Human Rights Groups and JA Clash Over Support of Conflict Diamond Legislation

April 11, 2001

Human Rights Groups and JA Clash Over Support of Conflict Diamond Legislation

Jewelers of America sent a conflict diamond update to its members today asking them to avoid supporting U.S. Rep. Tony Hall's (D-OH) Clean Diamonds Act (H.R. 918).

The update asks jewelers to wait instead for details on an industry-supported bill expected to be introduced in the Senate when it reconvenes April 23. JA says the industry-supported bill will be more effective, more enforceable and not harmful to the diamond and jewelry industry, says JA Spokesman Fred Michmershuisen.

JA's update was issued in response to a campaign kicked off today by a human rights coalition called The Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds, which specifically asks jewelry retailers to support the Clean Diamonds Act. The group, spearheaded by Physicians for Human Rights, promises if jewelers write to them indicating support for Hall's bill, the group will send them a window decal identifying the store as a supporter of "clean diamonds." The campaign will focus on influencing 50 prominent jewelry stores nationwide to participate in the initiative, says a press release on the PHR Web site, www.phrusa.org.

JA asked its members not to join in the campaign or display the group's window decal.

Jewelry-industry leaders' main objection to Hall's bill is its requirement that all diamonds and diamond jewelry carry a label stating the diamonds adhered to an international rough-control certification program. This would add undue expense and negativity to every diamond purchase, industry leaders say, ultimately hurting the sale of all diamonds. The international diamond industry has been careful to protect the interests of other diamond producers in Africa, such as Botswana and South Africa, which mine non-conflict diamonds and depend on the revenues.

Other industry leaders say that since the industry has been proactive in responding to the conflict diamond crisis, it deserves some credit for initiative. They say they're fearful that if Hall's bill is passed without credit given to the industry, consumers may feel the jewelry industry had to be browbeaten into accepting conflict diamond controls. The opposite is true, they say. The industry-supported bill due to be introduced in the Senate, say insiders, will more effectively reflect the work groups such as the World Diamond Council have accomplished since the diamond and jewelry industry began fighting conflict diamonds.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue