Professional Jeweler Archive: ‘Are These Diamonds Conflict-Free?’

June 2003


'Are These Diamonds Conflict-Free?'

Every retailer should be prepared to ask his or her suppliers the question above at the JCK Show in Las Vegas this month. If you don’t demand a guarantee that the diamonds you buy are conflict-free, consumers have a right to view the new Kimberley certificates and the voluntary industry warranty system supporting them as a sham.

Just to review the basics: the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme requires that all legitimately mined and traded rough diamonds travel in sealed containers with certificates asserting they’re conflict-free. Once diamonds begin the rest of their journey through cutting and polishing and on to setting in jewelry, it’s up to the jewelry industry to ensure the gems travel with warranties that continue to affirm each one is conflict-free.

If the system is working as planned, your supplier should provide you with a document that says:

“The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations Resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.”

This warranty applies to products fabricated from diamonds mined from Jan. 1, 2003, onward. Pre-2003 inventory should carry the pledge – now widely used – that sellers have made their best efforts to assure the diamonds’ legitimacy.

Is asking for this warranty from every one of your suppliers a pain? Yes. Is it really necessary? Yes. In a world where terrorists can easily get their hands on $20 million in rough diamonds to hide their assets, we need the Kimberley system and the voluntary warranty system to prevent these rogue stones from finding a market (see “Study Cites Al Qaeda Link to Diamonds,” p. 19). In a world where rebel groups in certain African countries can brutally crush local populations to get their hands on diamond fields, we need a system to prevent them from selling their ill-gotten gains. And finally, the industry must make good on its promise to keep diamonds conflict-free. You need these warranties so you can pass them on to your customers – whether they ask for them or not.

It’s important to remember that the human rights groups who brought this issue to the world’s attention are carefully watching the industry to ensure it’s doing what it promised. If the industry just pays lip service to the concept of warranties and doesn’t provide them, the inattention makes it seem as though it didn’t really care about this true moral and humanitarian crisis.

It doesn’t matter that consumers are indifferent about the conflict diamond crisis. What matters is that the jewelry industry, which derives so much of its profits from the products of Africa, must care enough to do the right thing, to protect innocent people from being harmed by criminals who want to exploit natural resources.

Come to think of it, not just Africans are being harmed. As I write, al Qaeda operatives could be looking for buyers for diamonds to help fund their next terrorist attack. This isn’t some fantasy plot for an international crime novel – it’s reality.

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications