Of Conflicts and Caring

What does Jan. 1 mean to the average retail jeweler in America?

Aside from the obvious—holiday madness is over and it’s time to take inventory—it also means that jewelers can no longer dismiss the conflict diamond issue as “something in the magazines that doesn’t really affect me.”

As senior editor Rob Bates discusses in his article on page 64, it does affect you. All the debating, arguing, politicking, and finger-pointing has finally become a system that, if everyone complies, will be the best assurance we have of not furthering atrocities through diamond sales. While there’s still some doubt about whether every country that has a diamond mine will comply with the rules set forth in the agreement, American retailers must comply.

As we face the beginning of a diamond certification system designed to prevent the funding of war, it’s worth remembering that the jewelry industry is a good working model of peace. Take a walk through any jewelry show, and you’ll see Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Americans, Germans, Italians, Israelis, Turks, Armenians, Greeks, French, Chinese, Thais, Lebanese, and many others working side by side and doing business together. Attend the dinners on the industry social circuit, and you’ll find a menu that honors multiple dietary laws. Many of those dinners are benefits for organizations such as the National Conference for Community and Justice, which works to eliminate bigotry through education and understanding, or ORT, which works to help people of many cultures around the world develop the skills needed to earn a living. How many other industries work as a whole to help such causes?

In any given town, businesses will participate in the charities they feel are most worthy. But how often does an entire industry participate in an effort to make the world a better place? The entertainment industry does, as does most of the fashion industry, but otherwise there’s rarely a unified effort by an industry beyond political lobbying to further its own interests.

Sure, the jewelry industry has its fair share of arguments on the way to harmony. But our fights stem from business or professional rivalry, not baseless prejudice or hatred. In the jewelry industry, if you’re honest and ethical you’re accepted, regardless of your ethnic heritage. You can get blacklisted for being a liar, a cheat, or a deadbeat—but not for being black, white, Asian, etc.

From individual jewelers to the industry as a whole, we are a giving bunch. If any more evidence is needed, just look at the Jewelers’ Charity Fund for Children, one of the industry’s newest but biggest charities. Jewelers’ generosity, coupled with the tireless work of Patricia Light in pulling it all together, has helped many children live another day or find a reason to be happy even when they’re terminally ill.

JCK also works to be a good industry citizen. The magazine, together with The JCK Shows, contributes $400,000 annually to the industry through the JCK Industry Fund, which was established to provide financial grants to organizations or individuals who demonstrate a plan that will benefit the industry as a whole. During the month of January, requests for 2003 JCK Fund grants are being evaluated, and recipients will receive their monies during The JCK Show ~ Orlando. Deciding who gets funded is never easy, but we do our best to determine which requests will provide the most benefit to the industry overall.

The world is a much more uncertain place these days, but the industry’s ongoing commitment to caring makes one thing certain: We try to make whatever little part of the world we touch become a better place for us having been there.

hschupak@reedbusiness.com