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Nov. 2000

The industry needs remember to portray to consumers that diamonds are, inherently, a symbol of love and romance, and of peace and unity.

Although recent press coverage and an overwhelming amount of trade talk about diamonds has had a negative focus, linking the gems to civil war and cruelty, it’s important to remember the first known reference to diamonds in literature—a Bible verse where the gems were noted as a symbol of peace. On the breastplate worn by a High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem, diamonds and 11 other gems represented 12 tribes of Israel and the unity of all as one.

Despite this, as we have recently seen, diamonds, like any precious commodity, can also be used for evil and darkness. As we write these notes, we are in the shadow of the images seen on ABC’s Primetime coverage of the war in Sierra Leone. From this and other media coverage, we are left sad and bewildered. We are saddened that in the 21st Century, human beings are still practicing cruelties that should have been extinguished with Hitler. We are bewildered that the media is giving the false impression that large numbers of diamonds today are conflict diamonds laundered in Switzerland and marketed through regular diamond channels. Furthermore, there has been a noticeable lack of information about the diamond industry’s reaction as soon as the cruelties became known.

Survey’s Results Do Not Pose an Answer

A report conducted by MVI Marketing is being touted for its revelation that 93% of the 300 surveyed consumers had never heard the term conflict diamonds.

We believe any relief found in this is short-sighted and inappropriate. The more important statistic revealed by this report is the 76% of consumers who told MVI that they would not buy a diamond or diamond jewelry is they knew it came from a country where social injustice was occurring as a consequence of its production.

With more conflict diamond publicity looming in the pre-holiday months, it is only a matter of time before the awareness grows and, having become public knowledge, that 76% could inflict great harm on the industry.

We must, therefore, focus on shedding light upon those points that have been ignored—that conflict diamonds make up a small percentage of stones being sold to consumers, and that the industry is responding to the problem.

Along with the legislative and regulatory response, however, we urge the diamond industry to take its share of responsibility and, in return, help the image of diamonds around the world. While it is the African governments’ responsibility to see that the people are not made victim of these wars and reap the rewards of their country’s resources, we propose that the diamond industry establish a relief fund for the victims of these atrocities in Africa. Surely, of the millions of industry dollars being channeled into charities, organizations and businesses could create a significant fund to help he people who suffer because of conflict diamonds.

This charity would help derail public outrage when—not if—the public becomes aware of conflict diamonds.

Leaders Continue Working On Resolution

Representatives of 36 governments met with representatives of the World Diamond Council in London in October to tackle global diamond certification. Though criticized by Global Witness for failing to mention a treaty or a timeframe, the group did agree that the process would be based on national certification schemes that meet international standards. Participants also agreed that a United Nations General Assembly debate is necessary.

In the United States, meanwhile, leaders say it’s likely that the CARAT Act (placing proof of origin responsibility on retailers) will be softened. They are working with Rep. Tony Hall to develop a plan to regulate through source countries and the nations that border them.

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