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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The magical world of Tiffany & Co.: Why they are more than just a jewelry company

    Tiffany & Co. will always be my favorite jeweler.  As a world-renowned company since 1837, the company has built its name in American culture throughout history.

    The world knows its trademarked “Tiffany Blue”-colored boxes with the perfect white bows on top as a symbol of perfection. With Valentine’s Day, there is no better way to celebrate than by giving someone a piece of American history that is ethically sourced.

    Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young founded Tiffany & Co. on Sept. 18, 1837. It started as a stationery store and later moved to jewelry. During the Civil war it supplied the Union army with swords, flags and surgical tools.

    To the New York Yankees fans out there, your precious logo also came from Tiffany’s. As a logo that was inscribed onto a medal of honor for the first New York City officer shot in the line of duty; it later became the logo for the baseball team. The company creates many of the World Series rings, awards and the famous Vince Lombardi trophy.

    Among its  most prestigious honors, it even redesigned the Great Seal of the United States. The Metropolitan Museum of Art carries many stained glass pieces that were restored by Charles Tiffany himself. The current designers for the various lines of Tiffany are world renowned in their fields, including famed architect Frank Gehry, who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Paloma Picasso who is the youngest daughter of the painter Pablo Picasso.

    Today Tiffany jewelry is recognized around the world with iconic phrases on their hearts that say ,”Please return to Tiffany & Co New York”.

    The 1879 acquisition of one of the world’s largest canary (yellow) diamonds, which weighed 128.54 carats after it was cut, launched the company into the spotlight. Originally from the Kimberley mine in South Africa, this famous diamond is larger than the world- famous Hope diamond and is the largest diamond on display in the United States.

    The company produces all their jewelry in the U.S., with the highest standards for their minerals and gems. Tiffany found its fame in the diamond mines of Africa, which leads us to the magical side of the company: ethical sourcing.

    Some may think that I seem spoiled saying Tiffany’s is my favorite jeweler, so to clarify, I don’t own half the store. I call it my favorite as the company despite globalization and the changing world, has managed to maintain the highest of standards from 1837 to today in their craftsmanship and their ethical sourcing of materials.

    To many in the world, the concept of conflict goods has no meaning. Sierra Leone is prime example of the use of conflict goods to support war. In 1991, Sierra Leone entered an 11-year period of civil war that led to the death of over 50,000 citizens and  raised the global issue of conflict diamonds. As it so happens, many parts of Africa have vast diamond reserves, and in Sierra Leone are easily accessible.

    The civil war in Sierra Leone  started with an attempt by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to over throw the government of Joseph Momoh, and quickly gained momentum when the RUF gained control of the eastern and southern part of the country, which were extremely rich in alluvial (loose) diamonds.

    These diamonds were worth alot in the market due to the loose state that they came in. Thousands were enslaved by the RUF to work the rivers that these diamonds were found in order to fund the civil war.

    These diamonds were smuggled out of the country in order to bring weapons and money back to the RUF. The movie “Blood Diamond” is an accurate portrayal of the war and of the illicit trade in conflict stones.

    Blood diamonds, which are the same as conflict diamonds, are illegal to buy in almost every country. The United States has banned rough diamond trade from countries affected with civil war and illicit trading, and the United Nations sanctioned countries with known activities of diamond for gun trading.

    Diamonds are Africa’s stable natural resource. The industry for rough diamonds brings in about $13 billion U.S dollars, and about 65 percent of that or $8.5 million, is from Africa. Currently there are two systems in place to help contain the diamonds, and stop their use in funding wars.

    The Kimberley Process is a certification system. It stops the rough diamonds from entering the global market legally. Each rough diamond must have a government issued certificate for it to be imported and exported. Currently only 74 countries are members of this process, and only these countries can trade rough diamonds. Under the UN laws, it is illegal to trade rough diamonds without a certificate.

    The second system in place is called the System of Warranties, which was created by the World Diamond Council to add to the Kimberley Process to include polished diamonds.

    This allows diamonds to be traded with a stamp on the invoice that it was conflict free prior to polishing. By having both these systems in place, it makes sure that each diamond is conflict free from start to finish.

    Now after a huge history lesson, we can finally come back to the glamour of Tiffany’s. There is more than the shiny appeal of the polished silver, gold and diamonds that fill their stores. Yes, the blue boxes and the perfectly tied bows makes a girl’s heart melt and smiles break out, but there is so much more to jewelry that we need to be aware of.

    Living in the United States, many people are immune to the problems of the world. Tiffany’s isn’t the cheapest jewelry, but when you buy their diamonds, the certificate they provide to insure the diamonds are conflict-free, is worth every penny. Diamonds are about love, not war. Tiffany jewelry is U.S -made. In fact, their flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City has a workshop right above the show room.

    There is more to the company than just the jewelry and brand name. Ethical practices in sourcing can get expensive when consumers want something cheap, and companies would rather cut corners. Before you buy jewelry, ask where it comes from and take a few minutes to check the company. People can roll their eyes and think I sound spoiled when I say Tiffany’s is my favorite.

    To those people, how many of you have even heard of conflict diamonds, or conflict goods? Precious minerals and gems are limited, which in many countries have fueled war. I absolutely support Tiffany’s for never cutting corners in ethical issues in sourcing, and believe whether you can afford it or not, you should at least respect the company’s strong stance on ethical sourcing and commitment to such high standards, and it’s these reasons why Tiffany’s is magical.

    Over 4 million people have died from wars for conflict goods such as diamonds. Think before you buy!

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