Diamonds symbolize purity and eternity. Yet their road, from their origin to our fingers, is still today too opaque and their traceability remains problematic.
Contrary to what is developing for gold, we do not know so far of "Fairtrade" labels guaranteeing good diamond mining methods. However, the Kimberley Process, which certifies the origin of "conflict-free" rough diamonds, is a shy step in this direction.
In Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic, profits from the illicit trade in rough diamonds have been used to finance armed conflicts in which millions of civilians have been trafficked, killed, or victims of rape, mutilation, and kidnapping.
To stop and prevent the trade in the so-called "blood diamonds", the Kimberley Process was set up in 2003 by states, diamond professionals, and civil society organizations. It aims to assure consumers that the diamonds they buy are not from rough diamonds used by rebel movements, or their allies, to finance the sale of arms and conflicts aimed at destabilizing legitimate governments.
This certification requires participating governments to have each shipment of rough diamonds exported to a secure container and accompanied by a validated government certificate. The certificate contains a unique serial number certifying the origin of the stones. No shipment of uncertified rough diamonds is permitted to enter or leave the territory of a signatory country. Today there are around 60 Member States.
However, the Kimberley Process is limited, as its certification does not take into consideration respect for human rights or the environmental impact of extraction methods. It is further criticized that the effectiveness of internal controls varies greatly from one country to another, depending on whether or not a government has the financial, material and institutional resources to put in place the certification of its diamonds.
Be that as it may, the Kimberley Process has had the merit of highlighting the problems that the gemstone trade poses to consumers, clients, and distributors. It remains now for everyone to pursue its initial goal by taking responsibility.
All our designers, in any case, are subject to this certification, as incomplete as it is, since they buy their diamonds from local traders in countries that are all signatories of the process (EU, USA, Japan, Thailand, Australia ...).
One thing is certain, at White Bird, we are more focused on diamonds "out of the loop". Indeed, most of our designers use gray diamonds, champagne, slice cut, and other unconventional stones. And who says "unconventional" necessarily means "unlisted"? Their low appeal in major international markets means that they are not suited to finance conflicts. These diamonds are adored by Cathy Waterman, Dorette, Brooke Gregson, Noguchi, and Myrtille Beck.
The recycled diamonds come from old jewels and mounted on new jewels. They often have old sizes that can represent a constraint or an opportunity for the designer. Using recycled stones can limit the demand for mining and supply locally.
The designers Ruth Tomlinson, Polly Wales, and Alice Waese work exclusively with recycled diamonds and many of our designers use them frequently.
The designers usually work with a few stone traders because a relationship of trust takes long to establish and therefore very valuable. Most of these merchants are part of organizations that commit them to the quality and provenance of the stones they offer.
In the United States, the AGTA has 1,200 members: designers, stone dealers, and distributors. The association, born more than 35 years ago, commits its members to respect, at their level, the strictest transparency as to the origin of diamonds and colored stones that they sell or use in their manufacturing. They respect an environmental and social code of conduct established by the association. The relationship of trust is established all the more easily as the number of intermediaries is restricted.
Pippa Small has established a strong, transparent relationship of 20 years with her goldsmith in Jaipur, who also supplies her colored stones.
Maria Moro, the designer of Oona, buys her precious stones from two Sri Lankan traders who source exclusively from the island. She has her jewels made in the same small town like the one where she buys her stones.
The jewelry maker of Karen Liberman in Jaipur is also her supplier of gems. He travels the world himself in search of her favorite gems.
For her colored gemstones, the designer of Sofia Zakia, Sofia Ajram works with an FGA (Fellow of the Gemmological Association) and ICA (International Compliance Association) certified gemologist who travels to Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Hong Kong to forge ties with responsible and respectful suppliers.
Embellishing a stone means to enhance its color or clarity by different methods. Corundum such as sapphires and rubies, quartz, beryls such as aquamarine, tourmalines, and zoites such as tanzanite are often heated to improve their color and/or clarity. In the case of emeralds, the embellishment is performed through the infiltration of colorless cedar oil. These techniques of embellishment of colored stones vary according to the type of gems and are a lapidary practice that has become customary.
However, our preference - and that of the designers with whom we work - is clearly focused on untreated natural stones. It is the essence of White Bird to love stones as nature offers them and to appreciate their beauty and uniqueness each day.
Diamonds: Does the Kimberley Process work? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10307046
Why Zimbabwe’s New Diamonds Imperil Global Trade http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2029482,00.html
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