The jewelry industry recognizes the paramount importance of maintaining consumer trust as professional jewelers. We understand that this trust rests substantially on the public's evaluation of our integrity. Thus the mere suggestion of illegitimacy of a gemstone - most recently tanzanite - quickly became cause for serious concern. In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, this concern has been heightened because of a suspected link to terrorism.
The Tanzanite Summit Meeting by the American Gem Trade Association yielded two highly significant achievements for retail jewelers:
American Gem Trade Association Press Release
February 09, 2002
GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY LEADERS COMMIT TO CONCRETE STEPS TO RESTORE CONFIDENCE IN TANZANITE
TUCSON, Ariz., (February 9, 2002) -- Groups involved in all aspects of the tanzanite trade today announced concrete steps to protect the legitimacy of the supply chain and to restore confidence in the gemstone. The announcement came as a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State said there is no evidence that al Qaeda or any other terrorist group is currently using tanzanite to finance terrorism.
"We have an obligation to consumers and to our own consciences to take practical, effective measures that will assure confidence in tanzanite," said Douglas Hucker, executive director of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA). "The mere possibility that terrorists may be profiting from this gemstone, now refuted by the State Department, is abhorrent to us all. The program we are pursuing will increase transparency and accountability in all aspects of the trade."
The Tucson Tanzanite Protocol announced today is the product of a cooperative effort by the government of Tanzania and all of the major industry stakeholders, including miners, dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and retail jewelers. It was crafted with the endorsement of the U.S. Department of State. Those stakeholders met in Tucson, in connection with the GemFair of the American Gem Trade Association, to finalize the details.
The protocol provides for a cooperative effort among governments and industry to strengthen controls in Tanzania and for a system of downstream warranties for all traders who buy, sell, cut, polish, set or otherwise trade in this gemstone. Its purpose is to ensure legitimacy at all levels of the supply chain. It also endorses long term planning to promote greater economic development of all aspects of the gemstone trade in Tanzania.
Joining Hucker in the announcement were Edgar Maokola-Majogo, Tanzanian Minister of Energy and Minerals; Michael O'Keefe of the State Department office of East African Affairs; Matthew Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America (JA), and Cecilia Gardner, executive director and general counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC).
Tanzanite is a blue gemstone found only in Tanzania. In recent decades it has become a popular item in jewelry stores worldwide, particularly among American consumers. The United States accounts for 80 percent of the market.
"We have seen no evidence that al Qaeda or any other terrorist group is currently using tanzanite sales to finance its efforts or to launder money," O'Keefe said. He praised the government of Tanzania as a "valued partner in the war on terrorism."
Speaking for the Tanzanian government, Minister Maokola-Majogo said, "The State Department's findings confirm our own determination that funding of terrorism is not a factor in the tanzanite trade. The Tucson Tanzanite Protocol reinforces the significant steps we are continuing to take to safeguard the trade in tanzanite."
Matthew Runci, president of JA, said, "The agreement announced here today provides the foundation upon which to rebuild the confidence of jewelers and their customers in tanzanite and to preserve the integrity of jewelers."
"When implemented, the system of warranties in cooperation with governments will protect the legitimate stream of commerce in this gemstone from the mine to the retailer," said Gardner.
Highlights of the initiative include:
The text of the initiative is attached to this press release. In addition to the Government of Tanzania, AGTA, JA and JVC, the organizations endorsing the document are: the Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association, the Arusha Regional Miners Association, the Tanzanian Chamber of Mines, the American Gem Society, the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, the International Colored Gemstone Association, the Jewelers Association of Jaipur, and the Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association, all trade associations representing the full international scope of tanzanite miners, gemstone dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and the retail jewelry industry in the United States.
In other news: September 11, 2001, Tanzanite Lawsuit Withdrawn
The wrongful death lawsuit filed in February against tanzanite dealer STS Jewels, Inc. and the Tanzanite Mineral Dealers Association, was withdrawn with prejudice on April 8, 2002.
The suit was filed by lawyers for three survivors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The plaintiffs sought an injunction banning STS Jewels from selling tanzanite and forcing it to contribute all proceeds from past tanzanite sales to a court-supervies September 11 victims relief fund. The suit also sought $1 billion in compensatory damages from other defendants, including TAMIDA, Osama bin Laden, the former Taliban government of Afghanistan, the Iraqi government and accused September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
The suit followed Wall Street Journal reports saying sales of tanzanite supported al Qaeda cells in East Africa. The reports received glabla press coverage, and were repeated by some news outlets in the jewelry trade press. In early February, the U.S. State Department declared tanzanite trading played no part in funding the September 11 attacks.
"While we always felt confident there was nothing to the allegations, it feels very good to have the lawsuit behind us now." Says Sunil Agrawat, CEO of STS Jewels. "What makes it even better is that the suit was withdrawn with prejudice. That means the same plaintiff cannot file the same complaint again."
The suit's withdrawal may also remove the last psychological barrier several major retailers had about restocking and selling tanzanite, say dealers. "To a potential plaintiff, the lawsuit's withdrawal sends the message: there's nothing there," Agrawal says. "I feel vindicated."
J. Thomson Custom Jewelers