Here are the global figures who have had the greatest impact on the diamond sector this year.
Iris Van der Veken
Executive Director, Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030
Iris Van der Veken delivered a firm personal statement of her values in March when she resigned as executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) after three years in the post.
The trade body, which has more than 1,500 members, is tasked with setting supply-chain and sourcing standards for the jewelry and watch industry. Among other things, Van der Veken spearheaded the RJC’s gender equality efforts as part of the UN’s “Generation Equality” campaign. But she voiced disappointment over the RJC’s failure to suspend Alrosa’s membership during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
In July, she was appointed executive director and secretary-general of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030. The Geneva-based project is an initiative by luxury groups Cartier and Kering that aims to get major industry players to work together toward shared sustainability and ethical goals. Van der Veken has mustered a great deal of industry support, and the organization’s growing membership includes some of the best-known names in the business.
Among the founding members that signed up in April were Boucheron, Chanel and Gucci. In September, another slew of names came aboard: A. Lange & Söhne, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Piaget, Mattioli, Dimexon, Pandora, and Rubel & Ménasché. More have followed intermittently, including the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). All members must agree to work toward a list of shared goals, and also contribute financially. See Page 22 for more about the initiative in an exclusive interview with Van der Veken.
Cofounder, HB Antwerp
Oded Mansori was an early advocate of advancing transparency, fairness and traceability in the diamond value chain. After three decades as a diamond trader, he established Rare Diamond House (RDH) in 2009, specializing in trading 10-carat-plus, D-flawless diamonds. Now CEO of manufacturer HB Antwerp, Mansori is focusing on mine-to-market initiatives like the HB Capsule — a digitally secured diamond vault that protects goods against tampering and provides origin verification. Also under his watch, HB launched Signum, a product that combines the world of rough diamonds with the investment opportunities of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
In addition, the company has been collaborating with WomHub — a pan-African incubator for women in the science, technology, engineering and manufacturing (STEM) fields — to train and recruit Botswana students through its HB Antwerp Innovation Lab. This virtual program launched in November.
CoChairman, De Beers Group
After more than six years as CEO of De Beers Group, Bruce Cleaver announced in October that he was moving on to the position of group cochairman. During his time as CEO, he led the company’s transformation across the value chain. Projects included Debmarine Namibia, in which a fleet of advanced diamond mining and exploration vessels has recovered millions of carats from the Namibian seabed. He also aided the redesign of supply agreements with sightholders, which improved the efficiency of rough-diamond distribution, and launched Tracr, a blockchain program that tracks stones all the way back to their mines of origin. He oversaw other innovations as well, such as lab-grown diamond brand Lightbox Jewelry and the Building Forever initiative, which works toward achieving 12 sustainability goals by 2030. This year, he helped De Beers face forward with ReSet Forever Love, a collaboration with recent jewelry design graduates. Their collection aims to reinterpret “love” and “forever” for the 21st century, promoting responsible sourcing and ethical practices — values that resonate with today’s diamond buyers.
CEO, Natural Diamond Council (NDC)
David Kellie has brought a fresh approach to marketing diamonds in his role as CEO of the NDC, which aims to promote the values of the natural diamond industry and inspire consumers. His experience in high-end consumables gave him insight into luxury spending behavior. This year, he spearheaded a campaign titled “To Treasure, Now and Forever,” featuring British actress Lily James as the NDC’s latest global ambassador.
Kellie has been campaigning for the trade to increase its focus on women as self-purchasers of diamonds and to modernize its marketing strategies. At the Facets 2022 diamond conference in Antwerp in September, he urged brands to expand their digital footprint across social platforms and the metaverse, since that’s where the diamond consumer is today.
CEO, Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
Susan Jacques, who has headed the GIA since 2014, has been busy tackling sustainability and digital-innovation issues in the gem trade. This past spring, the GIA announced that all its reports would be digital by 2025. The lab expects this change to save 20 tons of paper and 18.5 tons of plastic annually and reduce shipping-related carbon emissions. Other projects under her tenure include the GIA Source Verification Service’s gem origin programs and the lab’s collaboration with IBM Research on artificial intelligence (AI) diamond grading. Though the latter project began in 2020, it’s been widely discussed this year; the ongoing input from the GIA’s diamond data is helping to make the AI grading process more efficient and accurate.
President of the Russian Federation
While he’s certainly not a celebratory entry, a review of the people who most impacted the diamond trade this year would not be complete without Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia invaded Ukraine in February, provoking the ire of the world. Among the steps countries took to condemn Putin’s war was a ban on many Russian exports, including diamonds.
The US was swift in putting the kibosh on diamond products from government-backed Russian miner Alrosa, which accounted for about one-third of global diamond supply by volume before the war. While some nations, such as the UK and Canada, have since joined the US in imposing sanctions on Russian diamonds, others have not. Belgium claims to have cut back drastically on diamond trading with Russia in recent months, while India’s position is that it does not consider Russian rough goods to be conflict diamonds. Many major jewelry brands, however, were quick to issue statements shunning Russian diamonds in expectation of consumer backlash, and suppliers have had to adapt accordingly.
Besides disrupting supply chains, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has reignited the debate about what constitutes a conflict diamond. This has led many to accuse watchdogs such as the Kimberley Process and the RJC of having little bite to accompany their bark when policing such matters.
Main image: A bespoke digital collage created for Rapaport Magazine to capture the diamond industry in 2022. (Illustrator: Steve Rawlings; Agency: Debut Art)