Forevermark, the high-quality diamond retail arm of diamond giant De Beers, says it will not sell any diamonds from the controversial Marange fields in eastern Zimbabwe citing inferior quality.
De Beers and Harare are currently embroiled in a war of words over the diamond giant's activities in Marange between 2000 and 2005. Harare alleges that De Beers siphoned rough stones worth millions of dollars while telling government it was just prospecting.
But De Beers denies the charges saying its operations in Marange were above board and they left after realizing the diamonds were not up to their standards.
Speaking at the launch of the exclusive brand in Johannesburg, South Africa at the weekend chief executive Stephen Lussier said Marange diamonds were generally too small and low in quality for the brand to sell.
He added that Forevermark’s selection process goes well beyond adherence to the minimal standards of the Kimberley Process, which recently gave Harare permission to sell Marange diamonds on the international markets after a three year stalemate in the diamond watchdog group.
Lussier said today’s consumers are now more interested in the source of their luxury purchases.
“The Forevermark carries a guarantee that the diamonds used for our products have contributed positively to communities, the environment and supply chains along the way," said Lussier.
“In a diversifying and maturing industry, consumers seek more from their luxury purchases. Not only do they demand value for money, but there is increasing interest in the source of their purchase and the journey it has traveled."
He added that less than one percent of the world’s diamonds are eligible to be branded Forevermark.
The Marange fields have been mired in controversy since the military took over operations from African Consolidated Resources in 2006 with rights defenders saying the army perpetrated abuses on ordinary people, killing some in the process.
Studio 7 was unable to reach De Beers to check if the diamond giant’s other operations would handle Marange diamonds.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said Harare is not surprised by Forevermark’s statement.
He repeated his accusations that De Beers had already unlawfully benefited from Marange diamonds during the 10 years the company held prospective rights for the fields.
Diamond activist Farai Maguwu of the Centre for Research and Development in Mutare said for as long as there’s no consensus amongst the governing parties in Harare over Marange, the world would find it difficult to accept Marange diamonds.
Research Director Allan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada commented that Forevermark has done the right thing, adding more international companies could follow suit.