Diamonds with Provenance
Yes, diamonds are forever but would you forever cherish, however brilliant, a stone that you know nothing about? Especially now that you have seen Blood Diamond and recognised the truth about “conflict” or “blood” diamonds? (These are illegally traded stones that fund insurgencies and warlords in war-torn areas.) “Diamonds, formed up to three billion years ago and brought to the earth’s surface by a miracle of nature, are symbols of the most important moments in our lives. There should be nothing opaque about Tiffany diamonds,” says Alessandro Bogliolo, chief executive officer, Tiffany & Co. “Our clients want and deserve to know where their most valuable, most cherished diamond jewellery is from, and how it came to be.”
In keeping with a new tradition established last year, your solitaire from Tiffany now comes with its provenance included on the Tiffany Diamond Certificate for individually registered diamonds, alongside the stone’s other specifications — information not generally made available by the industry. Tiffany will soon also share each stone’s craftsmanship journey (such as the cutting and polishing workshop location). So you will have information on where your stone was dug up, who polished it and where. In cases where provenance is unknown (such as heritage stones that predate this policy), the brand will provide confirmation that the diamond was sourced through the leading practices of the industry.
For all lovers of fine jewellery and diamonds, Anisa Kamadoli Costa, chief sustainability officer at Tiffany & Co. and chairman and president at The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, discusses the sharing of information on your stones that Tiffany provides….
How do you ensure that Tiffany & Co. operates in environmentally and socially responsible ways? Can you tell us something about your sustainability efforts?
Tiffany & Co. has a longstanding history in sustainability and focusing on the value of what happens at the origin of its supply chain. Our work really began back in 1995, when we opposed the development of a gold mine that threatened Yellowstone National Park in the United States. We realised then, that what happens at the origins of supply chains matters for the end product, for the brand and for our customers. Since then, Tiffany has been committed to conducting business responsibly, sustaining the natural environment and positively impacting the communities in which we operate. This is really the guiding principle that underpins the three core sustainability pillars of our business: our Product, our Planet, and our People.
Could you explain what Tiffany’s Diamond Source Initiative is about and how it protects the environment?
Last year, building on our decades-long legacy of setting industry standards for transparency, traceability and responsible sourcing, Tiffany & Co. began sharing the country or region of origin of every newly cut, individually registered Tiffany diamond. We are a luxury industry first. Diamonds signify a personal and significant purchase, often representing important moments in our lives, and we believe our clients want to understand where their most valuable, cherished diamond jewellery is from, and how it came to be. Our customers deserve to know that a Tiffany diamond was sourced with the highest standards, not only in quality but also in social and environmental responsibility. We believe that diamond traceability is the best means to ensure both. Later this year, Tiffany & Co. will advance its transparency one step further by sharing the full craftsmanship journey for our diamonds. Customers will be able to trace where each individually registered Tiffany diamond was cut, polished and set.
Why is diamond traceability so important, for the company as well as its clients?
In the luxury industry we are seeing a new generation of buyers — one that cares about the environment and society more than ever, and that translates those beliefs into brand loyalty. Consumers today want to know more about the origins of what they buy, from where their produce is grown to where their wine is made or their T-shirt is manufactured, and under what conditions. We believe that transparency and traceability are the best means to ensure social and environmental responsibility, as this visibility into our supply chain allows us to address human rights, labour practices and environmental issues. For consumers, this critical piece of information enables an informed purchase decision. For Tiffany, this move reflects another step forward in line with our long-held principle of transparency.
How does Tiffany & Co. ensure protection of human rights?
Because of our vertical integration, we are able to create a best-in-class environment for the people working in all of our diamond and jewellery workshops around the world. This gives us the confidence that our diamonds are made to our exacting standards, and it also supports the economic potential of these regions because we are investing in local communities. We hire and train local artisans. We are proud to pay a living wage to skilled workers and provide a safe, welcoming workplace for our employees.
What has the company done to guarantee responsible sourcing and stem the flow of conflict diamonds?
In addition to knowing the origin of our diamonds, we also recognise that there is a need for high-bar standards for responsible mining. For example, we go above and beyond the Kimberley Process (to eliminate trade in conflict diamonds) to source our diamonds with even greater respect for the environment and human rights. We also maintain a strong chain of custody over our diamonds. In fact, we’re one of the most vertically integrated companies in the luxury jewellery space. We do not mine ourselves, but we have direct supply agreements with particular mines or suppliers. We have our own diamond cutting and polishing workshops, where we pay a living wage, provide training and development opportunities, and hire the majority of our employees from the local communities. We also operate our own manufacturing facilities. Our unique vertical integration model helps us maintain a safe, healthy, and welcoming work environment, contribute to local economies and improve traceability. So, we not only have this transparency throughout the supply chain, but we’re also setting high standards for the way we operate those workshops.
How can the wellbeing of the mining communities be maintained? In what way does Tiffany aim to give back to these communities?
Even though Tiffany & Co. doesn’t own or operate any mines, we work globally to improve the practices of both large- and small-scale mining operations. We envision a mining sector that operates with sound governance, protects the environment, minimises its environmental impact, promotes responsible labour practices and a healthy work environment, engages with local communities and respects the rights and freedoms of all people affected by the business.
We are also working with other leaders in the jewellery sector and other industries that rely on mined raw materials. We helped launch the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), and we worked closely with them to put out a groundbreaking new standard that provides the world’s first shared definition of leading practices for large-scale mining operations. In addition, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has a Responsible Mining programme that has supported abandoned mine reclamation efforts and the advancement of the artisanal and small-scale mining sector through training, formalisation and standards development.
Tell us of your involvement in coral conservation and healthy marine ecosystems. Why do you think the cause is so important at this time?
When it comes to our strategic grant-making through The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, we focus on educating key constituencies about coral and its significance in ocean health and to our planet and people overall. Whether it’s the sailing and boating community, hotels or marine tourism providers, or the jewellery industry, we work with these audiences that can have an immense impact on marine preservation. For instance, in 2016 we supported Conservation International’s virtual reality film titled Valen’s Reef set in the Coral Triangle in Indonesia, which has one of the most biologically diverse reefs on the planet. We hope it will inspire broader stewardship of the marine environment. Also, we have been funding the creation of marine protected areas — akin to national parks in the water — because it’s been proven that if you can safeguard these areas, both the protected zones and the surrounding ecosystems return to a more balanced state.
How has Tiffany & Co. been involved in supporting global efforts in containing the COVID-19 epidemic?
The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has made a one-million-dollar commitment to COVID-19 related causes. The Foundation is allocating 750,000 dollars to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organisation powered by the United Nations Foundation, in addition to 250,000 dollars to The New York Community Trust’s NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund. Tiffany & Co. is also proud to match employee donations to any qualified non-profit organisation supporting COVID-19 relief, dollar for dollar.