Origin of stones becomes selling point in Hatton Garden

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The Independent Online

In Hatton Garden, the road known as the "Diamond Centre" of London, the Valentine's Day trade in jewellery is both lucrative and crucial to the year's profits. And the politics of the stones' origins has become more and more important.

At John M Reynolds jewellers, sales staff have noticed that customers are checking on the provenance of the expensive stones. But most admit that despite the agreed system of voluntary self-regulation in the diamond trade, in the end it comes down to trusting the suppliers.

"Throughout my years in the jewellery business it is something we have become increasingly concerned with," Colin Hazell said. "We work with our suppliers to make sure it's eliminated as far as we can. Customers are increasingly coming in and asking where the diamonds are coming from. No shop is able to give them an exact provenance because they come in mixed boxes, but we are able to guarantee that we have taken every step possible to make sure they don't come from areas experiencing conflict." Further along the street, Fine Jewels has learnt that buying "conflict diamonds" is bad for business. "I've seen shops smashed up by protesters who thought that they had been dealing in [conflict diamonds]. Unless people have the right paperwork, we're not buying."

At Alexander Craig, the manager goes to considerable lengths to avoid trading in diamonds that have come from troubled areas, but admits that: "All you can do is ask the right questions, and trust the dealers you are buying from." He said that buying diamonds from dealers who come in off the street is "stupid".

Most of the shops in this diamond haven emphasise that they buy only from trusted dealers, though Madison, on the same street, seemed unconcerned by the prospect of diamonds with dubious origins. "We just buy off dealers - it's not something we ask," the dealer said.

But they seem the last of the unconcerned old-style traders, with every other shop approached emphasising their dealers were trusted and well-known to them, even the stores that advertise that they buy secondhand jewellery for cash.