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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Modern consumers covet sustainably sourced diamonds

We all love our jewellery. Whether it is the cherished pearl necklace that is a family heirloom, or the sapphire earrings that get off the sparkle in one’s eye, there is something comforting in putting in the pieces of jewellery that make us feel most ourselves. This has not changed in all the generations of different styles and preferences in jewellery. What has changed, however, is how the modern consumer searches for and purchases their stones – especially their diamonds. Environmentally and socially responsible jewellery is not necessarily unheard of, but for the first time it is something that consumers are readily demanding answers to when they consider purchasing a new diamond. The demand for ethical sourcing of these precious materials has been soaring in recent years, but the problem is not easily fixed. The fact is that most metals and minerals are found in the poorest regions on Earth. They pass through many hands as they make their way to the market, most of these hands leaving their mark while somehow avoiding any traceability. In this way, ethical production and supply chain transparency is especially difficult to keep in check morally.

The serious ecological and socio-economic concerns raised regarding the extraction and trade of diamonds around the world have becoming steadily louder. Today, it is a screaming cry that can be heard all over the world, and still it becomes louder, more pronounced. The awareness of sourcing such materials from high-risk environments is beginning to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of consumers, and nobody wants to be part of such a devastating industry. Supporting the industry only serves to prolong the violent sourcing in places like Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Mexico (to name a few of the most negatively affected areas of extraction and trade in the world). Sourcing is only the beginning of the root of the issue as well. Once the diamonds are sourced, they move on to be cut and polished. The workers that work in gem cutting facilities often carry out their work in areas that lack adequate ventilation. Additionally, they often with without proper safety gear. The ethical disproportion in the industry runs deep, but it is (thankfully) finally beginning to change.

Today, the ethical sourcing of diamonds and other precious stones is something that most – if not all – consumers consider to be of the utmost importance. The modern consumer is more aware of the ethical dilemmas that surround the sourcing and tracking of their jewellery, and they are making it their business to make their views heard and acted on. This has come to such a point where more and more modern consumers will not do business with companies that do not adhere to ethical sourcing of their pieces – no matter how luxurious or famous the jewellery brand in question is. This is the beginning of ethical sourcing and tracking to become a given in the jewellery industry on a global level. As in any industry, consumers control the market, and without support and loyalty from consumers, even the most established and famous of businesses can go under. And the same ideal is beginning to turn over right now in the worldwide jewellery industry.

Luxury jewellery titan Tiffany & Co is leading the charge in luxury brands taking more responsibility for the sourcing of their diamonds. The jewellery and fine objects industry giant made the announcement last month that they were beginning a program that allowed their customers to see the country where their chosen diamond was mined. Eventually, the goal is to expand this program to include information on where the diamond was cut, polished, and set. This is a bold and incredibly positive move from (arguably) the biggest jewellery company in the world, and it is inspiring a new age of luxury jewellery that is sourced ethically. Having the information readily available to customers in real-time is a way for the company to make good on their intentions. With consumers being able to view where their diamonds come from in real time, Tiffany & Co holds itself responsible for keeping ethics under a strict microscope now and into the future.

The issues surrounding ethical sourcing of diamonds and other precious minerals and metals have been ongoing for quite some time, however it has only been in the last few years that the awareness of the seriousness of the issues has come into full public view. With this newly forged awareness, modern consumers are becoming more environmentally and socially conscious with their jewellery purchasing decisions. Modern consumers now value the ethical sourcing of their jewellery more than the clarity of the stones or the caret of the gold. The market has taken note of consumer expectations and values, and have begun to shift their ideals towards sustainable sourcing and remedying the extraction and trade in the poorest regions on Earth – the areas in the world that happen to be where a lot of these minerals and metals are sourced. And even luxury brands like Tiffany & Co are jumping on the ethical band wagon, instilling positive change and revitalising the jewellery market to realign with modern values. The modern consumer demands ethical sourcing, and the market is here for it.

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