Tiffany & Co has been expanding its workforce in sub-Saharan Africa as part of its drive to increase its transparency and raise ethical jewelry standards across the industry. According to Bloomberg, the brand’s chief executive officer Alessandro Bogliolo explained during an interview in Cape Town that more than a quarter of the company’s 1,500 global diamond cutters and polishers are now based in Africa. Tiffany has factories in Botswana and Mauritius with staff subject to "intensive training" over two years, he said, claiming it is the only Western luxury brand that doesn't outsource production of its African stones.
Botswana, the world's largest diamond producer after Russia, is the only African country where Tiffany & Co both buys and manufactures its stones, though they in fact come from a variety of sources. About 80% to 90% of Tiffany's polished diamonds (over 0.18 carats) are acquired and manufactured through its Antwerp-based subsidiary, Laurelton Diamonds, which sources stones mined by De Beers (Botswana, Canada, Namibia, South Africa) as well as Alrosa (Russia), Dominion Diamond Mines (Canada) and Rio Tinto (Australia). Laurelton has manufacturing operations in Belgium, Botswana, Mauritius, Vietnam and Cambodia. Bogliolo says the company will not do business in Zimbabwe and Angola because of the human-rights situation in those countries. "If you buy from a world-class brand, it's because you trust that this brand has done all that is humanly possible to guarantee that the product is not only crafted to the highest standard, but also ethical and traceable in its manufacturing,'' the CEO said.
The move to hire and train African polishers and cutters comes as Tiffany has vowed to be completely transparent about its diamonds and the process it goes through from mine to finger. Earlier this year, the iconic jeweler announced it would begin sharing with consumers the provenance (country of origin) of its diamonds weighing 0.18 cts. and up. Tiffany's calls its Diamond Source Initiative "a significant step for diamond transparency," saying will go further than current industry standards, and responds to increasing consumer demand to know they are making responsible purchases. Tiffany will trace each of its diamonds using a unique “T&Co” serial number etched into the stones by laser. This serial number will include information about that particular stone's geographic sourcing information, and will be included in the company’s in-house grading reports.
With this move, Tiffany says it is "committing to 100% geographic transparency for every newly sourced, individually registered diamond, and will not source any diamonds with unknown provenance (even if responsible sourcing is assured) moving forward." Tiffany says it is unique among global luxury jewelers in that it owns and operates its own diamond polishing workshops around the world, employing more than 1,500 artisans.