The annual De Beers Diamond Insight Report, based on a global study of seven key consumer markets, reveals that, in the broader fine-jewellery market, trends are being led by a younger generation that values sustainability. About 30% of millennials have bought jewellery with sustainability credentials, compared to only 8% of baby boomers. “With sustainability being one of the key mega trends across all consumer sectors, the Diamond Insight Report 2021 explores how sustainability factors are influencing consumer attitudes towards diamonds,” says Bruce Cleaver, CEO of the De Beers Group.
“As is clear from this research, a tipping point has been reached — sustainability is no longer a trend that’s coming over the horizon; it’s already one of the key considerations in diamond purchases.” The diamond industry is one of the few in the world that has a self-regulatory system. The Kimberley Process (KP), an international certification scheme, was set up in 2003 to increase transparency and oversight, and to establish and monitor responsible business practices. Southern African diamond-producing countries met in Kimberley in 2000 to discuss how to halt the trade in blood diamonds (rough diamonds used to finance civil wars) and combat conflict and exploitation. All members are bound to regulations that ensure diamonds are traded throughout the supply chain in a fair and ethical manner.
Another regulatory layer comes in the form of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), whose members include the likes of BHP Billiton Diamonds, Cartier, Chopard, the World Jewellery Confederation, Tiffany & Co., and the Diamond Trading Company (part of De Beers). The RJC establishes and monitors responsible business practices in the diamond, gold, and platinum industries. The RJC Code of Practices, the global standard for the jewellery and watch industry, focuses on business ethics and responsible supply chains.
As an extension of its RJC membership, Chopard has committed to a Journey to Sustainable Luxury — a long-term programme to ensure responsible sourcing throughout its supply chain. The company pays particular attention to sourcing responsibly mined gold. In 2018, it achieved the use of 100% ethical gold in the production of all its watches and jewellery. The aim for 2022 is to have artisanal and small-scale gold represent 60% of its fine-gold sourcing. In 2005, the De Beers Group introduced the groundbreaking Best Practice Principles (BPPs) — stringent responsible-sourcing criteria underpinned by international best-practice standards on human rights, labour regulations, and other ethical, social, and environmental requirements. “The BPPs are independently audited and applied throughout our value chain, from exploration through to retail — not only within our own operations but also as a mandatory requirement for all those doing business with us,” says David Johnson, the head of strategic communications at De Beers Group.
Graff — a multi-national jeweller based in London — is committed to acting in an ethical and responsible manner in all its business practices. Its procurement and polishing subsidiary, Safdico, must adhere to the rigorous requirements of the BPPs to maintain its “sightholder” status with De Beers. (Sightholders are authorised bulk buyers of rough diamonds.) “When buying a diamond from a respected retailer with the proper documentation, you can be assured that your diamond is conflict-free,” says Yair Shimansky, founder and CEO of diamond specialist Shimansky, which has stores in Cape Town and New York. “Our diamonds are sourced directly from South African mines, and each is assessed with the latest technology,” he adds.
Last year, De Beers launched its Code of Origin, a customised code unique to each diamond. “Consumers want to know not just where their diamond came from, but also that it was responsibly sourced and created a positive impact for people and the planet on its journey,” says Johnson. “Currently in the test-to-scale phase, the Code of Origin can be applied to diamonds discovered by De Beers and provides assurance that a diamond was discovered by De Beers in Botswana, Canada, Namibia or South Africa, that it is conflict-free and meets our industry-leading ethical standards, and that it has helped create a positive impact for the people and places where it was discovered.”
De Beers is also the force behind Tracr, a diamond traceability platform underpinned by blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. To provide an additional level of security for its clients, each Graff jewel is engraved with the company logo, hallmark, unique stock number, and stone details. The company also uses laser-inscription technology — the same as is used by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) — to micro-inscribe all diamonds weighing more than 0.30ct with the logo and a unique GIA code on the girdle, which is invisible to the naked eye.
Millennium ring in 18kt gold, R29 400, Shimansky shimansky.co.za
Ethical 18kt white-gold earrings with brilliant-cut diamonds, POR, Chopard
011 669 0790, bhhboutique.co.za
Reflections of Nature Motlatse Marvel necklace, POR, De Beers
Laser engraving on a diamond girdle, Graff, graff.com
• From the February edition of Wanted, 2022.