Jewellers in Dark About Blood Gems

Business Day
November 7, 2002

Despite a landmark ruling on conflict diamond regulations, which require retailers to assure customers that their diamonds are purchased from legitimate sources and do not come from areas of conflict, Belgian and UK jewellers are hardly aware of the scheme, which comes into effect in January.

According to a study by ActionAid, a British aid agency, which approached 13 British high street and luxury chains and Hatton Garden independents, including Ernest Jones, Leslie Davis, Tiffany and Cartier, sales staff were "ignorant of the regulations, confused and complacent".

In Belgium, which is home to the world's largest trading centre Antwerp, sales people at both Cartier and Bulgari, the high-end jewellers, said they had not been informed about the new scheme. The Kimberley Process certification scheme was approved by governments and international organisations at a two-day conference in Switzerland earlier this week, and is meant to trace rough diamonds from their point of origin to sale.

The European Union has also drafted a directive against conflict diamonds based on the Kimberley Process. "With only two months to go before the code of conduct is due to be introduced, the diamond industry is totally unprepared to implement it.

The World Diamond Council, the industry's trade body, has not made public, even to its own members, details of its self-regulation scheme. "No attempts have been made to educate jewellers, yet they are the ones who have to prove to buyers that they are selling clean diamonds," ActionAid said.

The United Nations backed measures are the result of negotiations between human rights groups and industry bodies in an effort to prevent trade in diamonds from conflict areas such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where they have been used to finance civil war.

Apart from jewellers, there are others in the trade who have not been fully informed of the industry's agreement to self-regulate itself.

"It is amazing that bodies like the HRD, the Antwerp High Diamond Council, which represents the industry, goes around to trade fairs in Hong Kong, the US and elsewhere and does not even have a conflict diamond information booth," said one Antwerp diamond dealer.

UK-based Global Witness, said the World Diamond Council had recommitted itself to embark on an intensive programme of education for high street jewellery retailers, polished traders and diamond bourses worldwide.

"They (the council) have recommitted themselves to produce an educational pamphlet saying what the problem is about and why, and they will also send out copies of the Kimberley Process documents," said Alex Yearsley, a Global Witness campaigner. ActionAid said it would continue campaigning with consumers to grow awareness of the Kimberley Process.

"From the first of January, we will be launching advertisements, organising demonstrations and working with consumers and supporters in the UK asking them to check every time they buy jewellery with diamonds," ActionAid said.

More Information on the Kimberley Process
More Information on Diamonds in Conflict

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