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Jonathan Kendall: The inscription on each Forevermark diamond is proof of the promise that it is beautiful, rare and responsibly sourced

24 december 2012

On the threshold of Christmas Rough&Polished asked Jonathan Kendall, Global Operations Director for De Beers’ Forevermark, who heads up the Forevermark Diamond Institute in Antwerp and all other related projects, to tell our readers more about how Forevermark diamonds are screened to be certified as the world’s utterly unblemished gems. In his interview to our European correspondent Alex Shishlo he said that for a diamond to meet the Forevermark quality standards it must be greater than 14 points in size, above L colour, a Very Good or higher cut grade and SI2 or higher in terms of clarity, not to mention that it must have also been produced from an approved source.

What is the main mission of the Forevermark Diamond Institute given that there are such grading authorities as GIA, HRD, IGI or EGL?

The Forevermark Diamond Institute is used solely for the purpose of evaluating, inscribing and grading Forevermark diamonds.

Thanks to the high standards set from launch, it rapidly expanded to open a new service for other Diamantaires also.

The International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research (IIDGR) employs the same world class standards as the Forevermark Diamond Institute to evaluate and assess non-Forevermark diamonds using reliable, highly accurate methods.  

Could you describe the process of work at the Institute - from the day you receive diamonds and to the day they are released?

Diamonds arrive from our Authorised Forevermark Diamantaires, at which stage we know they already meet our responsible sourcing standards. Having come from an approved source, they have actively benefitted the communities from which they come – not only at the mine, but also at the cutting and polishing stage.

From the moment they arrive, the diamonds are anonymous thanks to our policy of repackaging the diamonds before they are sent to the FDI. The diamonds are allocated at random to one of the resident experts who then performs a rigorous evaluation of the diamonds eligibility to be inscribed as Forevermark. 

The diamond is then finally tested to ensure it is natural and untreated. Once approved, it is inscribed using proprietary equipment developed by De Beers Research and Development Group and then either submitted for grading or returned to the Diamantaire with certification. Should the Forevermark diamond be graded, it will be returned to the Diamantaire with this documentation also.

It is well known that two different labs may sometimes assign different characteristics to one and the same diamond. How is the grading process organized at the Forevermark Diamond Institute?

The Forevermark Diamond Institute builds on the De Beers group’s 120 year, unrivalled knowledge and expertise. Each expert diamond grader has a wealth of knowledge and understanding and is passionately committed to excellence. The very best of diamond grading technology developed by the De Beers Group’s Research and Development team is used alongside human skill and expertise. It is this combination of personal and technological excellence, complimented by the institute’s advanced bespoke processes that ensure the highest levels of accuracy and consistency.

The diamonds are graded multiple times to maintain accuracy and consistency. For example, for a colour evaluation, a diamond will be checked by 3-4 individuals in addition to our proprietary colour machine assessment.

Who are the employees of your Institute, their number, qualification, gender, age? Do you employ more men or women? Why? Who of them are better working with stones?

We don’t divulge any information about our staff.

Do you plan to increase the staff of your Institute and expand its scope of activities if the program will be developing further?

We have recently expanded the size of the Forevermark Diamond Institute significantly, increasing the inscription capacity by 56% and the grading capacity by 158%. The grading production area has been increased by 73% in size and the inscription production area by 55%. This major piece of expansion work has resulted in an immediate and dramatic increase in grading output of 50% and inscription rates of 36%.

How many stones do you usually grade per day?

Around 500.

Do you work with any diamonds - of any cut, color and size - or are there some Forevermark standards?

For a diamond to meet the Forevermark quality standards, it must be greater than 14 points in size, above L colour, a Very Good or higher cut grade and SI2 or higher in terms of clarity. Over and above this, it must have also been produced from an approved source and cut and polished by an Authorised Forevermark Diamantaire to ensure it has been handled by partners who meet our high business, social and environmental standards.

Through these parameters, we can assure all customers that they can be proud to own and wear a Forevermark diamond.

Can Forevermark become a worldwide standard for product quality in the future?

We believe so yes. We have seen a great consumer response to the promise that is represented by the inscription on each Forevermark diamond. The concept makes a very significant purchase decision easier as the customer can be confident that they are buying a premium quality item with strong integrity values.

In what way do you establish whether the supply chain from mine to market involving certain diamonds was secure or not?

To ensure that the Forevermark responsible sourcing standards are met from the very start of their journey, there are various business, social and environmental standards that must be adhered to by all Forevermark approved sources. These are assessed firstly via the country of origin, followed by the individual diamond mining company.

Just as a Forevermark diamond can only come from an approved mine, it can only be cut and polished by an approved Forevermark Diamantaire. These Diamantaires are not only chosen for their superb craftsmanship but they must also adhere to our business, social and environmental standards. It is an important element of the Forevermark promise that our diamonds are not only sourced from producer companies which comply with our strict political, financial, social and environmental requirements, but that they go beyond this and actually benefit the communities in which they are operating.

To assess this, Forevermark analyses benefits in place such as employment and the positive cumulative effect on the local area, local health provision such as, health centres and equipment funded by the mining company, education and training – both for the employees and wider community, investment in the local community infrastructure, and best practices regarding the local environment and ecology.

The Pipeline Integrity process was developed in conjunction with the British Standards Institution, and every Forevermark Diamantaire is tested against this process by our third party auditor Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) on an annual basis.

Once inscribed, each Forevermark diamond is sold through an Authorised Forevermark Jeweller. In order to fulfill our promise, all Authorised Forevermark Manufacturers and Authorised Forevermark Jewellers must also meet our integrity standards. These include commitments to treat employees fairly in accordance with local and international law, and to adhere to optimum environmental standards, ensuring they do not create a significant adverse effect to the environment.

What is the purpose of Forevermark as a diamond branding program?

The inscription on each Forevermark diamond is proof of the promise that it is beautiful, rare and responsibly sourced. We have seen from both research and consumer response to the brand that this assurance is hugely appealing, particularly when combined with the powerful brand positioning that we have developed.

What companies have access to this program?

We work with a select number of approved mining companies, Diamantaires and Jewellers, each of whom has undergone rigorous auditing to ensure they meet the Forevermark business, social and environmental standards.

Does Forevermark have any competitors as a brand?

Forevermark was launched with the goal of becoming the world’s leading diamond brand. With the rapid expansion and positive consumer response we have seen since launch, we are well on track to achieving that goal.

Who has the right to be a Forevermark Authorised Retailer?

Authorised Forevermark Manufacturers and Authorised Forevermark Jewellers are carefully selected and approved only once they meet our integrity standards. These include, for example, a commitment to treat employees fairly in accordance with local and international law, and to adhere to optimum environmental standards, ensuring they do not create a significant adverse effect to the environment.

Alex Shishlo, Editor in Chief of the European Bureau, Rough&Polished