As the general public becomes more educated about the diamond world and the sometimes questionable methods involved in mining and selling these stones, people are starting to wonder just what phrases like “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds” mean. The latter term has become especially well known in the years since the release of the movie Blood Diamond in 2006. Here at Diamond Lighthouse, we have very strict conflict-free policies with multiple procedures and regulations in place to make sure no blood or conflict diamonds are sold through us. We feel it’s important that everyone is educated about these stones so we can all do our part in stopping conflict diamonds from entering the market. You might be wondering what exactly a blood or conflict diamond is. More importantly, you want to know how to make sure you don’t end up with one. Turns out they’re surprisingly easy to avoid nowadays. But first things first.
What is a conflict or blood diamond?
Conflict diamonds, also called blood diamonds, are diamonds where exploitative or unethical practices were involved in the mining and/or sale of the stone. If the diamond is sold to fund a warlord, invading army or a civil war, it’s a conflict diamond. The term is also used to describe diamonds that were mined using slave or child labor.
That sounds bad. How do I not get one of those?
Fortunately, your chances of purchasing a conflict diamond and funding terrible things in other parts of the world are almost nil. That’s because an international treaty signed in 2002 made it illegal for diamonds not certified by the Kimberly Process to be sold in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and most of the rest of the world. A total of 81 countries have put Kimberly Process Certification into law. If you’re buying from a legitimate diamond dealer pretty much anywhere in the world, the chances of you getting a conflict diamond are less than 0.1 percent.
Kimberly Process? What’s that?
The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was established in 2003 by the United Nations specifically to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds. Basically, it says that every shipment of rough diamonds crossing an international boarder needs to be in a tamper-resistant container and accompanied by a Kimberly Process Certificate. The certificate is a government-validated document that states the diamonds were mined using U.N. approved methods. Also, whenever diamonds are sold, the seller must certify that they either mined the stones themselves using U.N. approved methods or bought them from someone else who provided the same certification. This creates a paper trail that goes from the mine to the consumer, and if there are any concerns about the origin of the diamonds, the World Trade Organization investigates.
How reliable is it?
For the most part, it works pretty well. Government sanctions placed on mining companies and countries unable to confirm the origin of their gems have done a lot to stem the flow of conflict diamonds into the market. 99.9 percent of diamonds on the market now were mined ethically and their sale didn’t support any warlords or terrorist groups. It hasn’t been entirely perfect though, and the process has received some major criticism. Human rights organization Global Witness was a key member of the scheme early on, but pulled out in 2011, saying the process ultimately failed to completely stop the flow of conflict diamonds from entering the market and criticizing the diamond industry’s “poor self-regulation.”
So how can I be absolutely sure I don’t get a conflict diamond?
If a 0.1 percent chance still sounds too risky for you, there are other options. The Northwest Territories in Canada have their own certification process that ensures any diamond purchased with their certificate was mined in Canada. That’s as good a guarantee you can get that the diamonds weren’t mined using slave labor, and no brutal dictators or civil wars were funded by their sale. Other countries, particularly South Africa and Botswana, have similar certifications that aren’t as well advertised as Canada’s, but are just as much a guarantee that their diamonds are conflict-free. Many cutting houses also provide certificates or similar official statements detailing how their workers are treated. Most reputable jewelers will be able to get you these if you ask.
You can also buy only vintage or antique diamonds. While this doesn’t guarantee the stone was mined ethically, it does at least mean that if it wasn’t, your money isn’t supporting conflicts and slave labor happening now. This also has the advantage of being the most environmentally conscious option. Reusing a perfectly good older diamond is much more eco-friendly than mining a new one.
While there are still parts of the diamond world that aren’t as ethical as we’d like them to be, the industry has made great strides in the last decade to limit the flow of conflict diamonds into the global market and has actually done some good things in diamond-rich countries. Ethically mined diamonds have brought jobs with living wages and healthcare to people who didn’t have those options before. If you’re looking to buy a diamond, there are certainly extra steps you could take to ensure you’re receiving a conflict-free stone. As long as you’re dealing with a reputable jeweler though, you really have nothing to worry about. That diamond you have in your hands is almost definitely conflict-free. It might have even helped out a struggling family somewhere.
Of course we at Diamond Lighthouse realize that any conflict diamonds entering the market is too many. That’s why we take extra steps to ensure that all diamonds sold by us. We have multiple policies in place that help us ensure the origin of every diamond that enters our lab, and we don’t do business with buyers who deal in conflict diamonds. Though the diamond industry hasn’t been completely successful in eradicating conflict diamonds from the market, we at Diamond Lighthouse believe that by educating people about these stones and holding ourselves and our buyers to the highest ethical standards, we can do our part to put an end to the conflict diamond trade.