Archive for November, 2009
by Admin on November 30th, 2009
According to a recent poll by the National Retail Federation, “53% of Americans say they will be spending less money this Holiday season.” Being in the throws of such challenging economic times, it’s hard to fathom that people are even thinking of shopping for the upcoming Holiday. Well think again! As the great musician Kerry King said, “The show must go on”— and so it will, just a little more fine tuned. This upcoming Holiday people are not totally swearing off of buying gifts for loved ones, but they are shopping with a strategy and are being more discriminating with their purchases. Quality over quantity and less is more will be the mantras controlling consumer’s wallets spelling good news for fine jewelry retailers.
Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today show, reported a key shopping trend during an October 21 appearance on NBC’s Today show. Chatzky stated that “Consumers will cut back on the overall number of gifts they buy but, will probably buy a higher quality gift for each person.” She also went on to make the point that consumers need to have a game plan and a budget in mind when shopping. Feeding off of this trend means encouraging sales forecasts for retailers of fine jewelry due to the lasting and personal sentiments attached to such gifts.
In a sea of choices, where does one get the best bang for their buck when looking for quality “bling” on a shoestring? According to the online internet research website eMarketer.com, “This year online holiday sales(excluding travel) will total 32.1 billion, up 10.1% over 2007 and 49% of holiday gift spending among US Internet users will occur online, compared with 44% in stores.”
One such online resource WhiteFlash.com (http://www.whiteflash.com/), a premier online fine jewelry retailer, offers a plethora of items that put the personal touch back in gifting. Delivering unique and affordable gifts for any budget, this site is known for its impeccable service and high quality goods. Another bonus to purchasing jewelry items here can be found in their charity focused sub lines, Dreams of Africa (http://www.dreamsofafrica.org/) and AWEAR: Jewelry for Conscious Kids. What is so unbelievably unique about these lines is that a substantial portion of the proceeds from sales, 100% profit from Dreams of Africa and 25% from AWEAR items, goes to support children in nations hit hard by the blood diamond trade. Gifting with a cause is another powerful trend that stretches hard earned dollars way beyond their face value. In a time when conscious spending is paramount, this perk makes you feel good about spending.
This holiday season Whiteflash wanted to begin an initiative to educate consumers about conflict diamonds and purchasing socially conscious gifts this holiday. Whiteflas.com introduces “Green Love” this holiday season because as an online e-tailor we know that it is all about peace of mind. Right now if you order any Whiteflash conflict free diamond during the period of November 29th to January 25th and be automatically entered to win your choice of Mini Dreams of Africa pendant or Dreams of Africa ® earrings made with Whiteflash A Cut Above ® melee diamonds in your choice of white or yellow gold. Two lucky winners will be selected.
So regardless of your budget this Holiday, make your dollars count and remember that the most gratifying part of giving is the sentiment behind the gift.
by Admin on November 30th, 2009
A fabulously valuable diamond field in Zimbabwe has fallen under the control of a select few at the top of the country’s security forces. It is feared they intend to use the wealth to enrich themselves and entrench their power as the battle for succession to President Robert Mugabe, 85, heats up.
Sources close to the government said the military chiefs had positioned themselves to profit from millions of dollars worth of diamonds flowing out of the Marange diamond field in the east of the country.
Heavy mining machinery has arrived, capable of extracting thousands of carats of diamonds an hour. Valuations vary wildly but one source said: “It will be much more money than they have ever had. We could be talking about between $25 million and $100 million a month. It is extraordinary what they can do with that. They will just close ranks and do what they want.”
Marange diamonds were previously gathered by local prospectors to sell on the black market. But in 2008, as its riches became apparent, the military moved in and massacred 200 people to clear the site. Human Rights Watch said the soldiers had turned a peaceful area into a “nightmare of lawlessness and horrific violence”.
Rights groups lobbied the Kimberley Process in the hope of halting exports from Zimbabwe. They said the gems were blood diamonds extracted through the persecution of those living in the area.
But earlier this month, the diamond monitoring body shrank from suspending Zimbabwe. In return, Zimbabwe promised to end the military occupation of Marange and announced it had contracted foreign firms to mine the diamonds in partnership with a subsidiary of the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.
Ostensibly the unity government in which Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, shares power with Mugabe gave its approval. It has since emerged, however, that the firms were selected without Tsvangirai’s knowledge. The contracts were also awarded in defiance of a Harare High Court order that said the fields belonged to a British-registered mining company, African Consolidated Resources (ACR). The court confirmed that ACR was the rightful owner, barred mining by anyone else and ordered all security forces to leave the area so that development could take place.
Significantly, neither of the contracts was with an established professional mining company. One is with a South African scrap metal and iron dealer, New Reclamation. The other is with Canadile, a group that allegedly includes smugglers.
The companies were selected by Obert Mpofu, the mines minister. Other members of the government are alarmed that Zimbabwe’s most valuable mineral resource will go “out the back door” rather than benefiting the country.
Mpofu is on an E.U. and U.S. sanctions list of undesirable Zimbabwean figures. In his dealings with the foreign investors, he admitted being in business with military general Constantine Chiwenga, the defence forces chief, and protected by him.
The key characters involved in the joint ventures he selected are connected with powerful people and have questionable pasts. Lovemore Kurotwi, the registered director of Canadile, exploiting the southern part of ACR’s claim, took part in the Matabeleland massacres that tarnished Mugabe’s reputation soon after independence. He commanded a battalion that massacred civilians at Entumbane near Bulawayo.
Kurotwi is the nephew of the late general Vitalis Zvinavashe, a member of the Zanu-PF politburo who was named in a United Nations report as one of the main figures to profit from the plunder of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s diamond riches. His foreign partner is an Israeli diamond dealer who has been in jail in Angola for smuggling.
Kurotwi told his foreign backers that he represented Mugabe and his family, but an inside source said he was primarily “working for a military syndicate that goes all the way to Chiwenga.”
The key Zimbabwean figure in the syndicate exploiting the northern part of ACR’s claim is Robert Mhlanga, a former air vice-marshal whose relationship with the Mugabes is much closer. It goes back to when he was the country’s first black helicopter pilot, trained in Ghana. He acted as a courier for Sally Mugabe, the president’s Ghanaian first wife. When she died, Mugabe married Grace, his former secretary.
“Chiwenga is involved directly through Kurotwi. They are tribally linked. Grace is definitely involved, too, through Mhlanga operating the other syndicate,” said a source.
Mhlanga has made a fortune in Africa and was in the diamond trade in the Congo when Zimbabwean troops under Zvinavashe fought the war there. He was also a key witness in a 2003 attempt to frame Tsvangirai, who was then the opposition leader, for treason. Mhlanga testified that he had contact with a former Israeli spy who claimed Tsvangirai hired him to kill Mugabe.
Operating from expensive offices in Johannesburg, his links to Mugabe are so strong that he flies his helicopter in and out of Zimbabwe without passing the usual customs controls. Mhlanga is involved in a plan to convert the old Harare domestic air terminal into a diamond-cutting centre, a way of getting round any future diamond export ban. The Kimberley Process applies only to exports of rough diamonds; once they have been cut, it has no power to stop their export.
The plans, seen by The Sunday Times, provide for storage bunkers capable of withstanding a rocket attack.
The exploitation of the diamond fields comes as Zanu-PF finds itself desperately short of money during preparations for a party congress next month. Mugabe’s party has been on the back foot since it was forced into a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.
As the congress approaches, talk is once again growing about the succession to Mugabe. The small group of security chiefs headed by Chiwenga are thought to have the power to hold everyone else to ransom and with their involvement in Marange, they will have the money, too.
by Admin on November 27th, 2009
Old Mutual Plc, the biggest insurer in South Africa, said it’s reviewing its stake in scrap metal recycler New Reclamation Group Ltd. which agreed to mine diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange deposit in a venture with the government.
Old Mutual, which owns less than 6 percent of Reclamation, is aware that the Johannesburg-based company “recently engaged with the Zimbabwean government regarding an investment in the mining industry,” it said in an e-mailed response to questions today. “We are reviewing our holding.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch says more than 200 people were killed last year as the army and police cleared as many as 20,000 illegal miners from Marange.
Rapaport Group, also based in New York, said its RapNet Diamond Trading Network, the world’s biggest, banned its members from dealing in gems from Marange with immediate effect because of reports of “severe” human rights violations in the area. Zimbabwe’s police say they have had no reports of atrocities.
Reclamation’s engagement with Zimbabwe’s government “post- dated any reported wrongdoing in the mining industry,” Old Mutual said. Reclamation Chief Executive Officer Michael Movsas wasn’t available to comment when Bloomberg News called his office in Johannesburg today.
Marange was seized by the government from U.K.-listed African Consolidated Resources Plc in 2006 after gems were found at the site. African Consolidated said on Nov. 5 that Reclamation’s venture overlaps its own claim area.
High Court Order
African Consolidated got a High Court order on Sept. 24 upholding its claims and instructing Reclamation’s partner, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp., to cease mining in the area.
Zimbabwe’s state-controlled Herald newspaper reported on Nov. 11 that the Reclamation venture had been mining diamonds from Marange for about a month. Old Mutual urged Johannesburg- based Reclamation to “remain” in compliance with the court order, the insurer said in its response today.
Zimbabwe is removing troops and police officers from Marange, the Herald reported on Nov. 19, citing Mines Minister Obert Mpofu. The measure is aimed at complying with Kimberley Process Certification Scheme recommendations, the Harare-based newspaper said.
The Kimberley Process, which monitors trade in so-called conflict diamonds, on Nov. 5 recommended Zimbabwe not export diamonds mined at Marange until the area complied with internationally accepted standards.
Reclamation, southern Africa’s biggest scrap metal company, sold 253 million euros ($381 million) of bonds due in 2013 in January 2006. It processes ferrous and non-ferrous metal as well as glass, plastic and paper waste and employs more than 2,000 people, according to its Web site.
by Admin on November 27th, 2009
Zimbabwe is under heavy pressure from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to put the Marange diamond fields under the control of private partners, and pull military units out of the area. However an institute in Mutare, Zimbabwe, has challenged a recent statement by mines minister Obert Mpofu saying the military is pulling out of the Marange in Manicaland province, the scene of alleged grave human rights violations.
The Center for Research and Development in Mutare carried out its own investigation and found the military is not pulling out of the rich Chiadzwa alluvial diamond field. Harare has named several private partners, but companies including the Rapaport Group have said they will ban Marange diamonds. And South Africa’s Old Mutual said it is reviewing a share stake in New Reclamation Group, which is among the companies Harare has invited into Marange.
Rights groups say more than 200 people have been slain in the Marange field by soldiers and police. A Kimberly Process team that visited the area concluded there were serious violations of human rights and extensive illegal trade in diamonds.
Center director Farai Maguwu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that soldiers have only left the claims being worked by Mbada Diamonds and Canadiles Investments, two Harare partners of New Reclamation.
by Admin on November 27th, 2009
DiamondGeezer.com implemented an immediate trading ban on diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields due to severe human rights violations. The U.K.-based online retailer cited reports from Partnership Africa Canada that Zimbabwe’s diamond industry is out of control, which led to its decision.
“Severe human rights violations have taken place in the diamond fields of Marange, Zimbabwe and the DiamondGeezer.com board of directors has passed a resolution banning the trade or use of any Marange diamonds,” according to a company statement.
The government has expropriated diamond lands and companies without due process and awarded the prizes to ZANU-PF supporters and to the military, the company explained. “It has used brut force to clear the diamond fields…murdering hundreds of people in the process. Increasing military control in almost all of the diamond mines, and over the ministry suggests that a new conflict scenario may be developing,” the retailer added by quoting Partnership Africa Canada.
Based upon diamond export statistics, DiamondGeezer concluded that there was a 1.33 million carat shortfall between what the country mined and what the country exported, thus the general belief was that amount had been illegally smuggled out.
“Simply ensure that the diamonds you buy this Christmas are purchased from a reputable, accreditated diamond jeweler, whether online or traditional, and be aware and question the source of any diamonds that seem to be too good to be true,” according to DiamondGeezer.
by Admin on November 27th, 2009
Zimbabwe is willing to engage British mining firm African Consolidated Resources (ACR) in negotiations to resolve an ownership dispute for the controversial Marange diamond field, a top government official said Thursday. “This dispute has to be solved and a solution has to be found in view of forging a partnership,” deputy mines minister Murisi Zwizwai said.
He added: “The solution has to be for the benefit of everyone. The companies that are there are just operating from a certain portion of Chiadzwa and not the whole area. Chiadzwa is a big place which cannot be operated by a small company.”
ACR holds right of title to claims on the Marange diamond field that was seized by the Harare government in October 2006. Harare earlier this month engaged two private firms to partner state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) in mining the claims despite a High Court ruling in September that confirmed ACR’s ownership of the Marange deposits.
The government has said it will appeal against the High Court ruling while ACR has vowed to fight in the courts any attempt to strip the firm of its rights over the diamond claims.
Marange is one of the world’s most controversial diamond fields with reports that soldiers sent to guard the claims after the government took over committed gross human rights abuses including murder against illegal miners who had descended on the field following the expulsion of ACR.
A team from the Kimberley Process visited Zimbabwe at the end of June and condemned rights violations and rampant smuggling of diamonds that it said were being committed by soldiers based at Marange.
But the group’s meeting in Namibia about three weeks ago decided against banning Zimbabwe diamonds from the world market and instead agreed to give Harare more time to review operations at Marange and improve security arrangements to comply with the organization’s standards.
However a leading international diamond trading network has banned members from trading in diamonds from Marange citing concerns over “severe human rights violations” at the diamond field.
The Rapaport Diamond Trading Network that connects thousands of some of the best diamond suppliers and buyers around the world has said that members found dealing in diamonds from Marange would be denied access to the network.
Zimbabwean diamonds not sourced from Marange are not banned.
by Admin on November 27th, 2009
Bulgari has dedicated its 125th Anniversary to a worthy cause. The luxury jeweler announced on November 18 its plans to auction off a collection of 11 one-of-a-kind jewels and 7 limited edition timepieces at Christie’s in New York on December 8. The collection’s proceeds, valued at approximately $4 million, will go to the Save the Children charity.
The offered jewels include a multi-colored sapphire and diamond necklace, consisting of 396.29 carats fancy colored sapphires and 66.45 carats of round cut diamonds, as well as a diamond “Lucea” choker necklace, a white gold necklace set with 33.82 carats of marquise cut diamonds, 7.16 carats of round cut diamonds and 38.67 carats pave set diamonds.
The proceeds of this auction will be in addition to a $14.85 million pledge that Bulgari made to the charity earlier this year, generated partially by the sales of a limited edition silver ring.
by Admin on November 27th, 2009
Shareholders of Debswana, a joint venture between De Beers and the Government of Botswana, announced Tuesday their approval of a $500 million investment for an extension project at Jwaneng, the world’s richest diamond mine.
Called the “Cut-8″ project, the extension is aimed to extend the life of the mine from 2017 to 2024, while substantially helping Botswana’s local economy in the process.
The project will create 1,000 jobs at its peak, according to the media release by De Beers. With an estimated total investment of $3 billion over the next 15 years, the company believes the project will create access to 95 million carats, worth over $15 billion.
The Jwaneng Mine contributes approximately 70 percent of Debswana’s total revenue. Diamonds from Debswana contribute 50 percent Botswana’s of public revenue, 33 percent of its GDP, and over 80 percent of its foreign earnings.
by Admin on November 25th, 2009
As some of you know, many loose diamonds traded in the world market today have been mined under dangerous conditions and used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. The trade in these “blood diamonds” has fuelled decades of devastating conflicts in countries such as Angola, Sierra Longe, Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Kimberley Process (KP) is a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of these illicit stones. The KP has 49 members, representing 75 countries, with the European Community and its Member States counting as an individual participant. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) necessitates extensive requirements on its members to permit them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’.
Recently Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has sent his army to seize control of his country’s diamond fields and many civilians have been murdered in the process. He has been using the profits from blood diamonds to fuel violent political conflict. “What is going on in Zimbabwe is against the spirit and the law of the Kimberley Process,” said Annie Dunnebacke from Global Witness, one of the groups that takes part in the KP. “Member governments must agree to suspend Zimbabwe from importing and exporting rough diamonds.”
Official diamond regulators meeting in Namibia this week will decide whether to suspend Zimbabwe from the Kimberly Process and stop Mugabe selling his blood diamonds on the world market. Campaigners now fear that Zimbabwe will be let off in a move that could permanently tarnish the public credibility of the Kimberly Process, a groundbreaking endeavor to break the link between gems and violent conflict in Africa.
by Admin on November 25th, 2009
The Rapaport Group and the RapNet Diamond Trading Network have implemented an immediate trading ban on all loose diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields due to severe human rights violations. As Marange rough diamonds are uniquely identifiable, the ban does not apply to diamonds from Zimbabwe that are not from the Marange area.
Legitimate NGO’s have documented severe human rights abuses in Marange. Their demands that Zimbabwe be expelled from the Kimberley Process were denied. Human Rights Watch reported that late last year “the army killed at least 214 miners.” While the killings may have stopped, there are continued reports of human rights violations. Rapaport believes that blood diamonds from the Marange fields have been legally exported to the diamond cutting centers with Kimberley Process Certificates and may now be reaching retailers as polished diamonds.
“The Kimberley Process (KP) is being used as a fig leaf to cover up human rights abuses in the diamond sector. Reports describing abuse have been kept secret by the KP and the World Diamond Council (WDC). Rapaport calls on the WDC to immediately make public all information it has relating to human rights abuses in the diamond sector, including but not limited to Marange. We call on the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) to educate its members about human rights abuses in the diamond sector and to immediately halt the trade in Marange diamonds by publicly naming and expelling members that continue to knowingly trade in Marange diamonds,” said Martin Rapaport, Chairman of the Rapaport Group.
Over the next few days all 4,100+ RapNet members will be required to immediately remove all RapNet listings of Marange diamonds and to confirm upon login to the trading network that they will no longer knowingly trade in Marange diamonds or other diamonds involved in human rights abuses. The Rapaport Group has also sent letters to industry organizations asking them to ban Marange diamonds.
Rough diamond dealers are advised to review the unique identification characteristics of Marange rough diamonds published by the Kimberley Process and available on our website. Polished diamond buyers should inquire about the source when being offered diamonds with a greenish hue in G-Z and faint green colors. While not all Marange polished diamonds have a greenish hue and not all green hue diamonds are from Marange, significant numbers of such Marange stones are appearing in the market.