Countries Approve Rough Certification

An international certification system for rough diamonds-the industry’s proposed solution to the “conflict diamond” issue-is one step closer.

Following a three-day conference in Pretoria, South Africa, representatives of some 20 diamond-producing and -importing countries endorsed the plan. They also agreed to co-sponsor a resolution on the certification system at the United Nations next year and to draft a world treaty on conflict stones.

“There is an international agreement,” noted Eli Izhakoff, head of the World Diamond Council, which is establishing and overseeing the system. “Everyone is unanimous in wanting to tackle this problem.” The Council hopes to get the rough certification system up and running by the first quarter of next year.

But trouble remains on the homefront. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) recently attached a rider to an appropriations bill that would ban diamond imports from Sierra Leone, Angola, and other war-torn countries. But since there’s no way to tell where rough diamonds originate-and won’t be until the certification system is established-the Customs Service says the bill would stop the import of all diamonds.

“That would cause an unacceptable stoppage in the flow of goods for no valid reason,” says Matt Runci, executive director of Jewelers of America and head of its legislative committee. He adds that Gregg’s staff still has not met with representatives of the diamond and jewelry industry, despite pleas from New Hampshire jewelers. “We spoke to them briefly and they said, ‘Give us new language,'” he says. “We said we would like to meet with [them] and explain our ideas. They didn’t have time. We stand ready to meet with them. There doesn’t seem to be any desire on the part of the senator’s staff to understand the issue.”

Judd’s staff did not return a call from JCK.