This summer, a site called Better Diamond Initiative premiered, billing itself “a collection of thoughts, opinions and news based on views, facts and reports” on diamonds.
“We intend to have an open discussion about what we as consumers want and what we as industry members need to do to deliver them [sic],” it adds.
Sounds like a worthy, important effort. Yet it’s hard to have an open discussion when you don’t know who you are talking to. While the site tends to be quite pro lab-grown diamonds, when I first looked at it, it had no names attached, no sense of who was behind it, and no contact information. Finding out who was behind it took a bit of work.
First, I saw a listing that said that the Better Diamond Initiative and the Singapore-based diamond grower IIa Technologies share the same server and have shared the same IP address. In addition, both sites were built with help of an Indian company named Wise Cells, as was a third, growndiamonds.org, which also shares an IP with BDI.
A IIa spokesperson told me it has “no connection” to the Better Diamond Initiative and eventually referred me to the head of Wise Cells, who told me that its work for the Better Diamond Initiative is “independent” of its IIa work, and that the two sites no longer share an IP. He did not respond to a query about the Grown Diamonds site.
Eventually, Vyom Shah, founder of Phronesis Strategies, contacted me, identifying himself as the person behind the Better Diamond Initiative. His company consults on corporate, business, and operational strategy.
“I was intrigued by the strategic position at which the industry stands, its history and potential and hence toyed with the idea to expand my understanding and to research this industry,” he said in an email. “I started BDI since I saw an opportunity for online opinion creation in the diamond industry and believe that one day it will create good value.”
I asked: Is Phronesis running the site on behalf of a client? (The site says it “is supported,” and if it’s sponsored content, the sponsor should be disclosed.) I also asked which industry members are involved. (His firm has gem and jewelry clients, and, according to its Google Plus profile, has done work for companies in Germany, Brazil, and Singapore.) So far, I have not received an answer, though BDI did add contact info.
That is not all that is curious about the site. It seems to attract a large group of commenters, including people named Catherine Jules, D. Walters, Aisha L, Aleyna S, Jacob C, Smith Young, and Matt K, most of whom are quite fond of lab-grown diamonds. All those commenters have Twitter feeds (which I’ve linked at their names). All those feeds use the same avatar (none), they tweet similar articles and content, and all joined Twitter on the exact same day. I have reached out to them but have not heard back. Making this more curious, until recently, I was unable to leave a comment on the site. Shah says his site “does not track commenters” but didn’t answer other questions about those comments.
Given that the site calls for “uniform and comprehensive disclosure policies” for the diamond industry, I hope it makes a uniform and comprehensive disclosure about who is supporting it. A better diamond industry requires transparency. So does a better Better Diamond Initiative.
UPDATE: … And it appears that IIa Technologies holds a trademark for “Better Diamond Initiative” in Singapore.