Why the Sale of the Peace Diamond Was Significant

Martin Rapaport’s much-ballyhooed sale of the 709 ct. Peace Diamond (pictured, right) from Sierra Leone was in one way disappointing—its final price, $6.5 million, was well below what was hoped for and less than even a previous auction bid for the stone. But it’s possible that this auction will have significance beyond its final hammer price.

By generating tons of publicity for the auction and the beneficial effects this sale will have on the local economy, Rapaport drew attention to the larger concept of “ethical diamonds” from Africa. And he’s hopefully created a market for them.

“No [diamond dealer] is going to toss in another million bucks just for the hell of it,” says Brad Brooks-Rubin, policy director for the Enough Project and veteran of GIA. “That’s not the way the industry works. But kudos to Rapaport for going in the right direction and looking at how you actually develop a supply chain for these kinds of goods.”

The industry has long debated whether consumers will pay more for responsibly sourced diamonds. The success of Brilliant Earth has already answered that question. Blue Nile and James Allen also sell stones marked Canadian-origin. They aren’t doing that because consumers like maple leaves.

So far, with few exceptions, most of the diamonds sold as “ethical” are either Canadian and lab-grown. (Brilliant Earth does sell diamonds marked as Russian and “Botswana sort.” Forevermark also sells “responsibly sourced” diamonds, many from Africa, but it doesn’t specify their origin.) And there have been no attempts to market ethical, artisanally mined diamonds like has been done with artisanally mined gold.

Of course, it could prove a challenge selling ethical diamonds from Sierra Leone, the setting for the Blood Diamond movie. There will always be a certain amount of skepticism over where the money’s going; it’s not easy distributing money to the right places in a poor country. It also would rely on an artisanal sector notorious for low wages and poor working conditions. The pitch behind lab-grown is simpler: You don’t have to worry about any of this stuff.

We don’t know if the diamonds that emerge from the 709 ct. Peace rough will be sold in a way that marks their origin. The winning bidder was Laurence Graff, who this week announced he had scooped up another significant piece of Sierra Leone rough—the 476 ct. Meya Prosperity Diamond (pictured, below).

Maya Prosperity

Graff is known as a savvy buyer. He also owns a significant retailer. More than just diamonds, he understands marketing and public relations.

Clearly, these two purchases mark a trend. It’s not clear what Graff is planning for these diamonds (a spokesperson was not available for comment) but he seems to be thinking about something. And if anyone can make a business out of this, he can.

(Top photo courtesy of Rapaport Corp.; bottom courtesy of Graff, photo by Donald Woodrow)

JCK News Director

5 responses to “Why the Sale of the Peace Diamond Was Significant”

  1. Blood Diamond support the Apartheid State of Israel. How many people are dying because of this Slavery Business.
    Boycott Blood Diamond

  2. my comment about lsrael using diamond revenues to fund their crimes (well documented by international and lsraeli human rights groups) was removed. can i assume you don’t want the matter known about? if the industry is unaware of the situation they can acknowledge that and start to address it. removing comments makes it look like you are all too aware and wish to prevent it becoming common knowledge.

  3. As most blood diamonds enter the supply pipe downstream of the mining sector “responsible sourcing” doesn’t offer consumers any guarantee as to the ethical provenance of a diamond. Over twenty percent of the diamonds sold worldwide in value terms are processed in Israel where revenue from the industry is a major source of funding for a rogue apartheid regime that has developed a stockpile of unregulated nuclear weapons and stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    Forevermark, Brilliant Earth, Blue Nile and James Allen all sell “responsibly sourced” diamonds that are later processed in Israel and are therefore blood diamonds as they generate revenue used to fund grievous human rights violations in Palestine.
    This is an issue which most in the jewellery industry want to sweep under the carpet but more and more people are becoming aware of the double standard in the industry which gives a green light to blood diamonds that fund abuses by government forces. The departure of IMPACT from the discredited Kimberley Process is a salutary reminder that the day of reckoning for the diamond industry is hastened by the refusal of the industry to ban all blood diamonds and not just those that fund rebel movements.

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