Polar Bear Diamonds face extinction in N.W.T.
An iconic Canadian diamond has become a sought-after item after two companies that hold the rights to the brand closed late last year.
The distinctive Polar Bear Diamonds, which are laser engraved with a microscopic-sized polar bear, are the most recognizable diamond brand in the country. The unique branding is a symbol that they are both Canadian and conflict-free.
But the polar bear trademark has not been reproduced on a diamond since last October after two companies that were given permission to use it went into receivership. The territorial government owns the rights to the trademark that was first launched in the late 1990s.
The territory cannot use or license out the trademark until the matter is settled in court, and this has caused problems for local jewelers who have counted on sales of the popular gems for years.
At one time 90 per cent of his supply held the trademark, now Yellowknife jeweler Jason Yamkowy said he has only two polar bear diamonds left.
"The company has shut down. I haven't been able to get anything," said Yamkowy. "People come in asking for a Polar Bear Diamond. If we don't have it they are leaving."
But others, like Hau Huynh of Arctic Jewellers in Yellowknife, are benefiting from the shortage of polar bear diamonds. Huynh bought more than 100 of the loose diamonds several years ago.
"When it's gone, it's gone. We cannot get the Polar Bear Diamond back," he said. "It's been good for business. The price has gone up 10 per cent in the last two years."
The Government of the Northwest Territories refused to comment on the trademark's future as it is still before the courts.
Still others say it is time that government and industry put more emphasis on marketing other Canadian diamond brands.
"They all have the same characteristics in terms of the fact that they have been mined to the highest environmental standards in the world," said Pierre Lablanc, president of Canadian Diamond Consultants. "It is only the trademark of the polar bear that would be slightly different."