Fighting Ducks

Jewelry and gemstones being used to disguise money? Imagine that!

Converting money to small, transportable, and generally untraceable objects of high value—whether to evade taxes or to fund a revolution—isn’t exactly news. It’s been happening since jewels, taxes, and revolutions were first invented.

Unfortunately, our life’s passion—working in an industry that specializes in supplying small, transportable, and generally untraceable objects of high value—makes us sitting ducks for criticism now that America’s public enemy No. 1 has allegedly been hiding and moving money via jewels.

Articles connecting jewelry and terror are likely to remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future, as demonstrated by the recent publication of several in such esteemed newspapers as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. At press time, the Philadelphia-area ABC-TV affiliate had just aired a story about a chain of jewelry stores being investigated by the FBI for possible links to the al Qaeda terrorist network. In each of these cases, JCK duly reported on these articles and, to the best of our ability, followed up with further details on each situation. And we took a fair bit of grief from members of the industry who saw our efforts to inform as an effort to incite.

I think we in the jewelry trade—and in the jewelry trade press—have to deal with such situations head-on. We’ve already made great strides in breaking down known connections between jewelry and terror—the Tucson Tanzanite Protocols; the Kimberley Process and resulting cooperation with Congress on stopping the flow of conflict diamonds; the wonderful work of Cecilia Gardner, Matt Runci, Eli Izakoff, Doug Hucker, and many other industry leaders who jumped right on these thorny issues and worked to find realistic solutions.

We need to fight back when we’re portrayed wrongly. We’ve all seen the many so-called “news” programs present a greatly distorted picture of conflict diamonds and other issues. But we have to make sure that fighting back doesn’t degenerate into whining: Why-doesn’t-the-media-go-after-Big-Oil-because-Middle-Eastern-oil-funds-the-countries-that-fund-the-terrorists-but-it’s-all-tied-up-with-politicians-and-money, yadda, yadda. Yes, there probably is some culpability there, but we can’t control that. We have to focus on what we can control. (Note: Where U.S. oil companies source their oil is on record at the U.S. Department of Energy, and any public official who served as a director of a publicly held oil company should be listed in that company’s annual reports of the time.)

Everyone feels frustrated at the al Qaeda terror network’s ability to evade our grasp, so whenever a suspected link arises, it’s going to unleash a firestorm of investigations and allegations.

A forest ranger knows that the best way to fight fire is with fire—not one roaring forest fire against another, but a series of small, controlled fires to get rid of the dry underbrush that feeds the big fire. So when an article linking terrorism to jewelry comes out, our industry should be the first to jump in and volunteer to rout out the culprits. Tucson and Kimberley are good programs, but we can’t rest on those laurels and say we’ve done our part. We have to continually examine ourselves and our business connections, know who we’re doing business with, and refuse to deal with anyone who doesn’t willingly do the same.

There’s no shame in saying, “We don’t know,” as long as in the next breath we say, “but we’re going to do our damnedest to find out.”