US Retailers Hail Conflict Diamond Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – Jewelers of America (JA), which represents more than 10,000 retail jewelers nationwide, called today for swift passage of new legislation designed to keep diamonds from conflict areas out of the United States.

“This bill is a critical step forward in the ongoing effort to eliminate the insidious traffic in conflict diamonds,” said Matthew A. Runci, President and CEO of Jewelers of America. “Retail jewelers are committed to doing all we can to sever the link between diamonds and the violence that plagues some parts of Africa.”

“While conflict diamonds represent only a small percentage of those traded, our goal is to assure American consumers that every diamond in our stores comes from a legitimate source. This legislation is an essential step toward achieving that goal,” Runci said.

The bipartisan measure, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Mike DeWine (R-OH), would create a system to prohibit U.S. imports of conflict diamonds and impose serious penalties on those who do not comply. Their bill, S.1084, is a refinement of a proposal introduced earlier this year (H.R. 918) with Representatives Tony Hall (D-Ohio) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) as chief sponsors. Congressmen Hall and Wolf played a major role in the consultative process that included representatives of industry and of the humanitarian organizations interested in the issue.

“Representatives Hall and Wolf deserve great credit for helping to craft this new compromise bill, which meets the concerns of all the interested parties,” said Runci.

The new bill also supports the work of the Kimberley Process, an international effort to establish a global certification system to end the trade in conflict diamonds.

“The United States is the largest single market for diamonds worldwide,” said Runci. “The legislation introduced today is critical to the establishment of an international system that will cleanse the legitimate supply chain of conflict diamonds. We will work with Members of Congress, non-governmental organizations and industry groups to secure its prompt passage.”

Jewelers of America, which works locally through 42 state and regional offices, is a member of the World Diamond Council, which represents all segments of the diamond industry worldwide and which also supports the bill.

“Cooperation is critical to achieving a sound, workable solution to the conflict diamond problem without harming legitimate players in the industry,” Runci said. “We look forward to continued cooperation in working to see this sound piece of legislation becomes law.”