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Gaetano Cavalieri: I expect our industry to experience steady growth, but not at the pace of the past few years

27 april 2015

gaetano_cavalieri_fullsize.jpgThe World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) represents the entire jewelry industry embracing a whole variety of companies, from those mining precious metals and gems to those, which are manufacturing and selling final products.

The confederation members are national jewelry associations from more than 40 countries, including Russia. In 2006, the CIBJO was the only organization granted the official status of a consultant to the UN Economic and Social Council on the development of the global jewelry industry.

Gaetano Cavalieri, President of CIBJO, has kindly agreed to give this interview to Rough&Polished and to talk about his vision of the situation in the diamond industry.

What are the main topics to be discussed at the CIBJO Congress in Salvador? 

A great number of topics will be discussed, many of them related to specific sectors of the industry. CIBJO represents all parts of the jewellery business, and each of them has a forum or a number of forums in which it is able to discuss its particular issues. That is not to say that there are not common interests; there are many, of course. But there also are subjects that are sector specific, and the way in which we are organized allows these to be addressed as well. 

But there are issues that can be highlighted, which are specific to 2015, and also specific to the place where the congress is taking place. This is the first time that a CIBJO Congress is being hosted in a Latin American country, and I believe that it emphasized the roles that South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean are beginning to play, not only as suppliers of raw materials, but also as jewellery markets in their own right. 

The second issue I would mention will itself be highlighted during a special conference on the integrity of grading reports and grading labs, which will take place on the first day of the congress. Right now, there are few if any enforceable standards, and almost anyone can issue a grading report, irrespective of how it was compiled and how qualified the person issuing the report is. 

The potential that this has risking the confidence that consumers have in our products and industry is immense. We need to find long-term solutions. 

What are the key industry priorities for this year? 

The issue of grading integrity is critical, in part because it was publicized widely and cannot be considered to have been contained within the industry. What this means is that we not only have to find solutions, but we have to be seen to be working hard at doing so. This is not something that can be brushed under the table.  

Financing and bankability is clearly also an issue, particularly at the mid-stream of our chain of distribution. Clearly we, the industry leadership, need to do what we can in order to make the industry attractive to the banking community. But we need to do this in a way that does not threaten the role traditionally played by smaller and medium-sized enterprises. Transparency will be a key component of any solution. 

The third issue is a perennial one, but no less important than it always has been, and that is the growing our market base. We have made tremendous strides in previous years, with the very rapid growth of the jewellery markets in China and India. But, as they mature and their rate of growth slows, we need to look at other, under-developed markets. Latin America is clearly one of those.

What are you not satisfied with?

That is a very broad question, for in principle I am never satisfied unless a problem is completely solved or an objective is fully attained. 

But there is a more general process that does concern me tremendously, and it has influenced much of the industry debate in recent years, and this is the drive to replace the individual element with a more a corporate culture. 

I understand the reasons of this phenomenon, and they largely have to do with what some believe is a more economic business structure, in which the chain of distribution is reduced in length, and number of participants is brought down considerably. We saw this happening in a range of different business sectors, including fashion and electronics.  

This concerns me at a number of levels. The one is that it threatens the fabric of our industry, which traditionally has been a patchwork of smaller and medium-sized enterprises, many of them family owned. The human costs of SMEs being pushed out of the business would be huge. 

But the injection of a corporate culture will impact on the product as well. It may impose a degree of uniformity in an industry, which is reliant on the individual creative spirit. A jewellery purchase is a very personal statement. It is all about individuality. 

This is not to say that there is not a place for large companies in our business. There is, of course.  But I am concerned that, by using their advantageous position to create systems that are geared specifically to meet their needs, they may impose conditions that make it difficult, if not impossible, for individual jewellers or small companies of jewellers to stay in the business. We need to develop systems that are inclusive, not excluding.

How do you see the industry trends in middle and long term? 

Again, this is a very broad topic, but I will address it briefly.   

Medium-term, I expect our industry to experience steady growth, but not at the pace of the past few years. The dual entry into the market of markets like China and India was a historic anomaly that is not likely to repeat itself. But they will continue to grow, at more modest paces, as will the markets in Eastern Europe, North America and the Gulf. They will be bolstered by other emerging markets, like those in Latin America and Africa.  

Long-term I am also optimistic. There is nothing to suggest that the humanity’s love of our product is waning, in fact exactly the opposite. But I do think that we need transform the public perception of our product from being non-essential, to one that plays an essential role. That will be achieved by increasing the role that we play as a positive social and economic force, and in so doing reinforcing the public perception that when you buy an item of jewellery, not only do you derive a sense of satisfaction from owning it, but also from the contribution that have made to society as a whole. If we can do that successfully, then I am confident our long-term future is ensured. 

How do you assess the World Diamond Council policy?

The World Diamond Council continues to play a critical role in representing the interests of our industry in the Kimberley Process, and in the on-going effort to ensure that the diamond pipeline is devoid of merchandise being used directly to finance civil conflict and violence. That is its mission, and I support it strongly.   

What is your attitude to synthetic diamonds? 

CIBJO’s position has been clear. We cannot qualify the synthetic diamond as an illegal product, because it is legal. The product is legal, but if in the act of selling it a trader does not properly describe it as synthetic, then the trader has committed an illegal and immoral act.  

This is because he has not provided the buyer with the information required to make a reasoned purchasing decision. Clearly, any instance in which synthetics are mixed with natural diamonds is absolutely unacceptable.  The obligation to disclose is unambiguously noted in CIBJO’s Diamond Blue Book. Article 3.7 states: “The fact that a synthetic diamond is wholly or partially synthetic shall be disclosed. Only the term ‘synthetic,’ ‘laboratory-created’ or ‘laboratory-grown’ shall be used to describe synthetic diamonds and these terms shall be equally as conspicuous and immediately precede the word ‘diamond.’”

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