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Notes from Las Vegas…. P.S. Diamonds Do Good

Jun 3, 2016 9:24 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... Industry initiatives for responsible sourcing and supply chain integrity came under the spotlight at the JCK Las Vegas show on Thursday. The problem, many sessions concluded, is that people don’t know about the tremendous strides the industry is making in this regard.

That became all too apparent as one of the “JCK Talks” panels debated whether Lab-grown diamonds are a “threat or opportunity” for the natural diamond trade. While the lab-grown industry is marketing itself as an ethical alternative to natural diamonds, the undertone is that the natural diamond trade is not ethical.

Maarten De Witte, master diamond cutter at Diamond Foundry, a California-based producer of lab-grown diamonds, stressed the perception among consumers about the natural industry is negative given the conflict diamond issue and the environmental damage the mines cause. For that reason, he said, millennials in particular are interested in the Foundry, where currently “demand is far outstripping supply.”

They don’t necessarily ask about conflict diamonds when buying a diamond. But because they’re aware of it, they’re very interested in the lab-grown story, he explained.

Jean Marc Lieberherr, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), argued for the ethics of the natural trade. He stressed the mining companies are working with communities affected by their operations to provide jobs, social programs and ensure minimal environmental damage results from the mine.

He disputed that lab-grown – or synthetic – diamonds have an “ethical” selling proposition over natural stones. Rather, consumers are being drawn to lab-grown diamonds because of price, Lieberherr said. De Witte argued the lab-grown industry can make a claim of responsible production the natural diamond industry can’t necessarily make.

Stanley Zale, vice president, diamonds and gemstones at Stuller Inc., a jewelry manufacturer which deals in both natural and synthetic diamonds, stressed the diamond industry is involved with a lot of good but “the story needs to be told better.”

The subsequent session “Sustainability and Responsibility” tackled that very challenge. Sponsored by the Jewelry Summit as a follow-up to its inaugural meeting in March,
the panel outlined 11
initiatives being taken to advance the goals
of the summit.
Among those, “Project Megaphone” aims to get the good stories out there through a content hub which is still in early development, and by using the #responsiblejewelry hashtag. Organizers were distributing pins to wear during the JCK show expressing support for the summit in an effort to “create a movement, rather than a moment,” said convener Cecelia Gardner, CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.    

Similarly, the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) said it will embark on an awareness campaign in the coming year to enlighten consumers of the commitment its members have made to meet RJC’s codes of practice standards. A discussion hosted by Signet Jewelers highlighted the work the retailer is doing to ensure its suppliers can vouch for their diamonds through the Signet Responsible Sourcing Protocol for Diamonds (D-SRSP) launched earlier this year. Among the panelists, a representative from Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) stressed its website was developed to celebrate the impact diamonds have on communities around the world. “We have to get the word out because people don’t know about all the good that’s being done, and they should,” he concluded.

JCK Talks preceded the opening of the JCK Las Vegas show running from Friday through Monday. JCK Luxury opened on Tuesday, May 31, while the Couture show and the Las Vegas Jewelry and Watch show respectively opened their doors on Thursday. Traffic was fairly upbeat in the opening hours of the Jewelry and Watch show, which focuses on branded antique and estate jewelry.
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Tags: Avi Krawitz, Diamond Empowerment Fund, diamonds, jewellery, Jewelry, RJC, Signet, stuller
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