While the industry continues to grapple with the concerns about blood diamonds, Day's Jewelers is aiming to put Fair Trade Diamonds Made in Botswana on Gen Y's ring finger. The diamonds -- the only ones currently available that are guaranteed to be mined, cut and polished in a single African nation -- are proving to be popular with younger consumers, who are increasingly likely to see diamonds as politically cringe-worthy instead of harmless bling.
The small regional chain, based in Waterville, Maine, began selling the diamonds late in 2008. And while supply continues to be a problem, company sales are up some 13 to 14% this quarter, in part due to the popularity of the Botswana diamonds, Jeff Corey, president of Day's, tells Marketing Daily.
While Day's may be cutting-edge, other retailers will likely begin finding their own way to documenting their jewelry soon: Last week, the Securities & Exchange Commission proposed regulations that would require stores that sell store-brand jewelry to report whether their products are made with minerals from war-torn central Africa. While the stores, which include Target and Walmart, would be allowed to sell conflict minerals, they will have to flag them as such to increasingly sensitive consumers.
Since the industry now uses a system called the Kimberley Process to certify that diamonds are conflict free, environmentally conscious consumers are becoming more and more aware of the pollution done by much of the world's mining.
But even worse, says Corey, is the recognition that jewelry has long been created in a way that exploits some of the world's poorest people. "My wife and I went to Africa several years ago, and really, you can't appreciate the poverty there until you see it," he says. "Diamonds have been mined and immediately shipped overseas for so long, so Africans never even gained jobs from them."
He first heard about the Botswana diamonds, which are also gem printed for further authentication, in 2008. "The problem was timing," he says. "That was one of the most difficult times in history for U.S. jewelers, and the company couldn't find a retailer. So my wife, my brother and I decided to go to the bank, borrow the money and put them into our stores."
Since late 2008, he estimates he has sold about 250 of the diamonds, which are also a good value, he says, "because the pricing eliminates wholesalers." And while supply continues to be a problem, he says his customers love them. "I get emails that say things like, 'I'm going to wear this diamond with pride, like I've done something to make the world a better place.'"
He expects more and more young people to bring that level of fair-trade awareness to ring-shopping: "Not only is this diamond conflict-free, you know the money you paid was used to put people to work, in one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world."