Rapaport has a piece about the relaunch of CanadaMark diamonds.

Whereas brands such as the De Beers Forevermark program, for example, claim to guarantee the quality and authenticity of the associated diamond, CanadaMark simply verifies that the stone was mined in Canada. Dominion believes that, in itself, is enough to augment the branding of its manufacturing clients and associated wholesale and retail partners…

The second phase of its roll-out plan, Pounds says, will focus on educating consumers primarily in the U.S. and Canada about the hallmark. He added that efforts to bring more manufacturers and retailers on board would be helped by increasing end-consumer demand and interest in the program.

Much of that messaging will stress that Canadian diamonds are ethically sourced and produced according to socially responsible practices and in an environmentally friendly manner. Undoubtedly, more consumers are seeking such assurances.

I like to consider myself well-travelled and better-versed in geography — and African geographythan the average fella, and have even been to the continent twice before (with plans to return soon). However, when presented with the two options of a Canadian diamond that had been traced to the source versus the “general / African / mystery” pile of diamonds, who could blame a consumer for being convinced that the latter was the more “ethical” choice? I even had a persistent, obnoxious (and persistently obnoxious) co-worker imply to me, on three separate occasions, that since I was serious about getting a responsibly-sourced stone: “so, you’re getting a Canadian diamond, right?”.

Thankfully I did quite a bit of reading after that, and then changed tack:

“I’m looking for a diamond from Sierra Lone. Or Botswana, South Africa or Namibia. Or Lesotho. Or Tanzania. Oh, and radiant cut, SI1, F-I, l:w 1.2-1.3. ~1.75ct.”

Figuring it was worth a try and in my naiveté, I actually said this to a few rough diamond geologists (imagine their laughter!) and to my diamond dealer. But try saying this to an acquaintance with average geographic knowledge (which is also more likely minimal-to-no African geographical knowledge) and guess the reaction you’ll get. I’m guessing it’s probably along the lines of: “Well I’ve seen Blood Diamond, and …”. Even amongst my closest friends, some rather well-travelled, the reaction was pure confusion: “so, after all this research, now you want a conflict diamond?”

Obviously “Africa” is not just a monolithic mass and mess to avoid: judging just by the headlines, production in Botswana (most transparent country in Africa and among the most transparent in the world) has almost nothing in common with the production out of Zimbabwe or Angola (both among least transparent in the world). Is CanadaMark, by relying solely on its origin and allowing consumers to make all good assumptions from there, exploiting geographical ignorance? If full traceability from mine to retail were possible, what would a consumer think if his GIA cert included “Origin: Namibia” or “Origin: Botswana” on it? Obviously there are a lot of good things that should come to mind.

The status quo leaves more to be desired. CanadaMark exists, and consumers may find it enticing. Forevermark is a great step in the right direction, but there should be an option beyond just De Beers. How can I get a Lesotho diamond? A Tanzanian diamond? A Côte d’Ivoire stone (of which I’ve heard nothing but positive developments lately)? Is there not a good, marketable story to be told, and as well, a fungible perception that can be changed?

Rapaport’s article concludes with, what I perceive, the correct conclusion:

This column maintains that there is untapped diamond branding opportunity in Botswana. Perhaps the state-owned Okavango Diamond Company will consider developing a similar hallmark to enhance the value of its Botswana-produced diamonds. Namibia might be thinking along the same lines as it negotiates a new supply and marketing contract with De Beers.