Rapaport Magazine
Industry

Vicenzaoro Reflects Europe’s Challenges

Diverse trends, issues emerge at Vicenza’s World Jewellery Forum, where the WDC and CIBJO held meetings.

By Avi Krawitz


Gillian Milovanovic , Kimberley Process chair.
Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State.
The Vicenzaoro Fair, usually about high-end jewelry trends and design, took on a different tone this year by hosting the World Diamond Council (WDC) annual plenary and the annual congress of CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation. The three events constituted the World Jewellery Forum, offering high-level discussions on topics ranging from human rights issues affecting the trade to rising competition from other luxury products, corporate social responsibility and enhancing value-adding opportunities in the industry.

It was therefore appropriate that the spring fair adopted a more international theme emphasizing the global appeal of Italian jewelry design. “In our globalized economy, promoting one’s own identity and roots is becoming more and more important,” show organizers said. “Italian jewelry is therefore called upon to take its contents and products to the world, to promote the uniqueness of its Italian heritage and to turn it into a truly distinctive and competitive element.”

That strategy was particularly relevant for businesses focused on the local and European markets, especially since the stark undertones of Europe’s economic crisis darkened the mood among traders. “The market here is quiet,” said Alberto Loloi of Taj Diamonds, an Italy-based diamond supplier. He explained that depreciation of the euro against the U.S. dollar, coupled with new Italian government regulations limiting cash purchases at the retail level, have contributed to the quiet. Italian consumers are allowed to pay cash only on purchases below 1,000 euros — approximately $1,260. 

Europe’s economic gloom also has changed diamond buying among Italian jewelry designers, with more of them willing to use less expensive goods than before. With its strong focus on jewelry, the diamond pavilion was relatively small at the fair and the participating diamond companies noted that the show provided more of a networking opportunity “in a still important market” than a significant selling prospect.

CIBJO TACKLES NEW CHALLENGES

Mindful of the changing consumer landscape, delegates at the CIBJO Congress were fine-tuning amendments to the organization’s four “blue books,” which set the standards for the grading, methodology and nomenclature of diamonds, colored gemstones, pearls and precious metals.

CIBJO also created a number of entities — commissions, work groups and task forces — to provide added-value services to its members. These included a trade show commission, a security, insurance and logistics working group and a coral working group. CIBJO also reactivated its ethics commission.

A new strategic task force, which will be headed by Eli Avidar, managing director of the Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies (IDI), will be charged with increasing CIBJO’s industry membership and strengthening its financial base, among other things. Gaetano Cavalieri, CIBJO’s president, explained that the new bodies would help expand the tangible benefits that its members are able to offer and strengthen CIBJO’s ability to tackle new and developing challenges facing the jewelry industry.

Avidar noted that the organization has emerged as an unrivalled umbrella organization, having achieved consultative status at the United Nations and having established the gems and jewelry industry’s first center of excellence for education in corporate social responsibility, which is based in Antwerp. While he admitted the industry is under pressure from other luxury product sectors and third-party scrutiny, Avidar stressed that CIBJO ought to take the lead in advocating the industry’s position on issues of concern.

“It is common knowledge that in some markets — particularly in North America and Europe — the jewelry retail market has been losing market share, mainly due to competition from other luxury products, but also due to loss of consumer confidence,” Avidar said. “There is a lot of room to improve the industry’s marketing efforts and this is one of the areas where CIBJO members need help. I think that one of the next challenges CIBJO needs to take on is the creation of marketing tools that can be used by CIBJO members.”

HUMAN RIGHTS STAND

The depth of scrutiny that the industry faces was evident at the WDC conference, where the organization hailed a “groundbreaking” expression of its support for discussions to widen the conflict diamonds definition in the core documents of the Kimberley Process (KP) beyond its current scope of diamonds that finance conflict. The plenary session passed a resolution that conflict diamonds should cover “diamond-related violence in rough diamond producing and trading areas.”

Prior to the resolution, Alan Martin, research director of Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable human development in Africa, harshly criticized the WDC’s “ambiguity” regarding conflict diamonds. When the resolution passed, he praised it, saying that it offered a clearer message regarding the WDC’s stance.

The discussion leading up to the WDC resolution followed an announcement by Gillian Milovanovic, chairperson of the KP, that she intends to propose a new definition of conflict diamonds that would include acts of violence at the KP June intersessional meeting in Washington, D.C.

While the new definition does not refer to human rights abuses, Milovanovic told Rapaport Magazine that the definition implied human rights violations. Our aim is to focus on human development and financial transparency that will allow the KP to provide technical assistance to affected people in the trade, such as alluvial miners, which would extend to protecting their human rights, she added.

Milovanovic stressed that the move to change the definition was still in the discussion phase. Ultimately, it will be up to governments participating in the KP to reach full consensus on the issue before the resolution can pass. “No decision will be made at the intersessional but we hope to refine the discussion so that a new definition will be implemented in the near future,” concluded Milovanovic.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2012. To subscribe click here.

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