These aren't the easiest times to celebrate luxury living. Show a pricey new line of designer clothing on the Fashion Channel and CNN may reveal that it was made in a Third World sweat shop. Put the glow of gold on QVC and ABC could tarnish it with reports about environmentally reckless mining. Do awards ceremony close-ups of stars wearing dazzling diamonds and BBC could very well allege some of them might have been sold to finance terrorist firepower.
It seems like there's always bad news about luxuries to counter the good—from dirty gold to conflict diamonds. So is it surprising that consumers are starting to ask questions about the origins of many products they buy? Diamonds especially have come in for their fair—some would say unfair—share of questions. And you can well imagine the sudden spike in consumer queries once Leonardo DiCaprio's upcoming movie, "The Blood Diamond," debuts, possibly around Christmas.
This is why De Beers has spent so much time, money, and effort on what it calls "Diamond Defense." A decade ago, the company faced the hard fact that globalization has redefined and expanded the meaning of diamond product integrity to include respect for fair labor practices, environmental protection, and human rights.
Until then, the standards for diamond product integrity had been mainly gemological—focused on identifying treatments and differentiating all-natural diamonds from man-mades and fakes. Today the meaning is geopolitical as well, and includes efforts to give what gemologist Don Palmieri calls "clean bills of health" to stones. By this, he means "legitimate sourcing from mines that respect their workers and the environment, as well as safe passage through squeaky-clean channels of distribution."
Marketers responding to this new global climate now use concepts like "product stewardship" and talk at great length about the "moral dimensions of branding." As Robert May of Pluczenik Diamond Company in New York puts it: "A brand is a series of assurances about quality and integrity. Today those assurances touch on ethics and politics in a way they never have before."
Given these new concerns, Pluczenik is determined to make it absolutely clear to consumers that all of its diamonds are clean both geopolitically and gemologically. So it has become the first diamond company to contract for a new diamond certificate that allows it to pledge to the buying public what it has already pledged as a sightholder.
That pledge includes: 1) compliance with the Kimberly Process which has sharply reduced, if not almost halted, the traffic in "conflict diamonds" rampant a decade ago, and 2) compliance with a Diamond Trading Company code of ethics called the "De Beers Diamond Best Practice Principles" adopted in 2005.