US market sceptical of Marange diamonds

SURAT — More than size, cut and glitter, Indian diamantaires dealing with their buyers in the United States require a strong convincing power to prove that the cut and polished diamonds they sell are “conflict-free”.

It is because their US counterparts are skeptical that the diamonds supplied by Indian traders could have originated from the controversial Marange mine in Zimbabwe, which is marred by alleged human rights abuses and that it could destroy the confidence of American consumers.

“It takes guts to sell diamonds in the US. Specially, after the Kimberley Process’s (KP) approval to Zimbabwe to export its diamonds from the Marange diamond field in November 2011 and the Indian traders bringing huge quantities of the rough diamonds for cutting and polishing in Surat factories,” a polished diamond dealer based in Manhattan, New York, Harish Shah said.

“Even most of our old clients in New York ask us to give an undertaking and required documents to support the fact that diamonds they are buying are conflict-free and that they have not originated from Zimbabwe,” added Shah. The strict scrutiny may force diamantaires to look for other markets, which many of them have already started. Many are seeing Dubai and Hong Kong as potential markets for their products.

Few months ago, the Jewellers of America advised its members — traders and jewellers in the US — to exercise appropriate due diligence and ask their suppliers — Indian diamantaires — provide additional written reassurances, beyond the World Diamond Council’s System of Warranties statement, that the diamonds they supply have not originated from Marange. India is the biggest supplier of cut and polished diamonds and diamond jewellery to the US. In 2001, about $8 billion worth of gems and jewellery were exported to the US.

US department of treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control enforces legal sanctions that prohibit all dealings, both directly and through third-parties, with the Zimbabwean entities that own or control the Marange region diamond mines and the diamonds exported by these entities.

“It is a KP’s decision that Zimbabwe can export its rough diamonds. The industry leaders and the government in US should accept the fact. There is no point in harassing the diamantaires who are doing genuine business there,” a member of Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, Harish Shah said.

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