While social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated people in various realms of the global jewelry industry, Lisa Koenigsberg, Ph.D., President of the New York-based, interdisciplinary non-profit organization, Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC), continues to program and produce dynamic, deeply educational gatherings of the mining, gemstone and jewelry tribes. Koenigsberg and her IAC associate Erin Welsh’s latest event is the 11th Annual Gold and Diamond Conference, which is entitled, “New Realities, Future Promise.” It will be held from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 13 to Thursday, July 15.
“The jewelry industry is at an historic crossroads because we’re facing some urgent challenges in 2021,” says Koenigsberg. As she tells it, “Stakeholders in governments, civil society, various communities and industry are all striving to create relevant strategies, products and messages that convey the beauty, value and emotional power of diamonds, gold and jewelry to consumers. At the same time,” she continues, “those in the mining and jewelry industries are also trying to achieve the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that have been defined by the United Nations.”
These goals, which include responsible sourcing of gold, diamonds and other gemstones, along with action plans for upgrading environmentally, socially and ethically responsible business practices are vitally important to those involved in mining and/or producing gold and diamond jewelry. While complex issues shape this year’s IAC Gold & Diamond Conference panels, the three-day event embodies a tribal gathering of gold, diamond and jewelry thought leaders. Participants include sustainable jewelry designers, gold and diamond mining industry executives, jewelers, scholars, representatives from NGOs, academics, journalists and leading sustainable gold, diamond and jewelry experts. Given the cross disciplinary nature of the panels and participants, the conference represents an extraordinary opportunity to consider important empirical evidence, nuanced opinions and actionable information.
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Some bright jewelry lights of the conference include designer Ana-Katarina Petrovic-Dervisevic, founder and owner of Ana Katarina Design. “I’m happy to share my experiences during IAC’s 11th Annual Gold and Diamond conference,” the New York-based designer said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been sourcing sustainably mined Canadian diamonds and upcycled diamonds since I started my company in 1999.” When she started her business, Ana Katarina recalled, “It was much more difficult than it is today to find well-documented, sustainably sourced materials.” Now that there are appreciably more sustainable materials on the market with each passing year, she added, “Our ability to create beautiful and original designs continues to increase. A more diverse range of sustainable jewelry materials is widening the depth and breadth of my collections.”
Another designer who will be participating on one of IAC’s panels is London-based Alice Cicolini. Her lavishly detailed and luxurious designs are handcrafted in London and Jaipur by traditionally trained master artisans. Her enameled meenakari jewels (this technique is known in Europe as champlevé) are hand-fabricated by Kamal Kumar Meenakar, an eighth generation jeweler. “Known in Europe as champlevé, the meenakari enameling tradition involves engraving pattern in to sterling silver or high karat gold,” Cicolini explained in a telephone interview. “In India, craftsmen work on 23.5-karat gold, as the softness of the metal allows for more detailed and expressive designs that are colored by rare enamels that have been passed down within families. Enamel is a combination of ground, pigmented glass and metal, heat fired into the recesses created by the engraving and then polished with agate stone to create richly hued colors.” As meenakari is an endangered applied art form in India, Cicolini’s creations are helping sustain traditional artisans as well as meenakari’s place in the narrative of jewelry history.
Other important participants in IAC’s three-day event include Anisa Costa, Chief Sustainability Officer of Tiffany & Co., Aimee Boulanger, Executive Director, Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) and Cristina Villegas, director of Mines to Markets for Pact. (Pact is an international development nonprofit that works on the ground in nearly 40 countries to end poverty and marginalization by partnering with local organizations, businesses and governments to build lasting solutions for self-sufficient, resilient and thriving communities.) An expert associate of the Artisanal Gold Council, and a gold expert for the UN Environmental Program, Villegas also sits on Fairtrade’s Technical Advisory Committee for Gold. Villegas is regularly consulted as an ASM expert on gold, gemstones and conflict minerals by such organizations as USAID, U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor, the World Bank, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
On the diamond front, Edward Asscher, the President of the World Diamond Council (WDC) will also be speaking during the conference. Comprised of businesses and organizations from around the world that are engaged in all sectors of the diamond value chain, from rough diamond producers to polishers and cutters to retail jewelers, the WDC’s website states that its “mission is to support “efforts that prevent the trade in “conflict diamonds.” As it happens, the WDC is the diamond industry’s representative in the tripartite coalition of the Kimberley Process (KP), which also includes representatives of governments and civil society. The KP is responsible for the governance of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), under which governments implement safeguards on shipments of rough diamonds and certify them as “conflict free.” Other luminaries from the diamond sector who will also lend their insights to the conference include Eira Thomas, CEO of Lucara Diamonds, a Canadian diamond mining company with a producing mine and exploration licenses in Botswana. Feriel Zerouki, senior vice-president for corporate affairs, De Beers Group, is also on the roster.
The event will also include the presentation of the IAC “Award for Leadership in Responsible Practice in Jewelry” to Pact’s Cristina Villegas and GIA’s Robert Weldon and the first “Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Diamond and Jewelry Industries” to Edward Asscher.
While mining companies, jewelry designers, manufacturers, retailers and marketers all work to recover from losses sustained during 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, IAC’s 11th Annual Gold and Diamond Conference promises to help those in the global jewelry industry share vital actionable information, new concepts and strategies for sourcing, tracing, fabricating, marketing and retailing gold, diamonds, and other gems and jewelry fabricated therefrom. According to Koenigsberg, “It is our intent that this conference disseminates vital knowledge to all those in the gem and jewelry-related industries and forges productive new relationships. With this conference,” she continues, “IAC hopes to help further the implementation of ethical and sound business standards and practices and support aspirations that take environmental and social responsibilities into account.”