Editors

What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Responsible’?

EditorsApr 01, 2022

What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Responsible’?

It’s a question that’s been on Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff’s mind since Feb. 24.

“Responsible” is a word that’s been on my mind lately, particularly so this past week following the breaking news surrounding the Responsible Jewellery Council.

Every time the word comes to mind, so does this question: What do we mean in the jewelry industry when we say “responsible?” I don’t mean only as the term applies to RJC and its standards, and I’m not writing this piece as a criticism of RJC alone but, instead, to pose this question to the industry as a whole.

I’m asking, obviously, in light of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and its effects on the jewelry industry, which have spread like smoke trapped in a vacuum chamber.

The first major company to speak out was Brilliant Earth, announcing Feb. 26 that it was pulling Russian diamonds from its website.

Signet announced its decision to cut ties with Russian companies during its March 17 earnings call. Tiffany & Co. followed on March 25, and then Chopard.

The RJC blowback came this week, with the resignation of now-former Executive Director Iris Van der Veken and the exit of major players like Pandora and Richemont.

It’s obvious why these companies are disavowing Russian goods and Alrosa’s participation in RJC now, but the situation at hand forces us, if we are willing, to confront a larger truth.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who first entered office in 2000, has been a bad actor for decades.

The list of atrocities he’s committed or is accused of committing include, but are certainly not limited to, human rights abuses in Chechnya, the 2014 annexation of Crimea, the poisoning of dissidents, and the near extermination of the free press in Russia.

So, was buying diamonds from Alrosa ever really responsible?

It’s another question that’s been on my mind since Feb. 24 and one that JCK News Director Rob Bates addressed in a recent episode of JCK’s podcast.

Bates pointed out that Alrosa has been a well-respected player in the jewelry industry, a “good actor” that’s gone out of its way to be transparent and take social responsibility seriously and, I would add, continues to provide jobs for a lot of people. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that the diamond miner is one-third owned by the Russian government, a fact from which Alrosa can no longer distance itself.

“Whatever Alrosa’s merits ... as a business, people really looked at it as something distinct from the Russian government,” Bates said. “And in retrospect, perhaps that was a mistake because it is one-third owned by the Russian government.” 

 Related stories will be right here … 

I would be remiss if I ended this editorial without addressing something non-Russia-related that’s come to mind while contemplating the “responsible” question.

Back in fall 2020, Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques resigned after the mining company blew up prehistoric caves in Western Australia that were sacred to two Australian Aboriginal groups—the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura—and archeologically important, containing signs of human habitation stretching back 45,000 years.

Although the news was not specifically related to Rio Tinto’s diamond mining operations—it was the company’s iron ore division that destroyed the caves—the story felt important enough for us to cover. It received little attention in the trade otherwise.

Rio Tinto was in the news again more recently, this time for a report generated by an internal taskforce that revealed, to quote current CEO Jakob Stausholm, a “deeply disturbing” culture where women are sexually harassed and passed over for promotions, employees in Australia who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander experience racism, and LGBTQIA+ employees are bullied.

Rio Tinto, like Alrosa, is, as far as I can tell, a respected player in the industry and a certified member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, once again begging the question—what do we mean when we say responsible?

Is behavior considered “responsible” up until the point it becomes so blatant—like a full-scale, unprovoked invasion of another country—that we can’t look the other way, though, unsurprisingly, many continue to do so? 

Are we willing to take “responsible” measures only if it doesn’t hurt the bottom line or complicate business too much?

Are we worried about being “responsible” only when consumers are asking about a specific situation, or when we think they might “find out about it?” 

Where do we draw the line on being “responsible?” 

As I finished writing this Friday morning, Alrosa sent out a statement that it was suspending its membership in the Responsible Jewellery Council due to the “current unprecedented realities,” while noting it will continue to uphold its high standards of responsible business conduct and ethics, and fully support RJC’s mission. 

We will have a full report on Alrosa’s decision in Monday’s newsletter and will continue to follow developments that relate to Russia and Ukraine.  

Ongoing developments aside, this crisis is creating many questions the industry must confront, starting with the one I’ve posed here.

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

The Latest

FinancialsJan 27, 2023
Tiffany & Co. Shines for LVMH in 2022

Acquired in 2021, the brand’s high jewelry sales have doubled and its new “Lock” collection was an instant hit.

MajorsJan 27, 2023
Diamond Council of America Appoints Treasurer, Board Member

Executives from Fred Meyer Jewelers and Riddles Jewelers have filled the roles.

CollectionsJan 27, 2023
Piece of the Week: Heavenly Vices’ Lock Necklace

The Victorian-inspired design is a functional lock and key.

Brought to you by
Bringing Over 130 Years of Diamond Expertise to Modern Grading

De Beers Institute of Diamonds provides the very best in diamond verification, education and diamond services.

Supplier BulletinJan 26, 2023
JA New York Spring Brings the Industry Together

For over 100 years, JA New York has played an integral role in facilitating the evolution of our industry, while also honoring past traditions.

Weekly QuizJan 26, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
TrendsJan 26, 2023
At Vicenzaoro, Paola De Luca Gazes Into Jewelry’s Future

The trend forecaster and her guests explored unconventional jewelry designs, NFTs, AI art, and more during her Trendvision presentation.

CollectionsJan 26, 2023
NDC and Lorraine Schwartz Announce New ‘EDDI’ Class

The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative provides diamond credit and mentorship to young brands helmed by BIPOC designers.

Brought to you by
De Beers Institute of Diamonds Expands to Offer Education

De Beers is sharing over 130 years of experience and expertise through the De Beers Institute of Diamonds with a selection of courses.

IndependentsJan 26, 2023
Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry Set to Open 10th Store

It will be located in San Antonio’s Alamo Quarry Market and will be Lee Michaels’ third location in the city.

Policies & IssuesJan 26, 2023
Diamonds Do Good Names 10 to Board of Directors

Stephanie Gottlieb, Jewelers Mutual’s Mike Alexander, and Craig Rottenberg of Long’s Jewelers are among the new board members.

WatchesJan 25, 2023
These Were 2022’s Top-Selling Watch Brands, Chrono24 Says

Rolex remained No. 1 while a brand known for its pilot watches slipped into the No. 5 spot.

MajorsJan 25, 2023
John Hardy Names New CEO

Luxury retail executive Frédéric Levy has taken on the role.

Events & AwardsJan 25, 2023
Couture DAC Accepting Applications for Mentorship Program

Jewelry designers have until early February to apply to take part in Couture's Diversity Action Council program.

CollectionsJan 25, 2023
Stephanie Gottlieb Announces First President, CCO Hire

Morgan P. Richardson joins from La Perla.

Policies & IssuesJan 25, 2023
PGI’s New Portal Wants to Teach You About Platinum

The new portal will share information on responsible platinum sourcing and how it’s used beyond jewelry.

SourcingJan 24, 2023
Tiffany Buys 35 of the Last Diamonds Recovered From Argyle

Purchased directly from Rio Tinto, the collection consists of pinks, purples and one red, none larger than 1.52 carats.

ColumnistsJan 24, 2023
On Data: Here’s How Independent Jewelers Did in 2022

Sherry Smith breaks down retailers’ performance last year, including how natural diamonds fared vs. lab-grown.

GradingJan 24, 2023
GIA and AGS Launch Diamond Light Performance Supplement Report

The AGS Ideal Report by GIA is a digital-only addition to GIA diamond reports.

MajorsJan 24, 2023
WJA Announces New International Board Members

The seven newcomers include executives from David Yurman, De Beers, and GIA.

Policies & IssuesJan 23, 2023
Melanie Grant Named Executive Director of RJC

She has more than 20 years’ experience in watches and jewelry, and says sustainability is the “greatest single issue” facing the industry.

Policies & IssuesJan 23, 2023
AGTA Forms Committee to Standardize Industry ‘Sustainability’ Terms

Its focus are words like “sustainability,” “ethics,” and “responsible sourcing.”

IndependentsJan 23, 2023
10 Jewelry News Stories You Might Have Missed

Another “Designer to Watch” and Kim Kardashian’s auction purchase were among our most-read stories.

MajorsJan 20, 2023
Quality Gold Acquires Herco

Herco President Reuven Itelman is retiring and selling the company, which will relocate to Ohio from California.

Lab-GrownJan 20, 2023
Siobhán Duffy Promoted to Chief Executive of Element Six

She was previously the executive director of sales and marketing for the De Beers Group-owned company.

TrendsJan 20, 2023
Piece of the Week: Loquet London’s Lunar New Year Charm

It’s from a new collection of charms designed to go in the brand’s signature lockets.

IndependentsJan 20, 2023
Edge Retail Academy Announces Annual Award Winner

Lonnie Iannazzo of Vincent Anthony Jewelers is the 2022 William (Wag) Wagner Business Excellence Award recipient.

Lab-GrownJan 19, 2023
GIA Rolls Out Less Expensive Report for Lab-Grown Diamonds

The revised Laboratory-Grown Diamond Report-Dossier still includes the four Cs but doesn’t list growth method or post-growth treatments.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy