Natural Diamond Vs Synthetic Diamond

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by Raul Sapora

From a scientific perspective, a synthetic diamond has the same chemical composition, the same crystal structure, the same optical and physical properties of a natural diamond. As synthetic diamonds are conceptually identical to natural diamonds, they need to be analyzed and spotted by a gemological laboratory. Synthetic diamond screening is nowadays a major concern of the Jewelry Industry.

Unexpectedly, as far as I am concerned, Ada Diamonds[i], a synthetic diamond distributor, after discovering a few natural diamonds mixed in a synthetic diamonds melee lot, has implemented enhanced screening procedures to further inspect all parcels of melee diamonds to ensure that all diamonds sold are in fact synthetic, not mined and therefore not illicit mined diamonds. Despite it is based on the same principle (synthetic vs natural diamond screening), a whole new and extremely dangerous variable has been imported into the Diamond Trade: protecting synthetic from natural. I believe most of you who read this will smile at this – I did too at a first glance – but it is also easy to realize that a new powerful weapon has been forged and consigned to marketing experts, and if the synthetic diamond industry will have consumers perceive that synthetic diamonds are a better alternative, people will buy them.

The situation is becoming more and more complex. Retailers are in a constant state of great distress: they are uncertain whether they should sell synthetic diamonds or not. On the other end, mining companies are addressing the problem with considerable delay and most probably caught inside the conceptual circle of the same marketing campaign which had decreed their triumph in the past. When Martin Rapaport in his world renowned educated reprimand[ii] to Leonardo di Caprio says that ‘false claims and misleading marketing surrounding the sale of synthetics is having an impact’, I am afraid he forgets to say that diamond itself owes its success to the unrivalled advertising slogan created by Mary Frances Gerety for De Beers in 1948 ‘a Diamond is Forever’, and that claim is disingenuous anyway. De Beers was successful in making diamonds appear rarer than they are, by aggressively restricting the supply of diamonds on the market, and moreover nothing is going to be forever, not even diamonds.

I am a gemologist and Responsible Sourcing Auditor, and those who know me quite well are prepared to hear me pronounce the sentence: “The ethical nature of a gemstone has today as much to do with its social context and its environmental provenance as it has with its optical and chemical properties.” In fact, in my opinion, gemology without Responsible Sourcing is merely a scientific understanding of gemstones, and the world needs much more than this. Gemology, as a matter of fact, is evolving through ethics. Therefore, as a gemologist I have to protect truth, even if truth sometimes can be multifaceted.

Diamond Foundry, a Synthetic Diamond producer who raised a capital of over $100 million from 12 billionaires[iii], including Twitter founder Evan Williams and actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, was launched in late 2015, after two years of research and development.” A diamond is a diamond,” says Martin Roscheisen, Diamond Foundry’s founder. “Scientifically it is a tetrahedral carbon allotrope, and it is the same thing whether mined or man-made.”

“Proud to invest in Diamond Foundry, a Company reducing human & environmental toll by sustainably culturing diamonds,” Leonardo di Caprio tweeted.

Apparently, the arguments embraced by synthetic (or lab grown as they like to say) diamonds manufacturers are mainly ethical: to some consumers they seem to be conflict free and socially responsible. That is because synthetic diamond marketers are touting their product to be “conflict-free”, which misleadingly associates all real diamonds with conflict diamonds.

Accusations of exploitation and inhumane working conditions in mines cast a dark shadow over the diamond industry. Mining is also said to be devastating to the environment, due to the amount of energy it requires, the potential for chemical leaks, and the harmful effects that removing large amounts of earth has on local ecosystems[iv]. Some of those arguments are highly deceptive: the world of diamonds, gemstones and jewellery is changing. The legislative landscape, consumer awareness of the problems in the jewellery supply chain and broader civil society groups demanding transparency and disclosure have impacted dramatically on this scenario: nowadays, thanks to Kimberley Process, Responsible Jewelry Council and other initiatives, just a very small fraction of diamonds production is being used to finance wars. Also, it is extremely important to understand that the diamond industry employs an estimated 10 million people around the world directly and indirectly, and also has become the almost entire economy of some specific, otherwise isolated locations, like Botswana and Northern Canada[v]. Another commonly repeated misconception is that diamond mining harms local ecosystems and wildlife. However, diamond mining is perhaps one of the least environmentally destructive forms of mining there is today. Diamond mining uses very few, if any, chemicals, and diamond mines leave a small footprint on local environments compared to other forms of mineral extraction. Most people are unaware of the role diamonds play in bringing real benefits to people in the countries around the world where diamonds are sourced. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa.

A few facts:

·        An estimated 5 million people have access to appropriate healthcare globally thanks to revenues from diamonds.

·        Diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13.

·        An estimated 10 million people globally are directly or indirectly supported by the diamond industry.

·        The diamond mining industry generates over 40% of Namibia’s annual export earnings.

·        Approximately one million people are employed by the diamond industry in India.

·        The revenue from diamonds is instrumental in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

·        An estimated 65% of the world’s diamonds come from African countries.

It is quite evident that synthetic diamonds pose a firm and serious threat to this huge network, while so much has been done and is being done to eradicate unethical implications from the complex jewelry world. As I said already, reactions have been slightly late and perhaps, at least in the early stage, not commensurate to the actual danger.

After almost one century and a half after diamond discovery in South Africa – happened in 1867, when fifteen year old Erasmus Stephanus Jacobs found the Eureka diamond on his father’s farm, on the south bank of the Orange River – and after the end of the De Beers monopoly, seven of the world’s leading diamond companies (De Beers, Alrosa, Dominion Diamond Corporation, Petra Diamonds, Gem Diamonds, Lucara Diamond Corporation, Rio Tinto Diamonds), founded in May 2015, the Diamond Producers Association (DPA): its mission is ‘to protect and promote the integrity and reputation of diamonds, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the diamond industry[vi].

DPA launched an advertising campaign called “Real is Rare,” that adopts a new verbiage on diamond marketing, in which the abracadabra claim “A Diamond is Forever” has been replaced by a narrative that is totally different from the past. The Diamond Producers Association (DPA) announced at the JCK, Las Vegas a few days ago that their 2017 marketing budget will total US$ 57 million. DPA’s Chairman Stephen Lussier commented: “The Board’s decision is a major turning point for the Diamond Producers Association and the diamond industry. All Board Members are aligned behind the goals and plans of the DPA, which is now fully equipped to fulfil its mission of communicating to next generation consumers about the timeless beauty and emotional value of diamonds. We look forward to working closely with the diamond and jewellery trade and with other industry organisations to build a stronger future for our sector” [vii].

The words pronounced from Lussier sound so far away from the place and time in which De Beers was the guardian of the trade and could steadily increase the price of diamonds, thus ensuring that diamonds were a good investment over time.

Is such a potentially huge advertising campaign enough to react to synthetic diamonds? In my opinion the necessary game changer in this dangerous situation are ethics and Responsible Sourcing practices. The only way is ethics, quoting Stacey Hailes’s speech at Birmingham a few weeks ago. It is of paramount importance for consumers to consider what the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for Rough Diamonds, the Responsible Jewelry Council, the Signet Responsible Sourcing Program are among others doing. Although we are all working towards the full enforcement of these practices, they already had a significant impact on illicit trade in rough diamonds.

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[i] As reported in ‘Is This Lab-Grown Diamond Company Trolling the Trade?’ by Rob Bates, on JCKonline (June 1, 2017)

[ii] Rapaport, ‘Synthetic Diamond Scam’ April 2016

[iii] ‘Why Leonardo DiCaprio is backing man-made diamonds’ by Sophie Morlin-Yron, CNN money ( August 30, 2016)

[iv] ‘A Lab-Grown Diamond Is Forever’, by Chavie Lieber (June 14, 2016)

[v] ‘The History of Lab Grown Diamonds: Value Proposition’, by Ehud Arye Laniado (June 14, 2017)

[vi] Diamond Producers Association mission statement (www.diamondproducers.com)

[vii] DPA ups its Marketing Budget for 2017 – Allocates US$ 57 Million for the Purpose, TJM (June 6, 2017)

 

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IDEX Online: Marange diamond exports approved

We publish courtesy of National Jeweler

By Vinod Kuriyan and Edahn Golan for IDEX Online

Ramat-Gan—By using an unusual procedure of the Kimberley Process (KP), the outgoing chairman of the rough diamond monitoring body succeeded to pass the draft Jerusalem agreement, clearing the way for Zimbabwean diamond exports.

After a third of the KP members, 17 countries, approved the Jerusalem agreement, with no objections, KP sources told IDEX Online that outgoing KP Chairman Boaz Hirsch has issued a notification that now allows the legal export of diamonds from Marange.

The Jerusalem agreement is a compromise accord worked out by the United States with Zimbabwe during a KP Plenary meeting held in November. The Agreement however was rejected by Canada and Australia, preventing its adoption.

After several months of negotiations, most surrounding sub-section 3(b), which stipulates how many members of the Working Group on Monitoring (WGM) are needed to stop Zimbabwe’s exports in a self-cessation mechanism, Hirsch submitted a revised version to KP members, asking them to state their position by January 10.

When no response arrived, the deadline was extended to January 17, by which time 17 countries expressed their support for the revised draft.

One issue that remains open is Russia’s negative response to the procedure Hirsch used. This will need to be worked out by the incoming KP Chairman Mathieu Yamba.

This development means that $160 million worth of rough diamonds that had been recently bought by four Indian companies can now be legally imported into India for processing. The diamonds were reportedly in a sort of limbo, being held in Dubai’s free trade zone, which meant that technically they hadn’t entered the United Arab Emirates.

This article was first published on IDEX Online on Jan. 18.

 

Wikileaks say Mugabe gaining from “blood” diamonds

We publish courtesy of National Jeweler

Washington, D.C. — Confidential U.S. government documents recently leaked through controversial news source WikiLeaks show that U.S. diplomats suspected Zimbabwe’s president, his family and top associates were profiting from the sale of “blood” diamonds from the nation’s controversial Marange fields.

According to cables released by WikiLeaks and reported by United Press International (UPI), sources in Zimbabwe told the United States that Gideon Gono, head of Zimbabwe’s central bank, made thousands of dollars a month selling diamonds from Marange and funneled the money to Robert Mugabe, his wife, his sister and top members of the Zanu-PF party. Diamond panners in the area were attacked with dogs and gunned down from helicopters, with a 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks titled, “Regime Elites Looting Deadly Diamond Fields.”

A cable also stated that, “In a country filled with corrupt schemes, the diamond business in Zimbabwe is one of the dirtiest.”

Trade in rough diamonds from the Marange fields technically remains suspended as the Zimbabwean government and members of the Kimberley Process (KP), the body charged with stemming the flow of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds into the industry, try to hammer out an agreement for trade from the area to resume.

Australian Julian Assange launched WikiLeaks, a non-profit media organization, in 2007. Since late November, the site has been publishing thousands of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables that have embarrassed U.S. officials and led to a government crackdown on the site.

Site founder Assange is in police custody in Britain after Sweden issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with sex crimes in that country. He has denied the allegations.

On Monday, Reuters reported that Assange’s former deputy, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, was starting another WikiLeaks rival site called OpenLeaks.org. The site is not yet operational.

Zimbabwe nationalizing all its diamond mines

We publish courtesy of National Jeweler

Harare, Zimbabwe — The state-controlled newspaper in Zimbabwe reported Thursday that the government there plans to take 100 percent control of all alluvial diamond mines—which would include the controversial Marange area—and at least a 51 percent stake in all other mining projects.

The Herald’s report cited government official Saviour Kasukuwere as saying that Zimbabwe’s cabinet had determined that the country’s natural resources, including diamonds, must benefit Zimbabweans and that 10 percent of gross profit from all mining operations will go to local communities. Zimbabwe government officials plan to meet with the Chinese and South African companies currently working with the government at the Marange diamond fields.

Marange, the site of reported diamond smuggling and human rights violations, has been a source of controversy for the Kimberley Process (KP), the mechanism put in place to stem the flow of conflict diamonds into the diamond trade. Trade in rough from the area remains officially suspended for the time being as members of the KP and the Zimbabwean government continue to negotiate conditions for allowing exports to resume.

According to The Herald, outside of alluvial diamond mining, the proposed law also would affect all other new mining ventures and companies yet to meet the country’s indigenization requirements. Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act dictates that foreign-owned companies operating in the country valued at more than $500,000 sell at least 51 percent shareholding to indigenous black Zimbabweans.

The new law regarding mining will take effect as soon as it is officially published, The Herald reports.

Antwerp Express ‘Horror’ at Wikileaks Cable Article

We publish courtesy of IDEX online

 

The Marange diamond fields of Zimbabwe. Organized claims are in the fenced area on the right Photo: Google Earth

 

 

(IDEX Online News) – The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) rejected today claims that Belgian companies bought illegal diamonds mined by children in Zimbabwe. The allegations were made by a local newspaper in reference to leaked U.S. cables that appeared last week on Wikileaks.

AWDC said it “read in horror” an article titled “Belgian kopen illegale diamanten [Belgians buy illegal diamonds]” published in De Morgen on December 11. The article claims that “illegal diamonds from Zimbabwe massively found their way to the Western a nd also the Belgian market in 2008” links the Belgian diamond business and child labor “in an inacceptable way.”

“The title ‘Belgians buy illegal diamonds’ is a total aberration,” AWDC said today. The diamonds discussed in the cable had Kimberley Process certificates and purchased in 2007-09. In November 2009, KP sanctions were placed on Marange goods.

The article also alleges ‘According to Cranswick work in the mine is mostly supplied by children.’ No references are made to child labor in the mentioned cables. “It must be absolutely clear that AWDC most strongly condemns child labor and does not wish to be associated with this in any possible way,” the organization declared.

This is the second response from inside the diamond industry to the leaked cables (see more about them here). The first was from WFDB Vice President Ernest Blom who issued a “categorical denial over claims of trading in rough diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange deposits.”

Indian government blocks Zimbabwe roughs

we publish courtesy of Mineweb

Author: Shivom Seth

 

The Indian Government’s Union ministry of Commerce has put the brakes on the import of controversial gems from Zimbabwe and has asked the gems and jewellery exporters and traders to bide their time till the issue is amicably resolved with the Zimbabwe government.

The move is a major setback to the Surat Rough Diamond Sourcing India Limited (SRSDIL), which had inked a deal amounting to $1.2 billion per annum, to import roughs from Zimbabwe.

With India emerging as a big consumer market for diamond-studded jewellery, in addition to being a major exporter, the last two auctions of Kimberley Process (KP) certified goods reflected a healthy participation by Indian diamantaires, especially those from Surat.

In a defiant stand, Zimbabwe has reportedly told newswire agencies on Tuesday, that it will proceed to sell its diamonds since they are  compliant with all the requirements of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

Mines and Mining Development secretary Thankful Musukutwa reportedly told a visiting Norwegian delegation that trade of his country’s roughs would not be stopped by non government organisations and “other hostile nations.”

The minister has said that while Zimbabwe has had “a few problems” with the KPCS, “we have worked our way up and we are very compliant”. The minister has reportedly asked KPCS to stop engaging in politics.

In Surat though, the Indian Ministry’s move has sent out warning bells. “We will have to follow the decision, though the ban will ensure a huge shortage of roughs and will unwittingly lead to large scale smuggling of diamonds,” said Manikbhai Suratwala, a gem exporter, who leases an office in Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazaar area.

Suratwala pointed out that Zimbabwe’s earnings from mineral exports had increased by 25% to $807.2 million during the nine months to September.
“If there was no ban on the roughs, earning from mineral exports could top $1 billion this year,” he added.

However, the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has welcomed the move.

“We will adhere to the timeline until a mutual settlement is reached between the  member countries. We do not want to antagonise other importing countries and interested parties,” said a Council member.

Sanjay Kothari, vice-chairman of the Council said that a decision in this regard was taken by the Council since the USA, UK and Australia continue to have reservations over the export of diamonds from Zimbabwe.

Recently, at a Kimberley Process meeting held in Jerusalem from November 1 to November 4, representatives of the government and the Council strongly advocated the lifting of suspension on the export of rough diamonds from the Marange diamond fields. However, despite several delays, no concrete decision has been taken.

Traders have also said that banning diamonds would not help resolve the issue, since diamonds from Zimbabwe would enter the trade channel via other nefarious means. Exporters from Mumbai who are to participate in the gems and jewellery show, Sparkle-2011, scheduled to be held in
Surat on December 12, have maintained that most banned diamonds would find their way to China and India “via alternate ways.”

“More than 50% of Zimbabwe’s diamonds are said to be smuggled out of the country,” said Suratwala. He also alluded to earlier reports that said  Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Australia, Jacqueline Zwambila, had been recalled to Harare following allegations of stripping and diamond smuggling.

Incidentally, on November 26, a court in Surat, Gujarat, had convicted two Lebanese nationals of smuggling diamonds into the country. The judgement, said experts, revealed how diamonds were used to finance conflicts and human rights abuse in Africa, and were making their way into India. This was the first conviction relating to the smuggling of such gems into the country.

“Hopefully, it should be the last,” said Suratwala. “We would all like an early resolution to this mess, especially since Zimbabwe auctioned a huge cache of diamonds from the Chiadzwa diamond field in August, which went off smoothly. The required certification was obtained.”