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IAC’s Upcoming Virtual Conference Convenes Industry Collective

The event is to explore balancing the romance of gold, diamonds and jewelry with the consumer demand for sustainability, while honoring Edward Asscher, Cristina Villegas, and Robert Weldon




IAC’s Upcoming Virtual Conference Convenes Industry Collective
This ruby miner from Longido, Tanzania, is captivated by the lessons inrecognizing quality and value in rough gem material.Selecting Gem Rough: AGuide for Artisanal Miners, authored and produced by GIA, is distributed for freetominers in East Africa. The booklet comes with a translucent white tray whereminers can sort and examine rough. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA (c) 20192.Miner in Red Boots, Photo: Sven Torfinn; courtesy, Impact.

(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK — New Realities, Future Promise, the Initiatives in Art and Culture’s (IAC) 11th annual international conference on gold and diamonds, will be held from 10:00 am – 2:30 pm EDT Tuesday through Thursday, on July 13-15, 2021. For this year’s conference, IAC’s focus is on the twin imperatives of our time. Government, civil society, communities, and the industry must preserve the magic, romance, and emotional power gold, diamonds and jewelry represent for the consumer, while at the same time doing the hard work required to meet the imperatives of responsible sourcing and practice, environmental and social awareness— all of which underpin the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Lisa Koenigsberg, President of Initiatives in Art and Culture, says, “The challenges of 2020 resulted in the development by IAC of a robust digital initiative, and this year’s conference marries the digital approach of 2020-21 with the breadth and depth that has characterized our annual in-person event. We are honored to welcome an extraordinary roster of speakers who will, in various formats, address the mandates of our time and the demands of the future. Additionally, we are excited to present IAC’s Fourth Annual Award for Leadership in Responsible Practice in Jewelry, to Cristina Villegas, Director, Mine to Market, Pact and Robert Weldon, Director, Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library at GIA. At the same time, we salute two-time World Diamond Council President, Edward Asscher, for Extraordinary Contributions to the Diamond and Jewelry Industries.”

Koenigsberg will open the virtual conference. A highlight of the opening day is the panel “Global Expectations: Language, Legislation, Regulation, and Transformation,” moderated by gem and jewelry consultant, Katherine Andrews. Distinguished panelists consider the critical role language plays in legislation and regulation, as well as the intent that they will result in global transformation. Those in conversation include George Cajati, Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs’ Office of Threat Finance Countermeasures; Tiffany Stevens, CEO Jewelers Vigilance Committee; Mark Hanna, Chief Marketing Office, Richline; and Iris Van der Veken, Executive Director, Responsible Jewellery Council.

Transformation of another kind — the mine to market journey of a diamond, with a spotlight on the importance of traceability and sustainability — also garners significant attention. “Transparency: Diamond Origin and the Consumer” features the following authoritative voices in dialogue: Anisa Costa, Chief Sustainability Officer, Tiffany & Co.; Eira Thomas, CEO, Lucara; Cathryn Ramirez, GG Executive Director, Alumni Development and Continuing Education, GIA; David Block, CEO, Sarine Group; Allison Charalambous, Head of Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability, Brilliant Earth; Stephen D’Esposito, CEO, DDI at RESOLVE; Rob Bates, News Director, JCK, moderates. Of equal is import is a deep dive into gold, also a store of value for millennia; “Where does your gold come from, and Why does it matter?” explores the complexities of the sourcing and transformation of gold. The discussion, moderated by Lisa Koenigsberg, will be between Angel Camacho, a criminal analyst who has over 10 years of experience working transnational organized crime matters, Luis E Fernandez, Executive Director, CINCIA and Research Associate Professor of Biology, Wake Forest University; Shamiso Mtisi, environmental lawyer and Head of Research, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association; Jen Peyser, Senior Mediator and Director, Ethical Resource Program at RESOLVE, and Joanne Lebert Executive Director, IMPACT. The expertise and insights shared by knowledgeable pros in the gold realm ensures that the conversation will enlighten even the most seasoned industry veterans.

The power of storytelling will kick off on Day 2, with “Romancing the Stone,” moderated by Dave Bindra, Vice President of B&B Gems. Bindra will be speaking with Roger and Ginger Dery, Principals, Roger Dery Gem Design; Prince Dimitri, jeweler and author, Once Upon a Diamond: A Family Tradition of Royal Jewels; and Paul Schneider, owner, TWIST. Further celebrating the narrative, conference attendees will then plunge into the book, Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry (Rizzoli, 2019), and be immersed in conversation with two designers profiled, Ana Katerina and Alice Cicolini, with Kyle Roderick, author, and Lisa Koenigsberg.

A panel titled “Mining: Responsible Sourcing and Best Practice” introduces consideration of responsible practice in mining. Discussing the import of geographic and social contexts for “best practice,” authoritative panelists will explore positive outcomes that benefit mining communities, among them greater equity in profit-sharing and positive social and environmental aftermaths. Guided by moderator Jennifer-Lynn Archuleta, Consulting Editor, Gems & Jewellery, Gem-A, Aimee Boulanger, Executive Director, Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA); Nick Cotts, Vice President, Mining, Newmont; Cristina Villegas, Director, Mine to Market, Pact; Feriel Zerouki, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, De Beers Group; and Robert Weldon, Director, Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library, GIA will discuss their organizations’ initiatives with artisanal miners, as well as overall industry best practice.

To close the session, Cristina Villegas and Robert Weldon will be presented with the Initiatives in Art and Culture Award for Leadership in Responsible Practice in Jewelry. This award is presented annually to a recipient who is a member of the jewelry industry, or part of a jewelry-focused organization, that has made a transformational contribution to ethical sourcing and responsible practices in the worldwide gem and jewelry trade.


Villegas says, “Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC) has been committed to issues of responsible practice for over decade, and since the inception of IAC’s important prize, each year it has been presented to galvanizing figures. I am deeply humbled to receive such an award, and to be sharing it with as inspirational a figure as Robert Weldon. My own reformist journey has only just begun, and there is still so much to do; at the same time, receiving such an award proves how quickly one can make meaningful change. There are so many wonderful changemakers already in this sector, and with the right combination of know-how and some grit, sector-changing programs can happen before our eyes.”

The final day of IAC’s powerhouse conference explores diamonds, a bedrock upon which the industry is currently rooted since the adamas (to use the Greek term) / “the king of gems” features in the majority of gem and jewelry sales. Day three features a panel on the importance of the diamond cut and how consumer behavior is impacted by it; “The Heart of the Matter” features leading lights: Al Gilbertson, Project Manager, Cut Research, GIA; Edward Asscher, President, World Diamond Council; and Eve Goldberg, Principal, William Goldberg and is moderated by British jewelry historian Jack Ogden, whose most recent publication is Diamonds: An Early History of the King of Gems. 

“Total Clarity: The Socioeconomic Impact of Diamonds,” a discussion of the ways the industry has sought to address social impact and community benefit, features panelists Sheila Khama, policy adviser on the mineral, oil and gas industries, World Bank (prior to that, Corporate Secretary, Anglo-American in Botswana and then CEO, DeBeers, Botswana); Pat Dambe, Vice President, Market Outreach, De Beers Group Global Sightholder Sales; Catherine Sarr, jewelry designer and founder, Almasika Fine Jewellery, and Eira Thomas, CEO, Lucara Diamond. These luminaries consider how the industry can be fit for the future.

The virtual conference will conclude with the presentation of the first Initiatives in Art and Culture Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Diamond and Jewelry Industries to Edward Asscher. Reflective of IAC’s belief in collaboration, community, and commitment, this award is intended to recognize and honor extraordinary ongoing engagement and dedication to the realization of positive change. Asscher says, “Making changes to the diamond world is never the result of one individual. It is always teamwork. The World Diamond Council has worked as a team with various partners since 2000, and I have always been involved. But the team contributing to change also includes the Kimberley Process Task Force, the Responsible Jewellery Council, the CIBJO, the IDMA, and the WFDB. So, although I very much appreciate receiving IAC’s important award, I want to share it with my colleagues in the WDC, the RJC and the CIBJO, the IDMA, and the WFDB.”

IAC is greatly appreciative of its generous industry sponsors: GIA, a Gold Level Sponsor; DMIA, and Sarine, Contributing Level Sponsors; and Royal Asscher, a Pathfinder Level Sponsor. Lisa Koenigsberg, IAC’s founder expressed, “During this Emersonian ‘refulgent summer’ of 2021, at the threshold of a decade of change, challenge and opportunity, we reach out to all embarked on this journey. In a spirit of openness and shared commitment, Initiatives in Art and Culture is delighted to further deepen our partnerships and collaborations with organizations, individuals, and entities through this shared undertaking.

All those participating in the jewelry supply chain are encouraged to join this virtual tour de force of innovative, sustainable practice and responsible sourcing. For complimentary registration to attend “New Realities, Future Promise” click here. To learn more about Initiatives in Art and Culture, visit, call 646-485-1952, or email




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