Building an Exclusive Canadian Brand: The Forevermark Story
The journey of a mined diamond from raw to wow!
It was not that long ago, when the words “Canadian” and “diamond mining” were never used in the same sentence. But times have changed. Add “unique”, “exceptional beauty,” and “exclusive” to the phrase, and you get a good picture of the Canadian diamond pipeline as it exists today.
Diamonds have been around for centuries. They have been used as religious icons, as engraving and cutting utensils, and to adorn royal garments, crowns and other ceremonial tools of the courts. It is believed that the earliest diamond trade dates back to 4th century India. Those diamonds were “alluvial” diamonds, freed from the earth by flowing water and discovered as loose isolated gemstones.
Over time, an increase in supply, continuous advancements in geology/prospecting, improved mining and manufacturing techniques, and growth in the world economy gave rise to the evolution of the modern diamond market.
This is the global story of Canadian mining. Canada is now a global producer and finisher of diamonds counted in the most exclusive ranks with respect to quality and spectacular beauty.
Feeding the diamond value chain is De Beers; a global brand that both revolutionized the industry of diamond mining and processing over the course of their 125 plus year history, and are a major participant in creating a new Canadian diamond trade.
Another innovative and powerful player is the HRA Group – Crossworks Manufacturing; a Canadian company creating local centers of excellence in industry and education, and establishing themselves as one of the most innovative distributors of diamonds in the world.
De Beers and Crossworks are the less visible face of the diamond but combined, form a unique partnership to create an elite brand of diamonds based on exclusive quality standards and the parallel jewelry. “Building a brand takes work and discipline,” said Dylan Dix, Marketing Director of Crossworks and Group Executive, Marketing and External Relations at HRA Group. “In the case of diamonds, there are many moving parts.”
The retail marque of these exclusive stones is the Forevermark Diamond and Knar Jewellery is a leading example of a quality of retailer who meets the Forevermark standard. “Forevermark is a unique partnership from the mine to retailer,” stated Dix. “Crossworks is known for polishing diamonds to an excellent standard and that is the benchmark of a Forevermark Diamond – beautiful.”
Mining: global expertise applied in Canada
De Beers has been the world’s leading name in diamonds since the company was founded in 1888. Pioneers of the full-scale mining of diamonds in South Africa, Cecil Rhodes (who later founded the Rhodes Scholarship) established the De Beers family farm in Kimberley, South Africa for access to the stones. He called the company De Beers and that was the beginning of one of the biggest names in diamond mining that stands tall today.
Rhodes had good company: he was backed by the South African diamond magnate Alfred Beit and The Rothschilds. In 1927, De Beers was taken over by Anglo American; a London based global mining company that was founded and led by J.P. Morgan and Ernest Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer established a progressive business philosophy from the get-go. He understood the power of good business and local impact. The De Beers “aim …” he claimed, “is… to make profits for our stakeholders, but to do so in such a way as to make a real and lasting contribution to the communities in which we operate.”
Oppenheimer’s son and heir, Harry was equally as active during both his business career and in his retirement fighting for social causes. “I’ve never thought that the policy of racial discrimination had been a great benefit to business,’’ he said, ‘’because while it may have had the effect of keeping wages low, it also had the effect of keeping labor exceptionally inefficient. I believe that apartheid is something that works against the interest of economic development, not for it.’’
In the 1960’s, De Beers identified that Canada held twice the diamond potential of South Africa and slowly explored and prepared the way to bring Canadian mines to market.
A new global standard for diamond mines
The Victor Mine in northern Ontario and the Snap Lake Mine in the Northwest Territories are world-class examples of De Beer’s commitment to ‘do well by doing good.’ Both mines have strong government and community relations and have established new global standards for environment and mine development.
In both regions, De Beers works with local communities, develops strong partnerships with area businesses, and is active in supporting public initiatives with a focus on healthcare and education. While these mines may yield a small volume compared to other mines, the halo of all the work done makes them truly shine.
Gem quality: unique and brilliant
The Canadian product is outstanding. The diamonds from Northern Ontario’s Victor Mine are exceptionally high-quality gemstones. According to Dix, the Victor diamonds are the finest quality and most sought after in the world. “The diamonds are like the top quality grapes used to produce the world’s leading champagne such as Dom Pérignon or Bollinger,” he said. “There may not be many carats per tonne, but the quality of the carats being mined is phenomenal.”
Cutting and Polishing: a new Canadian industry setting global pace
Crossworks is another incredible element in this Canadian success story. Canadian diamonds have made their mark on the world stage. From the late nineties to the present, Canada has become the third largest producer of diamonds in the world and will be one of the cornerstones of global rough diamond production for years to come.
As part of the Canadian diamond value chain, Crossworks is building an amazing international reputation. The company is one of the select group of De Beers customers known as Sightholders; a Select Diamantaire with Rio Tinto for the Diavik rough production and one of 12 customers of Argyle Pink Diamonds. This is a Canadian company that is at the summit of the international diamond world. They are also innovators who have created unique cuts and designs that are more beautiful than others on the market, and that increase the level of brilliance in order to create heightened demand and a competitive advantage.
To stimulate and sustain a “real” Canadian diamond industry, De Beers and government agencies created a negotiated social economic agreement providing a commitment that allows 10% of mined stones, measured by value to Canadian diamantaires for cutting and polishing in Canada. With this agreement and committed supply, Crossworks established a manufacturing facility in Sudbury. In the first two years, over $50,000,000 worth of diamonds were processed at this facility.
Crossworks refers to the process of “crossworking” as part of the craft of producing facets on a diamond. The transformation of a rough diamond to its final polished state is a combination of age-old artisanal knowledge mixed with the latest technologies to ensure absolute precision. With this in mind, Crossworks has developed a number of internationally patented diamonds – the Ideal Square and the Ideal Cushion – that maximize the beauty of this transformation to ensure that the end result is the most brilliant possible.