Consumer awareness of conflict diamonds fell 11%

Consumers have expressed a marked decrease in their knowledge of the term “conflict diamonds” after a nearly three-year rise in awareness, according to a recent survey.

Out of 3,342 consumers (83% women, 17% men) who responded to a Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council (JCOC) in September, 15% have said they heard of the expression “conflict diamond.” This is a decided drop from the last time JCOC surveyed its members in July 2003. At that time 26% of consumers said they have heard of the term. Previously, 16% of respondents said they were familiar with the term in December 2002, and 9% in May 2001.

In fact, according to the most recent survey, nearly 70% of respondents are “extremely unfamiliar” with the term, and 50% say that when purchasing a diamond it’s “extremely unlikely” they would ask if it’s conflict, according to the survey, which is done via the Internet. About 17% purchased diamonds or diamond jewelry in the past six month; with nearly 93% of them reporting that the jeweler did not discuss conflict diamonds. Nearly 72% say the diamonds they bought did not come with documentation on the sales receipt and/or certification that the diamonds were conflict free or from a country not associated with conflict diamonds.

About 70% of those surveyed said they believe the majority of diamonds originate in South Africa. Although consumers rank country of origin least important when deciding what diamond to purchase, most say they would ask about the origin of a diamond. Most notable is that more than 9% of consumers say they consider country of origin in their purchasing decision, up from below 1% in 2000 and 2001. More than 90% in the current survey say they would not purchase a diamond if they knew it came from a country where social injustice was occurring as a consequence of its production. That figure is up from 73% in 2001, 76% in 2000.

Most consumers surveyed said they believe it is important that conflict diamonds are eliminated from retail jewelry stores worldwide. But almost 97% were unfamiliar with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. Moreover, consumers are either somewhat familiar or extremely unfamiliar with the London-based human rights group Amnesty International, leading efforts to stop the sale of conflict diamonds. Some 97% were unaware that the group, along with another non-governmental organization called Global Witness, was conducting a survey of U.S. jewelry retailers on Sept. 18 to check their compliance with the Kimberley Process.

“This remains a surprisingly high negative response given the media coverage the subject has received,” says Marty Hurwitz, founder and CEO of MVI Marketing, Paso Robles, Calif. “It further confirms the magnitude of the communications task that is required for the conflict diamonds terms to achieve significant awareness among the general consumer population. These study results demonstrate that while conflict diamonds are not at the forefront of consumers’ minds, they are perceived as important and of concern to the jewelry purchasing public. At any given moment, media attention could spark renewed interest in this issue, resulting in increased skepticism at the retail level.”

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JCOC, founded in 2001, provides MVI Marketing clients with market intelligence about their jewelry products and their respective consumers. The JCOC is an e-panel of fine jewelry consumers throughout North America representing all ages, genders, income levels, buying categories, and geographic regions.

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