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Diamond biz draws ‘Blood’

De Beers exec worried about pic's effect on negative perceptions

Shooting on Warner Bros.’ “The Blood Diamond” isn’t due to start until next year. But global diamond production giant De Beers is already feeling jittery about the effect the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer could have on the image and sales of its diamonds.

Pic, to be directed by Ed Zwick, is a thriller set in civil war-ravaged Sierra Leone of 1999. DiCaprio stars as a diamond smuggler who specializes in the sale of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds, the proceeds of which are used to finance wars, rebellions and illegal arms procurement in Africa.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, head of De Beers’ South African operations, referred to the film while speaking at the Global Mining Conference held in Cape Town last month. He noted his company’s ongoing struggle to keep the image of its diamonds “untarnished” and “ethical” amid conflict diamond scandals.

“You only have certainty in the diamond market if Joe Citizen remains confident in the diamond he beholds,” he said.

The Kimberley accord certification process has reduced the number of conflict diamonds hitting the market, but Oppenheimer says a film like “The Blood Diamond” could cause widespread negative perceptions of all diamonds if not handled properly.

“Can you imagine its impact on the Christmas-buying audience in America if the message is not carried through that this is something of the past?” Oppenheimer asked.

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