State Department Urges Jewelry Industry to Do More on Diamond Sourcing

In an appearance at a July 29 JA show panel, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez urged the industry to do more to track the origin of its diamonds.

“Consumers want assurance that the gems they are buying are not associated with people suffering,” said Fernandez, who serves as assistant secretary of economic, energy and business affairs. “If you are willing to responsibly source, you will get paid more and that will be a marketing opportunity.”

When a questioner called the KP ineffective, Fernandez countered that it was effective but needed to evolve. “It has outlived its original origins,” he said. “What it needs is to be expanded.”

He added: “We cannot wait for the Kimberley Process to catch up to industry. We need the industry to take the lead.”

He cited as praiseworthy initiatives the Precious Stones Multi-stakeholder Working group and the Diamond Source Warranty Protocol.

Other panelists talked about similar issues:

– Ngomesia Mayer-Kechom, project coordinator of the Diamond Development Initiative, said his group is looking at solutions for the artisanal mining sector. “Diamonds from the artisanal sector are part of the pipeline,” he said. “We cannot fail to address these issues. It’s been difficult, but what about diamond mining is not difficult?”

– Dr. Benjamin Chavis, senior strategic advisor of the Diamond Empowerment Fund, said his group was trying to help recruit a new generation of African leaders.

– Cecilia Gardner, president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and general counsel of the World Diamond Council, said that the Kimberley Process’ role in Marange is unappreciated. “It wasn’t the United Nations, it wasn’t the Human Rights Commission. We were able to force change in Marange and stop the violence there,” she said. “You go there now—there are schools, roads, and hospitals that weren’t there before.”

– David J. Bonaparte, president and CEO of Jewelers of America, said that, speaking as a newcomer to the process, while the Kimberley Process has “accomplished a tremendous amount,” it also has “clear gaps.” 

– Martin Rapaport, CEO of Rapaport Corp., said economic incentives will eventually lead the industry to support initiatives like fair trade diamonds. “People say no one is asking for it,” he said. “No one asked for princess cuts years ago until people created them and then the demand came.” He said every company needs to take “responsibility” for its supply chain. “If you are selling diamonds in your shop, you need to ask: How can we be sure [we’re selling] kosher diamonds?” he said.

Gardner also agreed that the industry needs “a culture of responsibility” about its supply chains. “We have to push our industry to make this more front of mind,” she added.

The panel was moderated by National Jeweler editor-in-chief Whitney Sielaff.

JCK News Director