The perfect storm in diamonds is coming to a head, and the biggest wounds may be self-inflicted.
The first is the continued threat (or opportunity?) of the introduction of synthetics to the market. Only time will tell if consumers see an equally romantic story and/or value, in gems born in a lab rather than through a billion-year process from the depths of the Earth. This experiment has been tried before with colored gems, and yet it seems there is indeed a market for both natural and synthetic gems.
Leading the push towards synthetics is the well-funded and celebrity-backed startup Diamond Foundry, which I’ve previously written on here. Diamond Foundry has seemingly sought to capitalize off of the stigma that natural/mined diamonds are inevitably synonymous with environmental damage, corruption, exploitation, forced and child labor, conflict — none of which are unique to diamonds — and of course the favorite evil corporation in the world when they aren’t writing about Monsanto, De Beers. True accuracy of any of these terms seems to be subject to how much details truly matter to you, but no matter: if you’re intent on making a business based on exploiting the preconceived impressions of another, all is fair game.
Thus explains the Diamond Foundry’s semi-recent post, entitled “The Rapaport Scam”. Arguments prefixed with “everyone knows…” should be dismissed out of hand, and I will do so here. I recently suggested to DF that if they were truly concerned about about doing the “ethical” thing, perhaps they could open up their factories in Freetown or Gaborone. Thus far, however, their best efforts at being truly serious about this issue is by publishing a condescending open letter on their website. I wonder if the respective governments received their message. Their CEO has even resorted to using loaded words “enslaved” and “cartel” whenever describing the diamond industry, and no doubt he’ll continue repeating this claim so long as it means good business.
Facing this threat, it is truly unfortunate that the response has been, and will be, truly weak. In fact, it seems that the other threats to the industry are its own self-inflicted wounds:
- How can the industry change the perception of itself while KPCS leadership remains hostile to civil society?
- How can the industry claim that they care about perceptions of labor conditions when Development Diamonds aren’t yet available to consumers directly upon request, and perhaps more importantly, what has been done to educate consumers of the issues surrounding artisanal mining? FWIW, some good developments here.
- How can the industry claim that it benefits its source nations when under-invoicing and transfer pricing — or, as one could call it, theft of sovereign resources — remains almost completely unaddressed?
- How can the industry claim any sort of ethical high ground when Marange headlines still surface, usually in connection with how much wealth was stolen from that country?
All these factors contribute to an industry difficult to defend, which is a shame when there could be a great story to tell, but particularly a shame when the outside villains are so cartoonish, or when the inside villains so numerous.