Those wishing to have a diamond which aligns with the values associated with engagement and marriage often choose Canadian diamonds, despite their impact on the ecology, and the fact that Africa needs the diamond trade for their economic development. Though there are a few notable exceptions, when large scale diamond mining companies operate in Africa, most of the economic benefit derived from the mine leaves the country.
A few organizations have been attempting to work with small scale mining communities in order to produce a principles and standards within a chain of custody for a fair trade diamond. Mike Angenent has been at the forefront, and has recently announced that a fair trade diamond will be coming to market. Here is what he has to say about the project.
Can we start with where are these diamonds coming from?
For starters, South Africa and Sierra Leonne.
What key agencies are you working with to bring this diamond to market?
There are a few projects in the pipeline. One with DC Diamascorp concerning small scale and artisanal mining in South Africa and a project with Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) concerning artisanal mining in Sierra Leon.
Many attempts at bringing a fair trade diamond to market have failed for many, many reasons. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Not sure if I totally agree with that. There have been successful initiatives, like Liqhobong Lesotho. However scale and continuity have always been difficult to meet. Everyone would like a steady supply of .30 to .50 ct VS/G and that’s hard enough to guarantee even with traceable goods.
It’s nice to start a small project and bring the goods to market, but if the customer needs assurance and certification then it is hard to work with artisanal miners or small projects. The costs of certification would be too high. Starting certification also means building and maintaining relationships over a longer period of time, which is not always easy at an add hoc mining site.
What are the overarching principles and on the ground standards in the production of these diamonds?
Simply put: transparency throughout the supply chain, ecological sustainability and social responsibility.
DDI has set its own standards for the artisanal pilot projects in Sierra Leonne. Jeweltree will do the monitoring of the polishing process according to its standards.
For Jeweltree, the foundational principles to be considered with the projects in South Africa are autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. Fair trade for us means trading with mutual consent, clarity and free choice. It is trading with mutual benefits and acknowledgement of an individuals right to pursue his or her own happiness in harmony with everyone and everything else.
Will there be some kind of fair trade premium offered to the miners?
In the case of DC Diamascorp the goods will be sold / tendered with an Ethical Certificate® guaranteeing fair trade, origin and the overarching principles. The Ethical Certificate® comes with a fixed price, although it might differ slightly with the value and quantity of the parcel. This is mainly because customers can choose to split up parcels according to their wishes. The revenue generated by the sale of these Ethical Certificates® will be reinvested by DC Diamascorp into the communities and or community projects.
DC Diamascorp however will mainly sell in larger quantities and to other wholesalers. Hopefully buyers will be interested in maintaining the traceability and sell the polished with a certificate as well. For this they have the option of using the DC Diamascorp Ethical Certificate® or the branding and certification offered by Jeweltree. Some of the goods will be polished in cooperation with DC Diamascorp.
In the case of our cooperation with DDI we have chosen to develop an auction platform through which we will auction the polished diamonds as one of the possible ways to get these diamonds to market. It’s my intention to set a reserve price for the goods and reinvest the amount above the reserve price back into the communities. This should be done in cooperation with DDI.
The DDI goods will be available as single stone purchase and possibly also in parcels by both retailers and consumers.
What output, yearly, do you expect from the mining operation?
Both operations are in pilot phases and we’ll start with a few hundred carets. It’s relatively easy to upscale when there is enough potential and enough sites that participate.
What can you tell us about the polishing facility?
We’ll be working with a few, depending on the nature of the rough. For DC Diamascorp’s focus is mainly on offering fair trade rough in this phase. If the polisher buying this rough wishes to maintain the traceability and sell with a certificate then they need to work according to the criteria set by Jeweltree Foundation. Regarding the diamonds from the DDI pilot projects we envision to have the main bulk to be polished in Antwerp but for the smaller (<8ptn and sawn off pieces) goods we’ll have to look for other locations. However, in this phase, focus will be on the larger goods, not melee.
How about distribution of these diamonds to market? Will you be selling only to trading partners, or directly to the public as well?
The main focus is on selling to retailers via auction. www.opensourceauctions.com (under development – but you can register) Due to the nature of the goods and the relatively small quantities available at first it makes little sense to do it otherwise. In the last few years we’ve noticed that its mainly small jewelers and artists who use this kind of product. They custom make a design according to the stone available. For a bigger brand its more complicated because they need to be able to reproduce the same jewelry item over and over again.
When will these diamonds become available to jewelers?
The polished I expect to be available by October.
The first import should be in September and then you must take into account another 6 weeks or so for polishing. Hence October.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I would like to point out that we will give all supporters of Jeweltree and DDI access to our affiliate programs (information available via open source auctions). This way, they can contribute to make our marketing strategy more efficient and earn a commission for doing so.
But the best thing is that they’ll be actively involved in creating beneficiation for the artisanal miners involved.