Luxury watchmaker Watches of Switzerland is the latest company to leave the Responsible Jewellery Council – the jewelry and watch industries’ ethics standards body – over the group’s refusal to cut ties with Russia, following major brands like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Pandora.
Watches of Switzerland said in a statement Thursday the company was “shocked and appalled” by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that the brand decided to withdraw from RJC because the group’s “approach” contradicts the “common values we expect from our industry.”
Earlier this week, other Cartier and Richemont brands Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Piaget also exited the RJC – Cartier CEO and President Cyrille Vigneron said being part of an organization with members that are “supporting conflicts and wars” does not line up with Richemont’s values.
Kering, whose holdings include Boucheron – one of the oldest French jewelry ateliers – Pomellato and Qeelin, also left the RJC over what it said was the group’s “inability to face the current situation in Europe” in a manner consistent with Kering’s values.
Pandora, the world’s largest jewelry maker, announced Wednesday it was leaving the RJC after 12 years of membership over the group’s “failure to suspend Russian companies’ memberships” and for not urging members to halt business with Russia.
RJC executive director Iris Van der Veken also resigned this week, reportedly over dissatisfaction with the group’s failure to suspend Alrosa’s membership.
The RJC did not immediately respond to a Forbes request for comment.
What To Watch For
If more brands will leave the RJC. It’s likely there will be “a floodgate of big companies now leaving,” Tobias Kormind, an industry expert and managing director of 77 Diamonds, Europe’s largest online diamond jeweler, told Forbes in a statement. Luxury conglomerate LVMH, which includes Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari, is a founding member of the group and has not signaled an intention to leave. Tiffany announced a pause on buying Russian diamonds last month. Bulgari’s jewelery managing director Mauro di Roberto resigned from the RJC board, according to Vogue Business, and Bulgari indicated it would stay part of the industry group pending an upcoming vote. LVMH did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
The RJC is facing backlash for not suspending the membership of Russian companies like Alrosa, which is owned by the Russian state and is the world’s largest diamond producer. Alrosa stepped down from the RJC’s board voluntarily earlier this month, but is still listed as a member. The U.S. sanctioned Alrosa in February. RJC may be conflicted in part because 40% of the world’s rough diamond supply – and 30% by value – comes from Russia, according to Kormind. “The big elephant in the room is the question of whether Russian diamonds will soon be defined as conflict diamonds,” he told Forbes.
Pandora, Richemont, Kering Leave Jewelry Sustainability Group Over Slow Response To Russian Invasion (Forbes)
Diamond Jewelry Industry On Edge As Russia Sanctions Threaten To Impact Diamond Supply (Forbes)
Richemont and Kering exit Responsible Jewellery Council amid Russia ties (Vogue Business)