Industry initiatives for responsible sourcing and supply chain integrity came under the spotlight at the JCK Las Vegas show, with the main issue being that people aren't aware of the big steps the industry is making in this regard. That became all too apparent as one of the “JCK Talks” panels debated whether lab-grown diamonds are a “threat or opportunity” for the natural diamond trade, writes Avi Krawitz of Rapaport. "While the lab-grown industry is marketing itself as an ethical alternative to natural diamonds, the undertone is that the natural diamond trade is not ethical."
Maarten De Witte, master diamond cutter at Diamond Foundry, a California-based producer of lab-grown diamonds, stressed the perception among consumers about the natural industry is negative given the conflict diamond issue and the environmental damage that mines allegedly cause. For that reason, he said, millennials in particular are interested in the Foundry, where currently “demand is far outstripping supply.” Meanwhile, Jean Marc Lieberherr, CEO of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), stressed that mining companies are working with communities affected by their operations to provide jobs, social programs and ensure minimal environmental damage results from the mine.
He disputed that lab-grown – or synthetic – diamonds have an “ethical” selling proposition over natural stones. Rather, consumers are being drawn to lab-grown diamonds because of price, Lieberherr said. De Witte argued the lab-grown industry can make a claim of responsible production the natural diamond industry can’t necessarily make.
Meanwhile, a session called 'Sustainability and Responsibility' was held by the Jewelry Summit as a follow-up to its inaugural meeting in March, with 11 initiatives outlined, in particular publicizing good stories through a content hub which is still in early development. In similar vein, the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) will start an awareness campaign in the coming year to enlighten consumers of the commitment its members have made to meet RJC’s codes of practice standards. A discussion hosted by Signet Jewelers highlighted the work the retailer is doing to ensure its suppliers can vouch for their diamonds through the Signet Responsible Sourcing Protocol for Diamonds (D-SRSP) launched earlier this year.