Diamonds are beautiful. They shine, sparkle and they make us feel beautiful.
We use them for presents, to show we love people, appreciate people, or to attract attention to ourselves. What we sometimes don’t think about though, is where they came from and the, potentially awful conditions that were involved in mining these precious rocks.
You might be familiar with the term conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds. If not, it is usually a term that refers to diamonds that where mined in some war-torn African country, where someone, or some number of people, died in the process of getting the rock. That is where the expression blood diamond comes from.
In such countries (mainly West and Central African countries like Sierra Leone and the Congo), traffic in the gems has left an ugly trail of carnage as mining communities, rebels, and governments feud over the treasured metal. The good news is that you can avoid buying those conflict diamonds. Read on and learn everything there is to know about them.
What Are Conflict Diamonds?
Also known as ‘blood diamonds’, conflict diamonds are diamonds sold in order to fund conflict in war-torn countries or areas. The mines are usually controlled by rebels who are opposed to legitimate governments. They trade the diamonds and acquire weapons and other resources necessary to start or sustain a war or bloody rebellion.
For many years, conflict diamonds have been used to wage devastating wars in Africa, and to date, they still play a part in various other societal evils like exploitation of children. The Kimberley Process, a joint organization against the importation of these types of stones, has proven to be inadequate in curbing blood diamonds from entering the markets. But you as a buyer can make an effort to identify and avoid buying conflict diamonds. We will get to the particulars of that shortly but first, let’s examine the vices that are associated with conflict diamonds.
Although most diamond-related wars in African countries have ended, conflicts and violence remain primary issues. They are fueled by warring communities or rivalry among rebel groups that want to control the mines.
2. Labor issues
Those who control mines usually feel the need to take helpless men, women, and children as slaves and subject them to forced labor in the mines. They are exploited and left to work under despicable and extremely unsafe conditions. It is estimated that over one million miners are paid less than a dollar per day, a trend that has seen widespread poverty among communities that mine the highly lucrative mineral.
As mentioned already, rebels usually take control of diamond mines and trade the diamonds for weapons and other war resources that they use to bring anarchy and destabilize the legitimately recognized government.
The Bloody Trail
So where do the diamonds go after they have been mined? They are usually smuggled into foreign countries. It is estimated that blood diamonds account for anything from 4 to 15% of the total global diamond trade. While it might be hard to trace exactly where the diamonds end up, it is a safe bet to say they are traded as jewelry in pretty much every global economy.
So what can you do to avoid buying them? Check out the guidelines below.
It is practically impossible to look at a rock and determine whether it is a blood diamond or not. So if you want to make the ethical choice consider the following steps:
• Examine the jeweler
Start by simply asking the jeweler where he or she sources their diamonds from. Some jewelers will be able to tell you precisely where the rock was mined, but the problem is some jewelers are not upfront with these types of questions. Either because they don’t know, or don’t want to admit they’re conflict diamonds.
If the jeweler’s answer doesn’t put your mind at ease, you can always request more details and ask for the diamond’s System of Warranties statement. It is a certificate that verifies the diamond as a conflict-free.
• Trace the source if you can
You can play detective and get a pretty good idea of the conditions surrounding diamonds if you can find some way to trace the rock back to its origin area. Generally, diamonds that come from war-ridden African countries (like Zimbabwe, Angola, the Congo, and Sierra Leone) are conflict diamonds.
That said, you should also know that not all diamonds from Africa are blood diamonds. Some countries like Botswana and Namibia practice ethically sound mining as their governments highly regulate their mining sectors.
The most popular source of conflict-free diamonds is Canada. The country promotes rigorously enforced mining laws that protect both miners and the environment.
How to trace a diamond’s source?
In 2002, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as a means of certifying diamonds. Those that meet the regulations set forth by the organization are declared conflict-free and are allowed to enter the free market. Good news for buyers is that each one of the stones is usually accompanied by its Kimberley Process certificate that shows where it was mined. Therefore, if your jeweler can’t produce this certificate upon request, it might not be considered a good sign.
• Choose a reputable jeweler
The easiest way to stay away from conflict diamonds is to choose a jeweler who has a well-known reputation of dealing with conflict-free jewelry. Many jewelers are happy to answer your questions since they have nothing to hide, and often times even promote their store as conflict free.
The fact that there are blood diamonds doing rounds doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rock a diamond. It only means you should be more careful when choosing your jewelry, otherwise, you might be funding a war somewhere unknowingly. But with the guidelines given above, you should be able to sift out conflict diamonds from conflict-free ones. Make sure you choose a reputable jeweler and ask for the diamond’s certificate. After that, feel confident to shine as brightly as the sun.