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May 2004

British NGO Global Witness has charged that many sales clerks are not educated about conflict diamonds, and therefore are failing to follow through on promises the industry made to educate themselves.

The report found that of 30 retailers in four major U.S. cities, salespeople in only four that were visited by the group’s undercover investigators were well informed about their company’s policy and system of warranties. Out of 30 companies, only five responded to a letter from Global Witness that asked about their policies on conflict diamonds and how they ensure that none are sold by their stores. Many well-known carriage trade jewelers and mass-market store failed to respond.

“Diamond jewelry retailers are the industry’s public face and they have a special responsibility to tackle conflict diamonds by complying with the self-regulation and by actively promoting compliance by their suppliers,” said Global Witness’ Corinna Gilfillan. “But some of the largest U.S. and international retailers are paying only lip-service. This continued failure means that diamonds can continue to fuel conflict, human rights abuses and terrorism.”

Out of 30 companies that were asked about their policies on conflict diamonds by letter and a follow-up telephone call, only five responded, according to Global Witness.

The group stressed that the survey might not be representative of the entire diamond industry or retail sector. But it called the efforts of U.S. jeweler retailers to help stop the conflict diamonds “an abysmal failure” that is “little more than a public relations gesture.”

Jewelers of America said it has “publicly takes strong exception to the report’s characterization of industry efforts to date,” it asks all diamond and jewelry retailers to do the following steps:

* Review your preexisting policies, procedures and practices in connection with the use of the system of warranties. Verify that you are currently requiring a binding warranty from your suppliers.

* Review with your salespersons the information you want provided at the counter if someone is asked. (Some sample answers are available at the JA web site.)

A letter from JA chairman Matt Runci concluded: “Continued failure to acknowledge our responsibilities in this area will almost certainly spoil trouble for the industry on this issue once again.”

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