LONDON — Transparency — luxury’s new necessity?
Luxury goods brands and suppliers are attempting to lay bare — and to promote — how and where they source their raw materials, and to what extent they are engaging with local partners and workers in the factories, forests, farms and mines worldwide.
Earlier this month, the International Fur Federation unveiled Furmark, a tag that allows consumers to trace the provenance, and examine the supply chain, of their coats, capes and hats, while De Beers is currently piloting Code of Origin, a unique, customized code that’s meant to guarantee a diamond is natural, conflict-free and ethically sourced.
It looks as if those famous four C’s of diamond standards — cut, color, clarity and carat weight — will soon be joined by a T for traceability.
The Code of Origin pilot is part of De Beers’ overarching Building Forever mission to achieve its many sustainability goals by 2030. The project also takes inspiration from De Beers’ Forevermark, the diamond jewelry brand that offers rare, top-quality stones inscribed with unique codes that guarantee their value, and provenance.
In the U.S. and China, the new De Beers Code of Origin will apply to diamonds larger than 0.30 carats that have been discovered and mined by De Beers. The code, inscribed on the table of the diamond, is invisible to the naked eye, and De Beers said the inscription does not affect the rock’s clarity grading.
In India, the Code of Origin will also be available for pieces containing smaller diamonds. The code will feature on a special jewelry report that covers all the diamonds in a single design.
The plan is to scale the program internationally in the coming months.
David Prager, executive vice president, and chief brand officer of De Beers, said in an interview that the new code is a way to engage current and potential customers, and transmit the De Beers brand values.
Prager said that De Beers wants to get sightholders, retailers and the end customer on board, and draw them all into the company’s sustainability conversation.
Prager believes that De Beers is giving consumers what they have been asking for all along. “They want to know our brand values. They want to know who brought them the diamond,” he said.
As reported earlier this year, De Beers has been working with a technology called Tracr that shows where each of its diamonds comes from, and the impact of its processing — from the mining, sorting, valuing and transport, to the cutting and polishing — at each step of the value chain.
He also noted the majority of De Beers’ rough diamond production is currently sold into the market as unbranded and believes the Code of Origin will help to make the entire diamond market more transparent.
He emphasized, too, that Code of Origin is not a brand, and it does not guarantee a diamond’s quality, but instead shines a light on how and where it was sourced and its impact on the environment and the local communities where it was mined.
“For most consumers it will create a step-change in the connection they have to the story of their diamond — not just where it came from and how it was sourced — but the positive difference it made in people’s lives.”
Stephen Lussier, executive vice president consumer markets and chairman, De Beers Jewellers and De Beers Forevermark, said the plan going forward is to focus De Beers’ marketing investment on the overall brand and its social and environmental mission.
The company is set to unveil a major campaign later this year that will focus on the overall De Beers brand, its mission and its stakeholders “who act with purpose,” according to Prager.
Like so many other luxury brands and suppliers, De Beers is keen to burnish and promote its environmental, social and corporate governance ambitions.
De Beers in particular wants customers to be part of the ESG story, and to know that when they’re buying a De Beers diamond they’re also buying into a larger charitable and environmental package that includes safeguarding endangered species; helping women entrepreneurs, and fighting climate change in Africa and Canada, where the company does much of its business.
Indeed, De Beers wants its customers to know that diamonds are not only sparkly status symbols, but objects that are “engaged in a mission to improve people’s lives,” according to Prager.
As reported last month, De Beers has forged a long-term partnership with National Geographic in an effort to protect the source waters of the Okavango Delta, one of Africa’s most important ecosystems.
The partners have said they plan to raise awareness about the importance of the delta; to fund conservation research; to support local communities by providing water, food security and job opportunities, and to provide long-term wildlife protection.
The company is also pursuing research into the carbon-zapping powers of kimberlite, the rough outer casing in which diamonds are embedded. De Beers has been working with three Canadian universities to explore the potential for kimberlite to trap and store carbon emissions for millions of years, far longer than any tree could.