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Tracing the Origin of a Diamond

By Caroline Suganda

Each of Tiffany's diamond is laser- inscribed with a unique code that provides consumers sourcing information specific to the stone.
 
Tiffany & Co.
Each of Tiffany's diamond is laser- inscribed with a unique code that provides consumers sourcing information specific to the stone.

Last year, T Singapore did a full reportage on the challenges of a sustainable business model in the diamond industry. A brief back-story: Most of the established brands procure their rough diamonds from mining companies, who often do not disclose or have the ability to identify the mines of origin of the diamonds they sell. And as many as 40 million people work in these small-scale mines, which operate with little or no machinery, and sans safety procedures. Last year, a report by Human Rights Watch (a non-profit, non-governmental human rights organisation) listed Tiffany & Co. as the only brand to be awarded a “strong” rating for its efforts in responsible sourcing. We traced the American jeweller’s journey towards responsible mining and crafting, starting with its wholly owned subsidiary, Laurelton Diamonds, which manages its worldwide supply chain that sources for rough diamonds, then cuts, polishes and supplies the finished stones to Tiffany. Such vertically integrated system bolsters responsible practice and contributes to accountability.

At the beginning of this year, Tiffany pushed the envelope further with the development of this initiative: The jeweller promises to provide specific region or countries of origin for each of its individually registered diamonds. Reportedly, Tiffany is the only global luxury jeweller to provide such provenance to its individually registered diamonds. It is an important and significant step of transparency, especially in the industry where its origin of supply is often kept a secret. By next year, the craftsmanship journey of each of these diamonds will be disclosed as well.

How is this possible? T Singapore speaks to two of Tiffany’s chief sustainability officer, Anisa Kamadoli Costa, and senior vice president of diamond and jewellery supply, Andy Hart.

Tiffany & Co.From left: Anisa Kamadoli Costa, chief sustainability officer; and Andy Hart, senior vice president of diamond and jewellery supply.
From left: Anisa Kamadoli Costa, chief sustainability officer; and Andy Hart, senior vice president of diamond and jewellery supply.

CAROLINE SUGANDA: Tiffany began its journey towards sustainability in 2002 with the establishment of Laurelton Diamonds. However, the company has not been actively publicising its efforts until now. Why is that so?

ANISA KAMADOLI COSTA: Our sustainability story actually goes back even further, to 1995, when we first opposed irresponsible gold mining near Yellowstone National Park in the US. We believe that sustainability means assuming responsibility for the environmental, social and economic impacts of our business to ensure the long-term benefit of the company, its stakeholders and broader society. Tiffany & Co. has a deep legacy of conserving the natural landscapes that provide the raw materials and the inspiration for so many of our creations. Almost two decades ago, we realized that our best means of ensuring a socially and environmentally responsible supply chain was to go above and beyond industry standards and control as much of our supply chain as possible. Today, we’re more vertically integrated than any other jeweller. Of course, the bar for corporate sustainability leadership continues to rise, and we believe we can always do more. This drives our commitment to continuous improvement, and the Diamond Source Initiative continues that promise. The responsible sourcing practices underlying this initiative have been in place for many years. Now, we are sharing a greater level of transparency by providing consumers information specific to their stone. This is a first-of-its-kind initiative among global luxury jewellers.

CS: Could you please tell us how Tiffany’s journey towards sustainability has become the decisionmaking factor for consumers these days? Has this increased in the recent years where consumers are leaning towards a more sustainable lifestyle?

AKC: We, in the luxury industry, are seeing a new generation of buyers — one that cares about the environment and society more than ever, and that translate those beliefs into brand loyalty. We welcome this, and our clients deserve to know where their most valuable, cherished diamond jewellery is from, and how it came to be. We believe diamond traceability is the best means to ensure social and environmental responsibility, as it helps us to address human rights, labour practices and the environment throughout the entire journey of a Tiffany diamond. For consumers, this critical piece of information enables an informed purchase decision.

CS: To what extent will Tiffany provide the information of its diamonds' provenance?

ANDY HART: We source diamonds predominantly from well-established mining companies that operate a limited number of responsibly managed mines. Providing region or countries of origin is a significant first step in our journey, and while we cannot share further details at this time, we will continue our industry leadership in responsible sourcing and will work with our trusted partners to enhance transparency as the industry evolves.

CS: Will the certificate of each diamond reflect this change too?

AH: Yes, we are introducing provenance on the Tiffany Diamond Certificate for individually registered diamonds, as one of the diamond attributes. This will be another unique benefit of the Tiffany Diamond Certificate. 

Tiffany & Co.
 
Tiffany & Co.In line with the new era of diamond transparency, the caseline display at Tiffany's boutique has also changed to support this movement, showing provenance of this sourced diamond.
In line with the new era of diamond transparency, the caseline display at Tiffany's boutique has also changed to support this movement, showing provenance of this sourced diamond.

CS: What about diamonds or coloured gemstones in the high jewellery collection? Will they bear the provenance of its stones?

AH: Given our business, we have the greatest opportunity with diamonds today, so we are focusing on diamonds for now. All individually registered diamonds — generally those 0.18 carat and greater — including rare fancy coloured diamonds, yellow diamonds, and normal colour-range are included in this initiative. Further to give more context on the gemstone supply chain, approximately 80 per cent of the world’s coloured gemstones come from small-scale, artisanal mines in more than 40 countries, and as a result it can be difficult to trace their origins. Because of this, we use strict protocols for sourcing and are working to help set standards that account for the realities of the supply chain, while seeking to increase transparency. 

CS: In terms of its supply-chain management, what has changed now that each diamond’s provenance needs to be accounted for?

AH: This industry-changing announcement reflects the culmination of decades of investment in the sustainability and craftsmanship of Tiffany diamonds, and is only the first step in our diamond source initiative. By 2020, consumers will also be able to trace the craftsmanship journey of their diamond — including the cutting and polishing location —[which is] an industry first.

CS: Before this announcement, each Tiffany diamond is already laser-inscribed with a special code. Moving forward, what are the changes in the information it will contain?

AH: While the inscription itself, which traces each individually registered diamond by a unique “T&Co” serial number etched by laser and invisible to the naked eye, will not change... we will now be providing consumers sourcing information specific to their stone.

CS: Does this initiative start with the Love & Engagement collection? What will happen to the older Love & Engagement pieces that do not have its provenance accounted for?

AH: This initiative is not only in the Love & Engagement collection, but Tiffany & Co. is committing to 100% geographic transparency for every newly sourced, individually registered diamond (0.18 carats and larger). In cases where provenance is unknown — such as heritage stones that predate this policy — Tiffany will provide confirmation that the diamond was responsibly sourced. Tiffany’s superlative standards exceed the Kimberley Process Certification requirements for rough diamonds, and for polished stones, mandate compliance with Tiffany’s Diamond Source Warranty Protocol.

This interview has been edited and condensed.