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Leibish & Co

Monday, August 23, 2010

UK Diamond Firm, Jewelry Buying Group Ban Zimbabwe Diamonds

UK-based diamond jewelry company MasterCut is refusing to buy rough diamonds from the Marange fields in Zimbabwe because the company said it doesn’t believe the human rights abuses that forced an international  ban on the diamonds hasn’t ended, according to media reports. The company has gone so far as to rally others to support its effort.

In addition, the Company of Masters Jewellers, which is the exclusive buyer of MasterCut diamonds, supports MasterCut's ban. CMJ is the largest independent jewelry buying group in the UK.

“We believe industry leadership is required to maintain consumer confidence, and would call on other diamond brands to confirm no Zimbabwean diamonds are being used in their diamond jewelry,” James Maxwell, MasterCut group marketing and strategy director, reportedly said. “Diamonds should be a force of good for Africa. Botswana has been a role model in sub-Saharan Africa, where it has demonstrated how diamond revenue can be channeled back into infrastructure, healthcare and education.

“We look forward to the time when we can buy from Zimbabwe, when diamonds are shown to be demonstrably beneficial to the country.”

Willie Hamilton, CMJ chief executive, reportedly added: “I support the ban one hundred percent. We jointly made this decision."

He continued, “There is too much uncertainty over whether the diamonds coming out of that country will be ethical. What constitutes ‘ethical’ also needs to be more comprehensively defined.”

The two groups have now joined the Rapaport Diamond Trading Network (RapNet), which has also banned diamonds from Zimbabwe. Martin Rapaport, who owns and operates the international diamond trading network, has warned its members that trading diamonds from Zimbabwe's Marange diamonds fields will result in expulsion from the network and having their names disclosed.

Beginning in 2008 the Zimbabwe army took over the Marange fields forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners. These miners were massacred by soldiers and villagers have been beaten, raped and forced to work as virtual slaves. The human rights abuses led to Zimbabwe's being suspended from the Kimberley Process, an organization of governments, diamond dealers and non-government organizations that attempts to combat “conflict” or “blood” diamonds by using a certification process to trace rough diamonds to their origins.

The KP voted to reinstate Zimbabwe in July, allowing two supervised exports of rough diamond from the Marange production. The first auction of 90,000 carats was held August 11and reportedly raised $72 million.  The second sale is scheduled for September 6.