‘Dateline’ slams jewelry industry over ‘conflict diamonds’

The diamond industry has now been slammed by newsmagazines on all three major networks.

In July, Dateline NBC joined ABC’s Prime Time and CBS’s 60 Minutes in presenting a damning, some felt one-sided, look at the “conflict diamond” issue.

What particularly disturbed some was the program’s focus on the retail counter, and its swipes at three of the industry’s biggest names: Tiffany, Cartier, and Harry Winston.

Congressman Tony Hall (D-Ohio) advised consumers to ask: “Where is this diamond from?’ . If that jeweler says, `I don’t know,’ don’t buy a diamond there until he finds out.”

But after Hall advised viewers to turn heel on jewelers that didn’t provide guarantees, the show then slammed jewelers that did. Following JA chairman Matthew A. Runci’s (misspelled “Runcie” on the show’s web site) contention that no jeweler can guarantee his diamonds are “conflict-free,” the show played hidden camera footage of salespeople from Tiffany, Dateline, and Harry Winston, all denying they carried diamonds from Congo and Sierra Leone.

“[That’s] a claim we were told no jeweler can make,” the show said. “We contacted half a dozen other retailers. They all said basically the same thing: their wholesalers assured them the diamonds they’re getting are clean.”

One Tiffany saleswoman, however, did give what most view as the “right” answer: “We make every attempt possible not to buy from anyone that would purchase from those areas.” Then the reporter asked, “So you can’t really guarantee it?” and she replied, “No one can.”

The show also sold a diamond to a 47th Street dealer who didn’t seem to care that it was from Sierra Leone. “He didn’t seem to care where the diamond is from, but he was interested in getting his hands on more of them,” reporter Dr. Bob Arnot said. In addition, a salesman for New York’s Cora Diamonds bragged he had an office in Kisingani when asked if the company had stones from there. The company later denied it has a Congo office.

Tiffany, Cartier, Harry Winston, and Cora Diamonds did not have comments on the broadcast at press time.

Another part of the program dredged up a now-settled debate: Whether diamond jewelry should be included in Congressional “conflict diamond” legislation. It did note, however, that a compromise had been reached.

Most people interviewed expected the show to be negative, but some felt the show’s reporter, Arnot, misled them by promising it would be fair. The sole bright spot of the program, some said, was that it aired in summer before a holiday week, a time when viewing levels typically drop.