Diamonds: Nicky Oppenheimer Honored by WDC & More

High Definition

At its annual meeting in May in Vicenza, Italy, the World Diamond Council endorsed an initiative to consider expanding the mandate of the Kimberley Process to cover diamonds produced in violent circumstances.

The Kimberley Process defines conflict diamonds as “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments.” Critics say the definition is inadequate, as it fails to cover diamonds associated with human rights abuses.

At the meeting, Partnership Africa Canada research director Alan Martin said that changing the definition was a matter of necessity. “How can you be in favor of human rights, and recognize the role state actors sometimes play in abuses, yet not classify diamonds mined in such contexts as conflict diamonds?” he asked.

Kimberley Process chair Gillian Milovanovic also endorsed a change in the definition, suggesting new wording to cover “diamond-related violence in ­diamond-producing and trading areas.” That definition is specifically worded to cover conflicts over gems, rather than every dispute taking place in a country, she noted. She also proposed a “transition period” toward new wording so countries currently having problems—such as Angola—have time to get their houses in order.

The WDC resolution doesn’t explicitly endorse changing the definition, but expresses “support for discussions pertaining to widening the conflict diamonds definition.” The resolution also singles out Milovanovic’s language as “a good starting point.”

The new language still needs to be approved by the Kimberley Process—hardly a foregone conclusion. Indeed, the day after the WDC resolution, Indian diamantaires anonymously criticized the new language in a Times of India article, suggesting that “even a small incidence of violence” could get a diamond tagged as “conflict­.”

Hong Kong Sale Earns $80 Million

The Etcetera ruby ring

The celebrated Martian Pink diamond scored an out-of-this-world price at Christie’s May 29 Hong Kong sale. The 12.2 ct. brilliant-cut stone—the largest fancy intense pink ever sold at auction—brought in $17.3 million, blowing away its $8 million to $10 million pre-sale estimate.

The Harry Winston–designed diamond was named the Martian Pink to celebrate the U.S. satellite mission to Mars in 1976, the year Winston purchased the jewel.

The sale was also highlighted by a record per-carat price for a ruby. The Etcetera 6.04 ct. Burmese ruby ring sold for $3.3 million, or a record $551,000 per carat. In total, the auction brought in $80 million.

Oppenheimer Honored in Vicenza

De Beers chairman Nicky Oppen­heimer used the occasion of a May 14 World Diamond Council gala in Vicenza to say an emotional goodbye to the trade.

Steven Benson/MDBC
Oppenheimer (far left) receives a commemorative silver plate.

Oppenheimer’s family sold its stake in De Beers to Anglo-American in November 2011, ending 85 years of family involvement in the diamond industry. “As I contemplate an imminent change in my personal circumstances… I am often reminded that only a diamond is forever,” Oppenheimer said.

While the agreement prevents him from participating in the industry for two years, he vowed that he would follow it from afar. “I am leaving the diamond industry, but the industry is not leaving me,” he said, calling it a business that “gets in your blood.”

Oppenheimer said he wasn’t sure of his post–De Beers plans—or even when the sale would officially close. He was accompanied by son Jonathan, who heads De Beers subsidiary Element Six. The WDC honored Oppenheimer for his years of support for the group and the Kimberley Process.

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