Former De Beers executive Nicholas Moltke is keenly aware that the diamond industry has an image problem. It’s apparent every time he tells people what he does for a living.
“When I say I work in the diamond business, a majority of the time people have really negative connotations about what our business represents and its legacy,” he says. “They generally have a very specific perception of mining conditions. They don’t know the business has changed.”
Having lived in Botswana for five years, Moltke knows the impact that diamonds can have. “I saw how diamonds can do good and support local communities,” he says. “There’s a strong opportunity to develop something that is focused on Botswana and allows retailers to tell this very important story.”
So, following the path blazed by Canadamark and Forevermark—both of which came with provenance assurances—Moltke has founded Botswanamark, a company featuring gems from the “poster child” for how diamonds can contribute to economic development. The new brand will initially be sold in three stores run by International Diamond Center (IDC), a 12-store chain based out of Clearwater, Fla.
Brian Stamey, IDC’s vice president of marketing and operations, got excited about this concept while seeing the impact of diamonds on a trip to Africa. But he also had a more practical reason for wanting a certified-origin brand.
“With Russian supply being closed off to this market, it allows us to have a direct source,” he says.
Of course, the project’s success is far from guaranteed. Many Americans have heard negative things about diamonds in Africa and can’t tell one African country from another. There have also been periodic attempts to build Botswana-based brands in the past, which don’t seem to have lasted.
Still, Stamey is optimistic, saying this line reminds him of the early days of Forevermark. “At first, consumers didn’t know what Forevermark meant,” he says. “But it was a great story, a way to differentiate ourselves. I’m excited to build this from the ground up.”
In addition to their provenance guarantee—backed up by blockchain—Botswanamark diamonds have been certified carbon-neutral, through the use of offsets. That “isn’t ideal,” Moltke admits, but it’s the best the brand can do until Debswana’s mines become carbon-neutral, which is scheduled to happen by 2030.
Botswanamark will also donate 1% of its profits to three local charities: Ecoexsist Trust, Learn to Play, and Hippo Rollers.
For now, Botswanamark’s diamonds—unlike Forevermark’s—will be sold without a premium, even though the tracking, carbon credits, marketing, and charitable donations all add costs. But that could change.
“I think the consumer will ultimately be the driver of that,” says Stamey. “If we do our job well and build value in the name, we should be able to get a premium.”
Moltke, who’s CEO of the new company, is just hoping the larger message will resonate. “Natural diamonds have to evolve their consumer proposition,” he says. “If we as an industry are not able to tell the Botswana story, then what are we telling our consumers? We are telling them the same story that we’ve told them for 100 years, that diamonds are a product which stands for love and that they keep their value.
“We are in front of a consumer that demands more and expects more from the industry. We have to connect them with this new narrative.”
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