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A Consumer Guide to Diamonds
Today the 3P’s are as important as the 4C’s.

It started when consumers realized that their running shoes and running pants were made in third world sweat shops by people, many of them children, who were paid less for a 60-hour week than a worker in America received for one hour’s work. Suddenly, the good life didn’t seem so good if the people who produced the goods that comprise it didn’t—and could never hope to—share in it.

In the 1990s, America began to embrace what some marketers now call “conscientious commerce.” In an age of terrorism and tyranny, human rights groups, as well as dissident shareholders, demanded more corporate accountability. After the Enron and WorldCom scandals, the U.S. Congress passed laws that toughened business reporting requirements—as well as penalties for violation of them.

The diamond world was bound to feel the impact of the new moral consumerism. Early in the decade, Tiffany’s, a leader in corporate accountability, announced buy-ins to Canadian mining ventures as a way to assure the public that its diamonds came from mines that were paragons of environmental responsibility and fair labor practices. Now, companies like Columbia Gem House in Vancouver, Washington, have pledged themselves to fair-trade codes of conduct that assure workers of decent wages and working conditions wherever the company has gem cutting or jewelry manufacturing operations.

As Columbia’s president Eric Braunwart puts it, “Stopping the traffic in illicit diamonds in Sierra Leone is an important first step. But other steps must be taken. What good does it do the miners who were the biggest victims of the trade in blood diamonds if they are paid the same pittance for their stones by the good guys as the bad guys—or if they continue to work in hellish conditions?”

Good question. And it was one that was discussed vigorously at a recent international jewelry industry conference in Canada. In the meantime, there are things consumers can do to make sure their diamonds come from hands as good as the ones they’re going to. (view image 13)

A PAPER TRAIL for Honest Diamonds

On June 28, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law “The Clean Diamond Act.” Ever since, it’s been illegal to buy or sell conflict diamonds in the U.S. So your jeweler isn’t just being nice when he assures you that his diamonds came from legitimate sources. He’s being a law-abiding citizen.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see paperwork from suppliers attesting to the legitimacy of the diamonds they have sold your jeweler. The Diamond Trading Company insists that every one of its 100 or so customers (called sightholders) pledge in writing that all their diamonds are of honorable origin. Now the company wants every other diamond company to do the same, even ones with whom they do no business.

Diamond ring
Image 1 - Diamond ring from the “Rose” collection by Dalumi.
Image 2 - Ring featuring a Crisscut center diamond by Christopher Designs.
diamond ring bridal set
Image 3 - Bridal set featuring marquise-like shaped Calla cut diamonds from Nelson Jewellery.
diamond circle necklace
Image 4 - Diamond circle necklace featuring a Lady Heart three-stone diamond pendant from David Arabov & Sons.
diamond engagement ring
Image 5 - Princess cut diamond engagement ring by Amy Levine.
diamond earrings and pendant
Image 6 - Earrings and pendant with Rand ideal cut diamonds from Rand Diamond.
swirl diamond pendants
Image 7 - Stylish swirl diamond pendants from Stuller.
cut diamond
Image 8 - Under very favorable, high contrast white illumination, the ideal cut diamond is capable of emitting fire from every facet of its crown. Photo by Michael Cowing, ACA Gemological Laboratory.
diamond engagement ring and wedding band
Image 9 - Diamond engagement ring and wedding band from Uneek.
diamond engagement rings
Image 10 - Engagement rings featuring invisible set diamond side accents from Jewelex.
diamond brilliance
Image 11 - The Isee2 light measurement system from Overseas Diamonds gives diamond brilliance, fire, and sparkle ratings.
14k white gold engagement ring with baguette diamonds
Image 12 - Semi-mount 14k white gold engagement ring with baguette diamond sides from Dora Wedding Bands & Rings.
rose and white gold diamond ring
Image 13 - Rose and white gold diamond ring by Doron Isaak.
heart shaped diamond pendant
Image 14 - Heart shaped diamond pendant by Uneek.