By Brecken Branstrator
Surat, India—For so long, the conversation around ethical sourcing has largely centered on the mining side, but one recent report from Reuters dove into another sector of the supply chain: cutting.

The news service recently published a report detailing a pattern of suicides among diamond workers in India’s westernmost state, Gujarat. For more than a year, the Thomson Reuters Foundation investigated what it said was a series of incidents among workers who receive low wages and labor in poor conditions.

According to the story, more than 80 percent or more of the workforce in the area, most of whom are paid per stone, earn a “piece rate” of 1 to 25 rupees for each diamond they polish ($1 is equal to about 69.03 rupees at current exchange rates) and don’t receive any social benefits.

The investigation revealed that there have been nine suicides among workers since last November in Surat, India, though Reuters noted that was probably “just the tip of the iceberg in India,” where the diamond export market continues to surge but there still are no mandatory certifications required to make sure diamond manufacturing is free of labor abuses. Certification from the Responsible Jewellery council, for example, is optional, and only about 90 businesses out of 15,000 in Gujarat are RJC members, the report states.

The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, which did not respond to a request for comment on the report from National Jeweler, was quoted in the story as telling Reuters it was the responsibility of individual firm owners to seek RJC certification.

Dinesh Navadia of the GJEPC is quoted as telling Reuters that most firms in the industry handle the education of employees’ children and offer subsidized medical care.

When asked about the series of worker suicides, he did acknowledge that it was an issue, noting a link between cut wages and workers struggling with expenses in a city like Surat.

“But diamond companies give jobs to wives of workers or their children (after their death),” he is quoted as saying. “This is a positive industry.”

And in fact, many big players like De Beers, Rio Tinto and Chow Tai Fook do have standards for the companies with which they work, but a challenge still remains in the fact that no steps have been taken to protect diamond cutters from the ups and downs of the market, the report contends.

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