World Diamond Council (WDC) president Edward Asscher foresees that the diamond industry will soon have two distinct value chains, one encompassing responsibly sourced diamonds and one that does not.
During the closing session of the 2021 Intersessional Meeting of the Kimberley Process (KP), he questioned the readiness of certain KP participants to meet the expectations of today’s jewellery consumers, who are increasingly demanding that diamonds be verifiably shown to have been responsibly sourced, and to have been handled in accordance with human rights, environmental protection and social justice standards.
“It might well be that the considerations of consumers are far beyond the field of perception of producing countries, polishing centres and governments. But what happens if producers do not listen to the market? They become obsolete,” noted Asscher.
He added that the KP process had the ability to create a level playing field. If it meets these consumer expectations, then all natural diamonds from all participating countries will be represented.
“But there is clearly resistance, and I believe it is because some of us see the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as an enabler of trade, while others see it as a restrictor of trade.”
In his address, the WDC president explained the consequences of a market with two different value chains, being that some producing countries will face less demand for their goods.
“Can you imagine having a wonderful, beautiful diamond, but it is difficult to sell because prospective buyers will not have been assured that the stone has done good on its way from the mine to the market?” he asked.
He added that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would experience difficulties selling natural diamonds, because they do not belong to the elite group of polishers that can guarantee that the diamonds they source and polish are responsibly sourced.
That would create an unlevel playing field in the polishing centres and threaten the livelihoods of thousands who own, are employed or service SMEs.
Asscher stressed that there remains limited time to change course. “I trust that this truth will sink in before the KP Plenary later this year.”
He said there were only two choices: either to genuinely work together to reform the KP and meet consumer expectations, or “we leave many of our friends here at the KP behind in a much smaller and concentrated diamond industry, where there are two value chains – one with consumer demand and one without”.