In his opening address, Gaetano Cavalieri stresses CIBJO’s independence
and commitment to all industry players

Gaetano Cavalieri addressing the opening session of the 2016 CIBJO Congress in Yerevan, Armenia.

OCTOBER 26, 2016

Addressing the opening session of the CIBJO Congress, which began today in Yerevan, Armenia, the organisation’s president, Gaetano Cavalieri, stressed the independence of the World Jewellery Confederation, and its commitment to serve the interests of all players in the greater gemstone and jewellery industries, regardless of size.

The following is the full text of his address:

On behalf of CIBJO, I would like to thank His Excellency, President Serzh Sargsyan, for the great honour that he has bestowed upon us. This is not something that we take for granted, and we consider it a sign of honour not only for our organisation and the jewellery industry, but also for our host, Gagik Gevorkyan, and the men and women of the Armenian Jewellers Association.

In CIBJO we pride ourselves on forging new paths for the international jewellery and gemstone industries, looking over the horizon to areas that may not have previously been part of the public discussion.

Last year we held our first congress in Brazil, and in so doing we highlighted the growing potential of the industry and markets of Latin America. This year, we gather for the first time in Central Asia, in the centre of a massive region and a growing jewellery industry and market.

I have been fortunate to have visited Yerevan several times, but I know that for many of you this is the first such opportunity. However, even though you are seeing this beautiful city and country for the first time, I am relatively sure that most of you already well familiar with legendary warmth and hospitality of the Armenian people.

As a Sicilian I am very familiar with the experience of discovering Sicily in almost every corner of the world to which I travel, and same is true for Armenians. Some 3 million Armenians live here Armenia, but a further 8 million live in other parts of the world, throughout the Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Europe and the Americas. And it would seem, although I realise I may be exaggerating just a little bit, almost every single one of them is involved in the jewellery business.

For years already, almost every June, I have experienced a brief touch of Armenia on the terrace of the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas, as the U.S. West Coast branch of AJA hosts our industry during the JCK Show. And what has impressed me every single time is not only the hospitality, but the firm commitment that they have to their community, their mother country, and to the jewellery business as well.

Two years ago, many of you joined us at the CIBJO Congress in Moscow, where our host was the Russian Jewellery Guild. Now, if any one feels that they may be experiencing some type of déjà vu, that would be because our host this week, Mr. Gagik Gvorkyan, was our host in Moscow in 2014.

As it has in so many other parts of the world, the contribution of the Armenians to the development of the modern Russian jewellery industry has been immense, and Gagik is the embodiment of that.

As President of the Armenian Jewellers Association, he and his colleagues from AJA from around the world are making sure that the jewellery industry and trade in Armenia become a powerful economic engine, driving trade between this country and the world, and serving as a self-sustaining catalyst for national economic growth and prosperity.

The very building that we are seated in today, the Meridian Expo Centre is an excellent example of what our industry represents. Thirty years ago this was a factory producing military equipment. Today it has been refitted as a convention and business centre, and free trade zone for jewellers from around the world. What better example could we have of the jewellery industry transforming instruments of war into implements of peace and cooperation.

I would like to express special thanks to CIBJO’s sponsors at this congress: Fiera di Vicenza, the Gemological Education Certification Institute, known as GECI, and Gemfields, whose President and CEO, Ian Harebottle, will address us later this morning.

Before I continue, I would like to pay CIBJO’s respects to the memory of His Majesty King Bhumibol the Great of the Kingdom of Thailand, who passed away 13 days ago after serving on the throne for 70 years and 126 days. To our many Thai members and friends, please accept our our condolences and sympathies during this sad period for your nation.

I will begin my address by defining what exactly it is that makes CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, such a singular organisation, and why it is that the role we play in the industry is a so important.

There are other representative bodies in our business, some of which are present here today, and many of which we cooperate with closely. They, too, play critical roles, but they are not quite the same, nor do they have all the responsibilities and commitments that CIBJO does.

CIBJO is the only organisation operating in the industry that considers its area of interest and responsibility to include the entire chain of distribution, from the mine to the consumer outlet, in every country and region where jewellery and gemstones are produced, manufactured and sold. There are no size restrictions in terms of the individuals or organisations we serve, meaning that our commitment to the wellbeing of the smaller player is as solid and absolute, as is our commitment to the larger players in the business.

We firmly believe that if you tender and nurture the grass roots of the industry, the business will be inherently healthier.

The only entry card into our industry should be a firm commitment to do business fairly and responsibly, always looking out for the interests of your employees, your stakeholders and your customers.

Our job in CIBJO is to develop the standards, terminology, strategies and systems that will enable all individuals and companies to operate fairly and responsibly. These change over time, are influenced by economics and geopolitics, and particularly by technological developments. That is why the work of our sectors and commission is never done.

Like all other representative organisations in our industry, CIBJO is dependent on the support and effort put in by its members. We appreciate that not all of them are able to contribute equally, and we are grateful that those who have more resources are often ready to take a greater share of the collective burden.

But at the same time we are fiercely independent, and we will never allow financial expediency to prevent us from making what we believe is the correct and fair decision.

The secret of our strength is vested in our membership. CIBJO primarily is a confederation of national associations, and each of those represents scores, and often hundreds and even thousands of individual jewellers and gemstone manufacturers traders, who depend upon their work to support themselves, their families and their communities.

For us, the jewellery business cannot be expressed only in a balance sheet. It cannot be summed up purely by numbers, by profits and expenses. We see the business as a community of individuals, interconnected with common principles and a common purpose. The success of one should never be predicated on the misfortune of another.

But we are a business community, meaning that we most definitely have a profit motive. But we believe that profits can be produced fairly, with mutual benefit. It is possible to strive for universal profitability as long as we produce a product that our consumer wants, and we are able to do it in a way that the consumer considers fair and ethical.

And, when I say, fair and ethical, I refer to the way in which we regard our consumers, as well as our employees, our suppliers and the communities in which they live.

I also refer to way in which we regard the members of our own industry, large and small. By definition, a business strategy is unethical if it directly or indirectly disadvantages other businesses, not for what they have done, but rather for what they are not able to do.

Although jewellery today is widely considered to be a luxury item, constructed from some of the most valuable metals and gems known to humankind, the jewellery craft is most definitely egalitarian, have been practiced at all levels of society throughout recorded history. For every one exclusive jewellery brand or boutique, there are literally thousands of smaller jewellers, for whom their products and their customers are just as important.

For CIBJO, each one of those jewellers deserves a place at the table, as long as they act ethically in good faith. We obviously recognise that most are not able to physically participate in the various industry and international forums, but through CIBJO, by virtue of their membership in national associations, we can and do make their voices heard.

Our commitment to serve the rank and file of the greater jewellery sector, and by extension all of our consumers and stakeholders, is what has driven our organisation.

  • It is what has pushed our commissions working on the Blue Book and industry guides, not only in terms of upgrading what already existed, but in adding new volumes, such as precious metals, gemmological laboratories and coral.
  • It supported our becoming a founding member of the World Diamond Council at the very start of the Kimberley Process.
  • It was what encouraged us to seek Special Consultative Status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC, providing for the first time a place in the United Nations for all members of the jewellery trade, regardless of their size and national identity.
  • It stood behind the creation of WJCEF, the World Jewellery Confederation Educational Foundation.
  • It was the basis of the discussions that we conducted with the European Commission regarding conflict minerals.
  • It has underscored our commitment to reduce and offset our industry’s carbon emissions, and to promote sustainable methods of pearl farming and coral harvesting.
  • It is what was has driven us to develop programmes and tools that enable all members of the industry to implement proper standards of Corporate Social Responsibility, including supply chain monitoring, in their own businesses.
  • And this, I would stress, is a very incomplete list.

We are honoured to have with us today the heads of various international industry and industry-related associations.

Among them is H.E. Mr. Ahmed Bin Sulayem, for whom this is not his first CIBJO Congress, but it is the first in his capacity as Chairman of the Kimberley Process, which as most of you know is the multi-national body that had managed the formulation and implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which is designed to prevent the infiltration of diamonds associated with conflict from entering the legitimate pipeline. It is a body in which decision-making capacity rests in the hands of government representatives, but where industry and civil society have observer status, and are well represented on its committees.

Mr. Chairman, CIBJO is proud to have been involved in the Kimberley Process from the very beginning, and to have experienced the very real change that the KPCS was able to bring about in the diamond trade. We are committed to your important work, and to strengthening the relationship between the Kimberley Process, CIBJO and the international jewellery community.

I am also honoured to welcome Andrey Polyakov, who just recently was elected to be the third president of the World Diamond Council. CIBJO was a founding member of the organisation, which as you know created history from 2000 onward when it actively lobbied and helped create regulation that would effectively combat the phenomenon of conflict diamonds. A number of people in the room were part of that effort. One who unfortunately was not able to join us today is Eli Izhakoff, who served as WDC president for its first 13 years, who is also CIBJO’s Honorary President.

I would also like to recognize Andy Bone, CEO of the Responsible Jewellery Council, who himself is a KP and WDC veteran, and who travelled to Yerevan especially to be with us. The relationship between CIBJO and RJC has been well documented over the years, and I would like to believe that we are now entering our Golden Age.

As Andy I am sure will discuss, when he addresses us later this morning, RJC has broken considerable ground in the jewellery sector though its method of certifying companies that meet its Code of Practices, which is involves a defined set of standards of responsible business practices for diamonds, gold and platinum group metals.

Later today we will announce the imminent launch of a online CSR Assurance System that CIBJO has been developing in conjunction with Branded Trust. In line with what I stated earlier in my address, our system is designed to enable all ethical gemstone and jewellery businesses to measure, monitor and demonstrate their implementation of responsible business practices.

But while our system looks to enable all participating companies meet international standards, we will not quantify nor certify those standards. That specialized work should be done by experts like RJC.

However, we are keen to cooperate and work together, so that all members of our industry are provided a fair and reasonable opportunity to seize the future.

Let me conclude on a celebratory note. As many of you know CIBJO is the oldest international association in the gemstone and jewellery industry. Our organisation was established in its original form in Europe in 1926, which means that this year is the 90th anniversary of our founding. It is a milestone in a journey that began a long time ago in Paris, but only one in a voyage that will continue for another 90 years and more into the future.

May we all have a successful congress.

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