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Expected standards of ethical behavior are increasingly becoming linked to a number of international ethical protocols, which also are applied in other business sectors, writes Tiffany Stevens, President of the CIBJO Ethics Commission in a recently published special report. Ms. Stevens is also President and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the chief legal body representing the U.S. jewelry sector.

“Responsible business standards that are being applied in the jewelry industry are meshing further and further with those used internationally, and with frameworks that govern other industries around the globe. It is important that jewelry companies fully understand their responsibilities under these complex sets of expectations, and they communicate them effectively and directly with their supply-chain partners and ultimately the consumer,” Ms. Stevens notes.

Among the systems that the industry is recommended to adhere to are OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict Affected and High-Risk Areas, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the FTC Jewelry Guides in the United States, ISO standards, the World Diamond Council System of Warranties, and the perhaps-evolving definition of “conflict” under the Kimberly Process.

“Often these standards intertwine, even at the highest governmental levels, again highlighting why ethics and responsible sourcing cannot be sliced off from business practices and concerns over revenue or staying out of criminal activity,” Ms. Stevens wrote.


Looking at the diamond industry, Ms. Steven looked at the subject of ethical disclosure, and more specifically at disclosing the presence of synthetic of laboratory-grown diamonds. 

It is one thing to disclose when one already knows whether is marketing a natural or laboratory grown diamond, she said, but what of the ethical responsibility to make that determination in the first place? 

The industry must be responsible to know exactly what products they are passing along the supply chain, and thus the use of detection devices, which will confirm whether a stone is natural or not, is critical. “Ethically responsible members of the trade must either personally test or require proof of testing from their supplier before passing the goods along,” she stressed.

The OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict Affected and High-Risk Areas, the gold standard for responsible sourcing practices in the world’s various extractive sectors, including diamonds.

No wording can absolve one of this responsibility if something goes wrong, although following the proper channels might mitigate some of the ultimate financial and legal responsibility,” Ms. Stevens pointed out in the report. 

The trade can be assisted the Diamond Producers Association’s Project Assure, which tests the quality of detection devices now available in the marketplace, reporting about the effectiveness of different systems that are being sold. All information is available at no cost online at:

Tiffany Stevens, author of the CIBJO Ethics Commission Special Report, President and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the chief legal body representing the jewelry sector.



Being forthright, fully descriptive and making all disclosures clear and easy to understand is imperative, Ms. Stevens writes. “In the absence of solidly defined definitions of terms like ‘ethical,’ ‘conflict free’ or ‘responsible’ in most countries, explain clearly to your customer about what such claims mean in your business,” she states.

The CIBJO Ethical Commission Special Report recommends a three-step process for ethical disclosure:

  • Due Diligence of your supply chain, which may or may not include appropriate third-party audits.
  • Comprehensive internal risk assessment (with appropriate action) based on the findings from that due diligence.
  • Clear and effective communication on these results to the next party to receive the goods.

“When seen globally, we have at our disposal an amazingly complex system of frameworks, definitions and semantics. But as a trade we should aim for the simplest, most direct forms possible when communicating with consumers, and these should be standard in the sales representative’s in-store pitch to a potential customer, on invoices, on social media and online – wherever products are bought and sold,” she notes.