Much has been said about the beauty and majesty of the diamond. It has been (and still is) considered an incomparable gem and has always been equated with excellence. This is why so much social, economic, personal and even political value is placed on this majestic stone. Unfortunately, with so much at stake, the diamond has become an object that people are willing to perform criminal and unethical activities for. The result is the rise of conflict diamonds.
What are conflict diamonds?
Conflict diamonds are the diamonds mined and sourced from conflict-torn areas that are controlled by warlords, rebels and other insurgents. The money sourced from the sale of these stones is used to fund local wars against legitimate governments and other criminal activities initiated and encouraged by warlords and terrorists. The stones are usually mined in many parts of Africa where over 60% of the diamonds processed and sold can be found.
A conflict diamond is also known as a blood diamond, a war diamond or a hot diamond.
There are sanctions in place to ensure that stones mined from conflict areas do not reach the consumer market. These sanctions help reduce the flow of cash that reaches warlords and criminals who finance the sourcing of the gems. In a report published in 1998, Global Witness showed that there was a link between the mining of the gems and the wars in Africa. The link was also identified by the UN in its Security Council Resolution 1173.
The Kimberley Process
In 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was launched. Also known as the Kimberley Process or KP, the scheme aims to control the exchange and/or sale of conflict diamonds by implementing a stringent screening process that would certify the origin of rough gems. This would prevent blood diamonds from becoming mixed with non-conflict ones in the mainstream market. Governments from countries where the gems are sourced are required to validate the stones and failure to comply with the process will result in the removal of the country from the list of legitimate sources. This prevents them from being able to trade with other countries who are members of good standing.
Making sure your diamond is “conflict free“
Ethical practices have challenged the trade of illicit gems. However, it is still up to the consumer to ensure that what they are buying does not in any way contribute to war and insurgency in other countries. To ensure that what you are buying is “conflict free“, you might want to:
- Become an informed buyer.
Always ask a jeweler if their merchandise is legitimate. It is perfectly reasonable and acceptable to demand proof from a seller that their jewelry uses conflict-free stones. Keep in mind that the KP certificate is issued only to rough diamonds and while it may control the use of conflict gems to a certain degree, it may not always guarantee the non-use of illicit merchandise on finished products. Ask the seller if they have policies in place and if they could provide an official independent certification. They should also be able to inform you about certain things, such as:
- the origin of their diamonds.
- the conditions where the gems are mined and processed.
- the tracking process used to transport and process the merchandise.
- Buy Canadian.
Canada has its own standard for authenticating and certifying conflict-free gems. It sets a minimum requirement for guaranteeing the merchandise to ensure that consumers do not purchase illicit products. Retailers of Canadian diamonds should be able to provide an identification number for each stone, a description, invoice date and number and even the name and address of the retailer.
- Buy alternatives.
There are a few options for consumers who might want to be 100% sure that they are not buying a piece of jewelry that funded a war. Synthetic gems, for example, are wonderful yet cheaper options. They are often difficult to tell apart from real gems. Another alternative is to purchase vintage or antique jewelry, particularly those made or purchased before 1990. This is assurance that indeed, that piece of jewelry you wear has not contributed to a political and economic issue that has caused so much pain in other countries.