October 17, 2018
The morning of the third and final day of the 2018 CIBJO Congress focused on the Colombian jewellery sector, with some 200 members of the Jewellery Cluster of the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá joining the proceedings, which was highlighted by a visit by Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez, as well as presentations by the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá and the Colombian emerald mining industry.
With responsible business standards and sustainability playing such a large part in the proceedings of the 2018 Congress, a special panel discussion featuring CIBJO delegates was held, to discuss how the Colombian jewellery industry would benefit from adopting such practices.
The members of the panel included Charles Chaussepied, a former senior executive at Richemont International and former Deputy CEO of Piaget, who also is Vice Chairman of the Responsible Jewellery Council; Edward Johnson, Business Development Manager at RJC and former European business development director of the Gemological Institute of America; Prida Tiasuwan, Vice President of the Thai Gem & Jewelry Association and chairman of the Pranda Group, one of Thailand’s largest jewellery manufacturer; and Tiffany Stevens, President and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the 101-year-old trade organisation that serves the jewellery trade on all manner of legal issues.
Moderator Steven Benson, CIBJO’s Communications Director, asked Mr. Chaussepied what the expectations are of companies in operating in a way that ensure sustainable development. “Companies want the best goods they can possibly secure, but you must be sure where it came from and the conditions in which it was mined,” he said. “The top brands do not compromise on ethical issues and all their suppliers must be completely transparent in all areas of their work.”
Concerning legal or customs barriers facing Colombian firms wanting to enter the U.S. market, Ms. Stevens replied that the U.S. Patriot Act demands compliance regarding anti-money laundering and other illegal uses.
“If you sell to a U.S. firm, the buyer needs to show that you are someone with whom they are allowed to do business. You also need to show you are in compliance with Colombian anti-money laundering. And if you attend a trade show and do $50,000 of business or more, you need to show you are compliant with U.S. laws on anti-money laundering as well,” she said.
Mr. Tiasuwan was asked what lessons Thailand as a global coloured gemstone and jewellery hub could provide to smaller markets such as Colombia. “Beautiful jewellery can only be made by a workforce that is treated well and respected and that has security of employment. When they feel secure and happy, they make great jewellery,” he stated.
Mr. Chaussepied was then asked whether standards different are when a major brand is involved. “We don’t talk about suppliers, we talks about partners. We look at their capacity to abide by our excellence quality standards. Sometimes it takes time for them to come to the level needed but if we see that they can provide us with what we need, then we are happy to work with them.”
On the same question, Mr. Johnson commented that one set of standards for the entire industry brings greater clarity, which is why the RJC aims to bring all members together under one international standard.
Speaking to the question of what level of knowledge the Federal Trade Commission’s jewellery guides is needed by foreign companies wanting to work and sell in the United States, Ms. Stevens explained that the FTC exists to protect the U.S. consumer and sets rules on how to advertise. “You can make yourself competitive in the U.S by learning the rules,” she stated.
Mr. Tiasuwan was asked if he believed that Colombian jewellery makers have an advantage due to their proximity to raw materials, such as emeralds and gold. He replied that he visited an emerald cutting and polishing factory in Bogotá the previous day, and he had been impressed with what he saw “It is clear to me that the quality of the workforce is good. But, when I checked the cost of labour, I would say that you are not competitive at the lower end of the market. Your aspiration should be to produce goods at the top end of the market, and obtaining the skills to do that will take time,” he said.