World ‘Diamond’ Series
A three-part series on conflict diamonds //
It seems to be an impossible task for me to walk into a jewelry store without getting into a conversation with one of the employees about conflict diamonds. One particular encounter recently caused me more than enough alarm to write about the topic here on the Crossfire Feed.
Within minutes of arriving a Peoples Jewellers – The Diamond Store, an eager young sales rep appeared at the counter I was leaning over.
“Can I help you,” he said with a smile.
“Sure,” I replied. “I am looking for a ring.”
He smiled brightly and I knew he was excited for the opportunity to show me all the bright, shiny baubles that were displayed below. Little did he know I had other ideas.
“What rings do you have that don’t have diamonds?” I asked.
His smile dropped and he looked at me with a blank expression as if he had never been asked that question. He looked puzzled.
“What?” he asked.
I figured I should clarify – “I am looking for a ring but I would prefer it not to have diamonds. Do you carry anything like that?”
His inability to comprehend the question resonated, “Why wouldn’t you want diamonds?” he asked me trying to understand my reasons.
“I have chosen not to buy diamonds because of the effect they have in wars around the world,” I said.
“Ah!” he said.
He waived his hand and his smile returned. He quickly crossed the room to another showcase that boasted maple leafs on all of the tabletop displays. “Well actually you can be assured that we don’t carry conflict diamonds at this store, and we also have a complete line of Canadian diamonds.”
I knew this would be his solution to the problem. Often when I express not wanting to purchase a diamond, most sales reps simply bring me to the Canadian diamond section and stand behind the counter proudly smiling over the selection, not saying anything as if they have found the magical cure to my dilemma. I have come to realize that this solution is enough for the majority of consumers. I have friends who, when I express my reservations about diamonds, respond immediately, “Oh but my ring is a Canadian diamond.” Clearly the sales reps at jewelry stores need only to point the consumer to the Canadian showcase in order to not only make a sale, but to make a sale that convinces the purchaser that they made an ethical choice. I am not that easily persuaded.
I followed the rep to the Canadian counter.
“Sorry, but I am not interested in Canadian diamonds either. I would prefer not to purchase diamonds at all. I have studied a decent amount about this issue and I don’t trust the certifications.”
The puzzled look returned to his face. He looked down at the glistening rocks under the spotlights. “But these are Canadian diamonds. They all have a Canadian insignia on the diamond itself that says they are from Canadian mines.”
For the next few minutes the rep and I talked about the concerns I had that about the certification processes and that I didn’t believe they were foolproof. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say and it seemed that he had never before questioned the validity of what he was selling.
What happened next stood out as the defining moment of our conversation. I asked him who his largest diamond supplier was (I already assumed it was De Beers). He said he didn’t know and turned to his colleague, an older woman who was working on some paperwork at the showcase beside us.
“Who are our main suppliers,” he asked her.
She looked up from her paperwork and answered bluntly, clearly having overheard the conversation that had enfolded between us. “We work with many reputable suppliers,” she said to me, not him. Her annoyance was evident.
So I pushed her. “And where do they mine for their stones,” I asked.
“It’s not my job to know where they get their supplies,” was her reply.
I looked back to my sales rep who had turned to face me wide-eyed, almost embarrassed that in one sentence she had effectively proven my own point.
“And that’s my point,” I said. “You don’t really know where your stones come from. Don’t you see that is the failure in the system?”
All he could do was nod because he had seen for himself through the admission of a more experienced colleague that they really didn’t know. What’s more, they didn’t want to know because ‘it wasn’t their job to investigate’.
My question then becomes, if it’s not a priority for the jewelry retail chains to investigate the suppliers that they purchase from, where does the responsibility lie? Unfortunately, as is most often the case with merchandise, the responsibility lies with the consumer and whether they investigate where their products really come from.
I chatted with the sales rep for a few more minutes before leaving the store. He shook my hand and looked genuinely thankful for our encounter. I can only hope that our discussion will cause him to think more critically about the industry that he works in.
Blood Diamond, a movie released in 2006 staring Leonardo DiCaprio, was successful in bringing the issue of conflict diamonds into mainstream discussions. Although it was a Hollywood dramatized story, the crisis is real. And despite what the movie may portray, the problem has not been solved by the creation of the Kimberley Process, as you will see in the following posts in this series. The Kimberley Process is a great idea, but it still must be honed and strengthened in order to effectively do its job.
In order to address the issue of conflict diamonds, it is essential to gain a basic understanding of how the diamond industry works. In a three-part series I want to answer the following questions and hopefully lay a solid foundation of the issue at hand, covering both the successes and the failures of the international community to address the problem.
After this series, the way forward is left in the consumer’s hands. You should have learned enough about the problem and the global regulations that are currently attempting to correct it. With a little thinking and soul-searching, I urge you to think about whether you want to continue to support the diamond industry or whether you will search for another symbol you can use to show your love to your sweetheart.
Up next in the second installment of the World Diamond Series:
- Origin of the Problem: Why are diamonds so problematic as opposed to other stones or natural resources?
- What exactly is a conflict diamond?
- What countries produce these conflict diamonds?
- Who are the major diamond mining companies and where do they mine?
Lastly in the third installment of the World Diamond Series:
- What are the Kimberley Process and the World Diamond Council?
- What is their mission and mandate?
- How do they work towards regulating conflict diamonds in the global market?
- Are they being effective?
- Where do they fail in accomplishing their goals, and what needs to be changed in order for them to be strengthened?
- Canadian Diamonds:
- What is all the hype about Canadian diamonds? What is the certification process for Canadian-mined diamonds?
- Are Canadian-mined diamonds exported to other countries?
- Can we be sure that Canadian diamonds and diamonds mined from other countries are kept separate on the diamond market?
- The way forward for the consumer.