While most do not see a gem's long journey from discovery to customer, at Parker Jewelers we do our best to help put ALL aspects of the jewelry business in perspective for our customers. That's why we'd like to take a moment to share some facts and opinions this Earth Day in relation to jewelry, gems, and mining practices.
Since April is diamond month, we'll be focusing on diamonds as a primary example.
The history of diamonds and diamond mining is a long one, dating back to as early as the fourth century B.C. Diamonds were first discovered and traded in India, then a few were discovered in Brazil; however, the great turning point in history of diamonds and diamond trade as we know it today, occurred when diamonds were discovered in Africa. Since then and fairly recently the market has shifted again in subtle ways. You may have noticed it in a shift in marketing and focus- "A Diamond Is Forever" campaign for example. For many jewelers, the ethics and marketing have created "hot button" issues that really have not affected them before; a big example of that? A customer walks into your establishment and asks, "How do I know my diamond isn't a blood/conflict diamond?" or "What's the difference between a natural and a synthetic diamond and how can I tell the difference? I heard synthetic diamonds are more environmentally friendly." While customers (and jewelers) want easy answers, I'm afraid that when it comes to these issues there are NO EASY ANSWERS. These issues are multi-sided and complex! This article cannot possibly address all these issues, but we would like to give you a bit of an updated picture on the diamond market today (and if you'd like to stop by and ask about something not addressed in the article- please do! we'd love it!).
For many years, the diamond market had been largely controlled by one company- DeBeers. They set up a "pipeline" to get their diamonds from mine to consumer- doing much of the marketing, cutting, exploration, buying, etc etc themselves. However, after the Argyle mine in Australia, the market has changed. This shift is one that maybe a few customers are aware of? In a nutshell, the owners of the Argyle mine did not like what DeBeers had planned for their diamonds and broke their contract with them doing much of their own marketing and sending their rough to different cutters. This broke the perfect pipeline that DeBeers had going for many years. Mining companies in Canada have also chosen their own path, they contract their own cutters, marketers, etc (some Canadian diamonds are marked as such with a girdle inscription- as part of their marketing). A third challenge to DeBeers pipeline is/was the "conflict diamond" news that customers were receiving via the media. DeBeers has since put in place many successful policies to prevent those diamonds from entering their "pipeline," but as you can see, they've had quite a few challenges to their domination of the market.
These facts are why we say the market has shifted slowly in the past few decades. And personally, I don't think the shift has stopped.
As consumers become more aware of the changes in the market, they arrive at stores with more tough questions. Here are some things I can tell you that you should know.
There are MORE regulations in place today than ever in regards to ethical mining practices. In Canada, at the Diavik mine (the largest mine in Canada by output), the mining company maintains a socioeconomic monitoring agreement with the territorial government as well as environmental protection agreements with the native peoples, federal, and territorial governments. The company has consulted with the councils of the indigenous peoples on a regular basis regarding the mining operations since the discovery of diamonds in 1993. These discussions have prompted revisions to the mining operations and closure plans and will continue as long as the mine is in operation. At Diavik in Canada, all mine activies are designed to protect the environment, anticipate potential problems, as well as meeting and exceeding regulatory requirements. A network is in place to monitor water quality around the mine as well as check the effects of the mining on local wildlife such as Caribou, Wolverine, Bear, Fish, etc. checking their normal patterns as well as the vegetation in the area. Before any mining started at Diavik, plans were in place to return the site to its nearly original condition when operations stop in 2024, but progressive reclamation has already started and will continue.
The mine workers' safety is monitored by outside agencies to ensure that all workers are safe and protocols are being strictly enforced. Because the mine is so far north in Canada, the weather is monitored as well to warn workers of incoming threatening weather.
Times are changing. The market is changing. Mining practices are changing. Technology is changing. The media is changing. The world is better connected than ever. With new regulations and new technology comes new ethical mining practices. It is estimated that less than 1 % of diamonds on the market are conflict diamonds. The DeBeers "pipeline" has changed and thus the market has changed. Consumers are empowered by the information that the industry has been able to provide to them. Are there new issues to tackle due to these changes? YES.
If this article has prompted some questions for you, if any other article or news has prompted questions for you regarding diamonds/natural vs. synthetic vs. imitation/ethics and disclosure, please ask your local, reputable jeweler and/or visit gia.edu.
We strive to make the best quality jewelry for the best possible price. We use the same mindset when it comes to our stock; we want to stock fine quality jewelry and bring you great prices.
We wanted to take this time to thank you for your business!
We also wanted to give you insight into our diamond and diamond simulant jewelry. We have quite a selection in stock and Many MANY more we can order (in a wide variety of price ranges too!).
Can't afford a diamond- you're not alone. Here are some facts to consider!
There have been many diamond simulants in the past; and there are many diamond simulants in today's market. Diamond simulants are imitators- some are better than others- but they are designed to look like a diamond. Here is a brief breakdown of common simulants as well as some pros and cons of each.
Other Simulants (more common in past than present):
For reliable information and guidance to find the best similant for you, come into the store or visit www.gia.edu
Still have questions? Feel free to stop by the store, check out our other diamond blog posts, and/or visit www.gia.edu/diamond
Parker Jewelers believes in giving their customers the best! This includes information about what we can offer as well as what's new in jewelry!