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Trust Is Key for Ethical Dealing, Say Suppliers

Amid efforts to boost transparency in the industry, a dealer’s integrity is a priceless resource.

Jun 19, 2019 7:16 AM   By Joyce Kauf
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Transparency is a growing goal for wholesalers, but there’s another “T” word that may be even more important: trust. In an industry defined by long-abiding relationships, assurances of ethical sourcing depend heavily on a seller’s reputation for integrity.

Opening up

Transparency is now a “definite trend,” according to Eric Mor, president of New York-based wholesaler Abe Mor Diamond Cutters. There is public concern, especially among millennials, about an industry associated with “blood diamonds,” he notes, th

“Thirty years ago, it used to be just family members, and now we are bringing in brain-power and Wall Street money,” he says. “We’re opening up, but we’re still so insular.”

David Rakower, president of New York-based manufacturer Joseph Asher Collection, also hails the move toward greater openness. “Transparency is de rigueur; everyone is trying to be transparent,” he says. He cites the Kimberley Process (KP), as well as the written and oral guarantees in place to ensure that everyone from producers to retailers is complying with ethical standards.

Is it sustainable?

For all those efforts, however, it’s difficult to verify a stone’s source indisputably, says Mor. “Our suppliers sign pledges that their diamonds are sourced ethically, but frankly, without advances in technology, such as blockchain or photographing the diamond from the rough to the final product, there is really no way to absolutely ensure that every step of the way is ethical.”

The same is true for recycled diamonds — or as Mor prefers to call them, “reclaimed” diamonds.

“It’s definitely hip right now to buy things that are environmentally friendly,” he observes. While he occasionally receives requests for reclaimed diamonds, he believes retailers need to make consumers aware that such diamonds exist, as customers “are not going to ask for them unless they are advertised.”

That said, it’s not always possible to confirm that such diamonds are indeed recycled. “Short of showing the old Gemological Institute of America (GIA) cert or other paperwork, there is really no way to prove that the diamond has been reclaimed and entered the market,” he says.

Maintaining a good name

As such, many wholesalers consider trust to be the driving factor in an industry traditionally known as a “handshake business.”

“As a supplier, the most important thing we can do is establish a trusting relationship and [strengthen] those relationships we have both up- and downstream,” asserts Rakower. “We are going to regulate ourselves to ensure that when we produce and/or sell things, we do that with the knowledge that we have our reputations at stake.”

Indeed, he declares, “we don’t hide behind anything. We put our name on our products.”

Of course, that doesn’t stop less savory players from trying to gain traction. “We get from two to five calls as well as several emails a week from all kinds of dubious suppliers. We ignore those calls,” says Mor. “It isn’t all that hard for someone to find illegal sources. We only do business with people we trust.”

‘A very strong chain’

It takes a joint effort from parties throughout the pipeline to ensure ethical sourcing, says Rakower. “We have a personal responsibility to do the right thing. If everyone in the chain stands up and does the right thing, we’ll have a very strong chain.”

Of course, there are other benefits to sourcing stones responsibly. “Besides being the right thing to do, being ethical is a smart business move — more so for our industry,” states Mor. “The most exciting part is the potential to market our transparency to consumers and shine a light on all the good the industry does. But at the end of the day, market forces will drive the change. Being transparent will pay off.”

Getting certified

One of the ways companies can get their ethical-sourcing credentials is by joining the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) — and the organization has high standards for entry.

“It was quite intense,” says Andrew Rickard, vice president of operations at RDI Diamonds, recalling the extensive audits required for membership. The certification recognizes a company’s commitment to responsible business practices, and RDI — a wholesaler in Rochester, New York — took this proactive step to reinforce its values of transparency and integrity.

“You’re essentially going through the rigorous process to prove that your product is done in an ethically sourced way with people who are trusted resources,” Rickard elaborates — in other words, that “you are doing things above board.”

Occasionally, clients question him about the company’s sourcing policies, and he views it as an opportunity to explain the RJC’s goals. “Clients gain a different perspective once they understand what certification entails and how comprehensive — and difficult — it was. There is a newfound respect for what we’re doing...to mitigate those risks.”

Still, nothing is “1,000%” foolproof, he acknowledges. “There is always the fear that one bad player can damage your reputation. There are so many parts of the chain — and only so much that is in your control.”

This article was first published in the June 2019 issue of Rapaport Magazine.

Image: A natural diamond in kimberlite. (Shutterstock)
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Tags: Abe Mor Diamond Cutters, David Rakower, Eric Mor, Gemological Institute of America, GIA, Joseph Asher Collection, Joyce Kauf, Kimberley Process, KP, Responsible Jewellery Council, RJC
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