WDC Opens to NGO Protests

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(Rapaport…October 29, 2002) The 30th Biennial WFDB/IDMA World Diamond Congress, opened in London at the Langham Hilton Hotel, on October 28, 2002, with a demonstration by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) including Amnesty International and Global Witness.

The NGOs are calling on the diamond industry to “clean up its act,” and implement the Kimberley Process immediately. The final meeting on the Kimberly Process will be held in Interlaken, Switzerland on November 5, 2003.

At the congress, Freddy Hager, President of the London Diamond Bourse & Club, stressed the importance of the conflict diamonds issue, but stressed that it should not assume the entire agenda of the congress.

Gary Ralfe, De Beers managing director, thanked Global Witness for bringing the Conflict Diamonds issue to the industry’s attention. He said that some countries might not be ready to implement the Kimberley Process by the January 1, 2003 deadline. These will be given an extension period of a few months.

It is expected that unfriendly NGOs will bombard Congress attendees with paintbombs and eggs in anticipation of a binding resolution spelling out WFDB and IDMA guidelines on industry self-regulation. This regulation will be above and beyond the Kimberley Process Agreement, which will be ratified in Switzerland.

Ralfe described the system of self-regulation as a system of warranties that will require that each and every rough diamond transaction be accompanied by a written guarantee or “warranty” on the invoice that says:

“The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations Resolution. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.”

After being elected President of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, Shmuel Schnitzer said he hopes the diamond industry will enter “a post-conflict diamond era.”

Talking on the role of small and medium-sized diamond companies, Schnitzer highlighted that the Federation had been active over the past two years in efforts to safeguard their status worldwide. Recognizing their equal importance, the Federation is planning an international diamond show, exclusive to diamantaires, members of diamond bourses and manufacturers associations worldwide, which will allow all diamond companies to exhibit.

Speaking on Supplier of Choice (SOC), Ralfe said he hoped this new business model would ensure De Beers’ compliance with U.S. State Department jurisdiction, considering the U.S. is the world’s largest diamond jewelry market.

The issue of treatments and HPHT was recognized as a threat to consumer confidence and was discussed in detail at the first International Diamond Manufacturer’s Association (IDMA) session, where the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) gave a presentation on detection of treated diamonds and the importance of transparency and disclosure.

According to Tom Moses of the GIA, the number of treated stones being detected by the lab has increased over the last few years, but is in the dozens or hundreds, not thousands. He encouraged diamantaires to keep submitting stones to be checked. He warned diamantaires to be careful from whom they buy their stones. Moses admitted that there are cases of “false positives” where natural diamonds are judged as treated.

While the second IDMA session was closed to the media, the third session, on October 29, was postponed when the Langham Hilton had to be evacuated after a suspicious bag was discovered near to where Gareth Penny was to speak.

At a gala reception on the evening of October 28, industry leaders and other distinguished guests, gathered to honor Willie Nagel after he was bestowed with the Order of St. Michael and St. George by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

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