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New movie about Blood Diamond


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Any thought how this might affect the jewelry industry?




JWANENG MINE, Botswana (Reuters) - The U.S. jewelry industry is gearing up to counter any negative effects from the upcoming film "The Blood Diamond" which shows how illicit gem trade fueled bloody civil wars, a trade group said.


The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a South African mercenary jailed for smuggling in Sierra Leone, ravaged during a brutal civil war lasting until 2002 that killed 50,000 people.


The picture started filming in February, but Warner Brothers has not said when it will be released.


"The danger is that people will think the situation in the film is continuing today," said Peggy Jo Donahue, public affairs director of trade group Jewelers of America.


"We're going to educate our jewelers about the issue. There's lots that's not understood," she told Reuters this week during a tour of diamond giant De Beers' operations in Botswana.


A new web site on diamonds is being set up to answer queries from consumers.


Rebel groups in countries including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Liberia have used billions of dollars from the sale of diamonds to fund wars, but the industry and human rights groups differ on how much the practice persists.


Amnesty International said in February in launching a Valentine's Day campaign against so-called conflict diamonds that diamonds mined in rebel-held areas of West Africa's Ivory Coast were still reaching the international market.


Sierra Leone's Mineral Resources Minister told Reuters last year that the country had boosted legitimate exports, but was still trying to stamp out smuggling.




The Kimberley Process, an international certification program set up in 2000, says the vast majority of the world's rough diamond trade is now under its strict controls.


The chairman of the Kimberley Process, Kago Mashashane of Botswana, wrote earlier this year to the producers of "The Blood Diamond" asking that it include an epilogue explaining the measures taken to stem the illicit trade.


He said Botswana, the world's biggest producer of diamonds, was worried that a consumer boycott could damage its efforts to boost education and healthcare since the diamond sector accounted for around half of government revenue.


The diamond trade was working hard to shed the secretive nature of the business, Donahue said.


"The industry must be much more transparent now, it can't be as secretive," she said.


Currently the Kimberley Process regulates the trade in rough diamonds, but a new group is seeking to extend scrutiny all the way to the retail level, she said.


The Council for Responsible Jewelry Practices hopes to set up a certification program for gold and diamonds within a couple of years from the mine to the consumer.


In the diamond sector, the U.S. jewelry industry has a voluntary system of warranties that try to ensure that only gems from the Kimberley Process are used in products, Donahue added.


Jewelers of America has 11,000 members, including the largest U.S. retailer, Zales, and luxury groups Tiffany and Co and Cartier.


De Beers, 45 percent owned by mining group Anglo American plc, is the world's largest diamond producing group.

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