Zale will resume selling tanzanite

Zale is planning to again sell tanzanite, citing a lack of evidence that the precious gem is linked to terrorist organizations and successful efforts by the Tanzanian government, tanzanite miners, and the jewelry industry to strengthen controls on the tanzanite trade.

“For all of these reasons, barring any new information, Zale has decided to take steps to resume the sale of tanzanite, although the product is not yet in our stores,” the Irving, Texas-based company said in a statement, Tuesday, May 7. “We are still closely monitoring the situation and look forward to receiving very soon reports from the Tanzanian government and trade industry groups detailing the steps being taken to protect legitimate trade of this beautiful stone.”

Zale was one of several major retailers, including Tiffany & Co., QVC, and Wal-Mart that suspended tanzanite sales this past fall following a Wall Street Journal article that alleged a link between the tanzanite trade and terrorist organizations, including Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. Zale is the first of these companies to say it will resume selling tanzanite.

Zale began its own investigation, which coincided with similar investigations made by the jewelry industry and the U.S. State Department, into the claims by the newspaper.

“Since that time, no one, including Zale, has been able to substantiate any ongoing link between terrorists and tanzanite,” the Zale statement says. “In fact, the State Department has said publicly that, after a comprehensive investigation, it can find no evidence of such a link.”

In addition, Zale officials say the reason for its change of policy is the adoption and perceived enforcement of the Tanzanite Protocols by the Tanzanian government and jewelry industry trade groups. These protocols are intended to strengthen controls on the tanzanite trade and to establish mechanisms for tracking tanzanite from mine to retailer through documentation and other procedures. In April, a jewelry industry delegation visited Tanzania to monitor the progress in implementing the protocols. They reported that they were pleased with the controls in place.

“These steps and others will provide our suppliers with an ability to track the origins of the product and its path to them, and, in turn, to make the appropriate confirmations that Zale requires as to the legitimacy of the stone,” the statement said.

Outside of the statement, no one from Zale would comment Tuesday. There was some confusion over the issue. Last night, a Zale public relations representative told JCK that its policy on tanzanite had not changed. However, a story in today’s Wall Street Journal quoted a Zale official saying that the company had the go-ahead to place orders for tanzanite for the coming year. The company statement was faxed to JCK Tuesday afternoon.