In a fascinating development, Birks and Mayors says (PDF) that it will start selling a “made in Botswana” diamond brand – both in its stores, and possibly wholesale.
According to John Orrico, the company’s senior vice president, the company has the exclusive right to sell a Botswana brand in North America, because DMB, the Botswanan diamond cutter it’s partnering with, is partly owned by the government.
Now, of course, branding Botswana’s diamonds is a good way to “add value” to the country’s embryonic cutting industry, as well as attract socially conscious consumers. When I visited the country last year, virtually everyone on the trip agreed the country had a great “story to tell.” Orrico calls it “a feel good story … the 3,000 jobs that are being created, the fact that these diamonds benefit the economy and the people, and that Botswana is a democratic state in Africa.”
I agree, and yet … promoting Botswana diamonds could require a considerable education process. I remember a diamond seller telling me of an email that said, “No diamonds from Africa.” It’s a sad fact that many Americans don’t know the difference between peaceful Botswana and (formerly) war-torn Sierra Leone. Certainly, Canadian diamond seller Brilliant Earth’s success is in part due to the idea that all African diamonds are bad, as any industry involving Africans is inherently exploitive. Remember, when the World Diamond Council tried to promote the “good diamonds do,” it was largely met with skepticism.
Orrico says that education about Botswana will be part of the store’s promotions, and argued that there is more awareness about Botswana than one might think. “There been some great press recently, including Time magazine,” he notes. “I think the consumer that is that socially conscious and that is knowledgeable about what went on [regarding conflict diamonds] is the same consumer that is very aware of the incredible progress that has been made in Botswana.”
In any case, this is a worthy project that could have a beneficial impact on the industry’s image overall, as well as test the market for further down-the-road projects like Fair Trade diamonds. I’m quite curious how it turns out.