More Trouble for Marange

The Kimberley Process finally permitted the export of thousands of controversial diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields, but two prominent industry institutions say jewelers still shouldn’t carry them.

The 900,000-carat tender on Aug. 11 marked the first legal sales of diamonds from the area since November 2009, when the KP banned them from world markets after reports of government violence against local diggers. Yet ­Jewelers of America warned retailers that buying certain Marange diamonds may be a violation of U.S. law, and online network RapNet actually banned them. 

JA noted that U.S. sanctions forbid companies here from working with ­certain entities involved in the sale, including the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. (ZMDC) and Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who has business interests in the ZMDC; on its website, JA said that purchasing the diamonds “may be considered [a sanctions] violation at the present time.” (Cecilia Gardner, pres­ident and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, advises that it’s only illegal to do business directly with a sanctioned company or use an American bank in the transaction. Buying stones secondhand would not likely be a problem.)

JA claimed there could be other legal issues in the sale, like an ongoing Zimbabwe court battle over which company controls the mines. It recommended members ask “suppliers to provide additional written reassurances…that the diamonds they supply have not been obtained in violation of applicable national laws and/or sanctions.”

RapNet cited ethical considerations. Martin Rapaport said his trading network will never host stones “involved in human rights violations.”