legislation.

Meanwhile, Gregg’s bill is stricter than WDC’s original proposal because it includes diamonds set in jewelry. This also makes it more compatible with Hall’s bill and silences criticism by Hall’s supporters the WDC draft overlooked diamond jewelry. But Gregg’s bill is careful to point out that once rough diamonds are exported from and imported to countries that carefully monitor and certify them, they no longer need to carry certificate-of-origin documents on their circuitous route to consumers. His bill avoids a diamond labeling system for consumers, such as the one in Hall’s bill. Industry leaders have sharply criticized Hall’s labeling proposal as adding unnecessary expense and negativity to diamond purchases.

For these reasons, jewelers with an interest in human rights who also wish to prevent significantly higher diamond costs can fully support Gregg’s Conflict Diamonds Act of 2001. What’s more, they’ll finally get credit for belonging to an industry that has a conscience at its highest levels.

– Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications