In the era of fake news and synthetic diamonds, it was a matter of time before the two would meet. They did so recently in the form of editorials in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and on the Russia Today (RT) TV channel, which took some cheap shots at the diamond trade.
The ill-informed pieces highlight some still-prevalent misconceptions about the industry’s ethical practices. The trade should also be aware that some millennials are becoming advocates for the lab-grown diamond product — that is, if these editorials are anything to go by. As journalists, meanwhile, we must do better research and get our facts straight.
In this case, the authors didn’t get their facts right in the articles: “Diamonds and Lies,” which was a broadcasted commentary by RT contributor Tabetha Wallace; and “De Beers Is Fighting ‘Fake’ Diamonds from China, but Who’s the Real Fake?” an editorial by SCMP’s chief news editor Yonden Lhatoo.
Wallace and Lhatoo would do well to read the Five Essential Diamond Truths and Five Essential Laboratory Diamond Truths recently published by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA). Then again, given the combative tone of their commentary, they’re likely to brand the DPA campaign as another example of “big diamond” telling us what to do. After all, they believe “there’s a sucker born every minute… and they keep falling for this crock of bovine faeces,” as Lhatoo wrote in his piece.
The premise of both articles is that since the trade is active in conflict areas, consumers should avoid natural diamonds. Rather, they advise, the public should opt for lab-grown diamonds, which have the same characteristics as natural ones, are ethically produced and are 30% cheaper.
Wallace’s claim that “the most prolific diamond mines are in conflict areas, mostly in war zones” is simply false. In fact, the largest volume of diamonds comes from RT’s home base in Russia, followed by Canada and Botswana, according to data published by the Kimberley Process (KP). Hardly considered war zones fueled by rebel forces, those three countries account for a combined 60% of global production by volume and two-thirds by value. Adding other significant producers where there is no question of conflict such as Angola, Australia, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, the number is much higher.
Today, less than 0.03% of rough stones on the market are considered conflict diamonds according to the KP’s definition. A more responsible critique would be to question whether the limited KP definition of a conflict diamond is enough to protect the consumer, as Rapaport News and this author have. The industry is certainly not perfect and has some work to do in this area. Efforts by the World Diamond Council (WDC) to update the definition to include human rights abuses and other atrocities should be supported.
At the same time, we recognize the wave of traceability programs that are being developed and other mechanisms such as the WDC’s System of Warranties and the Due Diligence Guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which more retailers are using to ensure their supply is responsibly sourced.