Almost everyone in the jewelry business, as opposed to almost everyone in the mainstream media, agrees that Pandora’s decision to stop selling natural diamonds and launch a lab-grown line was wrong. serious.
After all, in 2018, only 0.04% of the gemstones of any kind used by Pandora were natural. Last year, she sold 55,000 pieces with natural diamonds, out of a total of 85 million pieces of jewelry. I am thinking of a dozen jewelers who could cause an earthquake if they decided to stop selling natural diamonds. Pandora is not one of them.
So why did her ad do securities worldwide? Most likely, this is because of the way the company worded the decision. “[M]original diamonds will no longer be used in Pandora products ”, declaration said – not to mention he didn’t use a lot of it in the first place.
Instead, Pandora framed its decision as an ethical issue. CEO Alexander Lacik said the bbc that selling lab-grown diamond bracelets for $ 350 would leave the world “in better shape.” (If only it were that easy.)
Make no mistake: sustainability is extremely important. I believe Pandora’s concern on this matter is genuine. But just because you are doing something to achieve a noble goal doesn’t mean that what you are doing is right, or that it was intended, or that there isn’t considerable personal interest involved.
On “Sustainable Jewelry Twitter,” which is made up of people who study, experience and breathe this stuff, few have been as impressed with Pandora as Pandora was with herself, as this thread shows:
I am disappointed to learn of Pandora’s decision to switch to lab-grown diamonds and “recycled” gold. Although intended to promote the objectives of a “circular economy”, these decisions mean the replacement of jobs in the “Global South” by jobs in the “Global North”. #wire 1 / @CHRWIENBERG https://t.co/jWrEy1Ymr9
– Cristina M Villegas (@ cvillegas16) May 4, 2021
There has also been a throwback to the industry, as Pandora wasn’t exactly a beloved company to begin with. My former colleague Russell Shor called the announcement “at best misleading and at worst destructive”. The nicest words probably came from Idex, who called the ad a “masterstroke in public relations”.
Still, one wonders how this brilliant PR stunt unfolded at chains like Ben Bridge and Reeds, which own several Pandora franchise stores but also do considerable business in diamond mining. (Both declined to comment.)
A jeweler, Larry Sanders, owner of Jewelers Diamant Sanders, in Pasadena, Md., which has transported Pandora for 13 years but does not sell lab-grown produce, says Pandora’s claim was “the last straw” and is now leaving the line.
“I just didn’t like the way they were doing it,” he says. “I don’t know why they had to put [mined diamonds] down.… This is about what’s good for Pandora, but not for someone else. (He also had other issues with the business.)
Last Friday the Natural Diamond Council, which generally tried to stay on top of the fray, but, as Al Pacino, continues to be withdrawn – responded with a declaration which has been co-signed by several other diamond associations. (Pandora did not respond to a request for comment.)
Perhaps the most interesting signatory was the Responsible Jewelery Council (RJC), of which Pandora is a member. Pandora used The RJC conducts audits to back up its lab sustainability claims, so it’s striking that the RJC added its voice to a statement that called the company’s rhetoric “misleading.” I have never seen the RJC publicly question a member before.
As the diamond wars were heard, the NDC was quite small. (Maybe we can thank the National Advertising Division for that.) It didn’t call for the lab-grown synthetics, hint that they were fake, or talk about a decrease in the value. He simply opposed the ethical framework.
The industry employs tens of millions of people around the world and their families and communities depend on the income and well-being provided by the natural diamond industry. These communities need industry support more than ever given the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The misleading narrative created by Pandora’s announcement involving the natural diamond industry is [less ethical]… Can have unexpected but substantial consequences for communities in developing countries.
While I agree with this statement, it also gave me a headache. Do we have to keep debating it, year after year?
The smartest people in the industry – a smaller group than one might expect – have recognized hostilities are unnecessary and destructive on both sides. So many companies are now selling both; it makes no sense that the parties are fighting. If you don’t like natural or lab-grown diamonds, don’t sell them. It is also silly to make general generalizations about large sprawling industries.
Still, by stirring the pot, Pandora has shown that there is good PR to be gained. This could lead to imitators. What I dread.
Lenore Fedow too, who writes in National Jeweler: “I don’t want to hear a word anymore about lab-grown diamonds versus natural diamonds. Not another panel, webinar, reflection or article. Minus this one, of course. (And this one.)
His article was titled “We Need To Change The Way We Talk About Lab-Grown Diamonds,” but maybe the problem should be. who talk about them.
Do the Natural and Global Diamond Councils really think the consumer media know or care about who they are or what they think? Nelson Mandela once called the diamond industry “vital to the South African and Southern economy” and warned that a negative portrayal of the diamond industry could “lead to the destabilization of African diamond-producing countries, and finally of their peoples ”. Why were his quotes not used in this statement? When it comes to consumer credibility, 1,000 industry organizations do not equal a Mandela.
While Madiba is no longer with us, the affected communities are still there, and since these are the people the industry is supposed to protect, she should let them speak. These tens of millions of people are not props, they are not human shields, nor abstract victims of the “disruption” of high technology. They are human beings. They should have a voice in this discussion.
Groups like the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC) may not always praise all aspects of the diamond industry, but they have made it clear on several occasions, they don’t want to see it destroyed. The same with the Diamond Development Initiative. Of course, the industry won’t like everything the activists and local residents have to say. NGOs can be critical and demanding, and while some countries have benefited from diamonds, others have not. NGOs are not part of the industry team. But shouldn’t the industry listen to outsiders more, instead of talking to itself?
Most of the people the NGOs call are legitimate bad actors. They should not be on our team. Some have harmed trade far more than lab-grown diamonds. (Some even sell them now.)
Any public relations strategy that tries to whitewash the industry’s problems is doomed to failure. The trade has a lot of good points, but unfortunately we did not get rid of the bad.
That said, pretty much everyone who really cares about these issues and has studied them – and sees them as problems to be solved rather than marketing hooks to be exploited – has always said that the destruction of the diamond trade would be disastrous. The Silicon Valley motto is “Go fast and break things,” but I hope people there think long and hard before they break millions (more than they already have).
Which brings us back to Pandora. The company has spent the last week congratulating itself, but in my opinion it has nothing to be proud of. Not only was its framing arguably misleading and potentially dangerous, but I’m not sure it even makes sense from a business standpoint.
Remember the Blood diamond movie? Do you think Pandora got huge publicity? This film had 10 times more press. Which you think would make it a success. Instead, he entered fifth during its opening weekend; a diamond dealer joked that if all the business hadn’t seen him, he would have come in seventh. (And in fact, the following week it fell to ninth place.) All this press hasn’t described the movie as what it was: a regular action movie.
Sure, the culture has changed since 2006, but most people go to the movies for fun. This is the same reason why they buy jewelry. They don’t see the purchase of balls as a form of social work.
Lacik is an extremely smart guy and, may I add, a great podcast guest. But this whole affair reminds me of Pandora’s war against Alex and Ani, and the latter company’s battle against other charm brands.
I’m not saying these wars hurt the charm business, but what happened to these companies afterwards speaks for itself. As I wrote at the time, they were engaging in a “pie-sharing” strategy, which the Harvard business review said tends to “produce short-term, unsustainable results where companies just ‘rent out shares’. The publication added that “pie growth” strategies are, to use a hackneyed phrase, more “sustainable” in the long run.
The irony is that Pandora’s sale of lab-grown diamonds will hopefully expand the overall pie. Its good. But its current messages risk damaging the diamond business in the same way the company has damaged the market for its signature charms.
It’s sad. I had hoped Pandora had learned from her mistakes. Hoping that this can correct the course.
(Photo courtesy of Pandora)
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