Industry Addresses Angola in Washington

November 23, 1999

Industry Discusses Angola in Washington

Diamond industry leaders met with government officials in Washington, DC, Nov. 19 to discuss illicit diamond trade in Angola and other unstable regions in Africa.

Although more details about the roundtable haven't been released, industry representatives were expected to oppose a House of Representatives bill, introduced Nov. 1 by Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH), meant to put a halt to "purchases of diamonds sold by countries in which human rights abuses are funded through the sales of these diamonds and other resources." They were expected to argue the bill is difficult or impossible to enforce and could severely hurt the jewelry industry if passed.

Attending the meeting were Matthew Runci, president and CEO of JA; Bill Boyajian, president of the Gemological Institute of America; Eli Haas, president of the Diamond Dealers Club; Jeff Fischer, president of the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers of America; Theodore Sorensen of Lazare Kaplan International and Martin Rapaport of the Rapaport Diamond Report. The meeting was organized by the Foreign Service Institute for the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff, chaired by Morton Halperin. Also attending were Rep. Hall and representatives of the Department of State, U.S. Customs Service, National Intelligence Council, National Security Council and Harvard University.

According to the Gemological Institute of America and other labs that spoke to Professional Jeweler, there is no gemologically certain way to determine a diamond's origin consistently once rough diamonds leave their points of origin. The characteristics of one diamond source often overlap those of another. Once diamonds are cut and the origin clues on the diamond's surface are polished away, determination of origin is practically impossible.

Runci says the meeting was "a candid, freewheeling discussion that helped shed light on what is a very, very complicated problem. In my opinion, it was very productive." More details will be released next week.

- by Robert Weldon, G.G., and Peggy Jo Donahue