It’s hard to believe that something as lovely as a diamond could have anything to do with civil war or forced labour. After all, diamonds have come to symbolise everlasting commitment and strong families. As we’ll see in this article, however, diamonds have been co-opted for sinister aims in some areas.
Fortunately, you can avoid purchasing a diamond that has been the cause of misery and suffering. First we’ll look at the background on conflict diamonds, and then we’ll offer tips on purchasing ethical diamonds for your engagement ring.
What are Conflict Diamonds?
Also known as “blood diamonds,” conflict diamonds are produced by rebel forces that oppose internationally sanctioned governments. Means of production include forced labour by adults and children, theft during shipment, or seizure by attacking the legitimate operations of diamond mines. Some of these attacks take the form of large scale military operations.
Once procured, these diamonds are smuggled into the international diamond trade and sold to legitimate buyers. The proceeds of these ill-begotten diamonds have funded civil wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast. The rebels aren’t the only villains in this unethical operation; arms merchants, smugglers and dishonest diamond dealers enable them and profit from the theft and abuse inherent in the strategy.
Enormous sums are at stake. Worst of all, lives have been lost due to slavery, torture, murder and threats resulting from the production of conflict diamonds.
The Search for Conflict-free Diamonds
Ethical concerns over mining practices, human rights violations and environmental issues have led to the establishment of processes that monitor the supply chain. Some argue that these processes and standards have made a substantial difference. Others say the changes have not gone far enough.
When you shop for diamonds, you’ll have to determine the best way to find an ethical diamond you feel good about. Fortunately, several reliable options exist.
How Can You Find Ethical Diamonds?
After reading about all the strife caused by illicit diamond mining in some parts of the world, you might feel nervous about contributing to the problems. Many people have felt the same way. Let’s now take a look at several measures you can choose to support ethical diamond mining when you purchase an engagement ring.
Look for Kimberley Certification
Back in the late 1990s, the United Nations appointed Canadian ambassador Robert Fowler to investigate the illicit diamond trade in Angola. He produced the Fowler Report in 2000. It included the nations, individuals and organisations involved in the business. This report established the connection between diamonds and third-world conflicts. It directly led to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1295 and the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
Although the UN resolution and Kimberley Certification have cut down on the sale of conflict diamonds, illicit sales continue today.
Nonetheless, Kimberley Certification can help you in your quest to find ethical diamonds. In some areas, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, there have been reports of fraudulent Kimberley certificates. In most cases, however, the certification does ensure that diamonds have been ethically sourced.
Many reputable jewellery sellers, such as Blue Nile, support the Kimberley process and have a zero-tolerance policy for conflict diamonds. As you research your engagement ring options, look for a jeweller that adhere to and enforce the standards established by the Kimberley certification process.
For a diamond to be Kimberley certified, all of its buyers and sellers must affirm the following statement:
“The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.”
Additionally, diamond industry members have adopted the following policies of self-regulation:
to trade only with companies that include warranty declarations on their invoices;
to not buy diamonds from suspect sources or unknown suppliers, or which originate in countries that have not implemented the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme;
to not buy diamonds from any sources that, after a legally binding due process system, have been found to have violated government regulations restricting the trade in conflict diamonds;
to not buy diamonds in or from any region that is subject to an advisory by a governmental authority indicating that conflict diamonds are emanating from or available for sale in such region, unless diamonds have been exported from such region in compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme;
to not knowingly buy or sell or assist others to buy or sell conflict diamonds;
to ensure that all company employees that buy or sell diamonds within the diamond trade are well informed regarding trade resolutions and government regulations restricting the trade in conflict diamonds.
Look for Blockchain Diamonds
Blockchain technology is transforming industries right and left, and the diamond industry is feeling the benefits as well.
Companies like Everledger track diamonds from the original sorting to the eventual buyer, and because blockchain is used for each transaction, there’s no way to forge documents or destroy past evidence. Unfortunately, most of these systems don’t yet have the capability to track the diamonds right from the mine, but hopefully, they will soon.
Shop for Recycled Diamonds
If you’d like your engagement ring to have nearly zero impact environmentally and socially, perhaps a recycled diamond is right for you.
Recycled diamonds were previously owned and then put back into the supply chain. Perhaps they were part of an estate or were sold when the owners no longer wanted them. Also called “reclaimed diamonds,” these stones may be antique diamonds that are recut and polished, or they may be modern cuts that are resold or placed in new settings.
Recycled diamonds receive GIA or AGS certifications, just like freshly cut diamonds that are new on the market. Generally speaking, the price of a recycled diamond is in line with other similar diamonds.
Consider Lab-Grown Diamonds
Some engagement ring shoppers avoid conflict diamonds by choosing lab-grown diamonds. Created in highly controlled laboratory conditions, these diamonds have the same physical, optical and chemical properties as diamonds formed deep in the earth. For some, lab-grown diamonds are less romantic. They haven’t been waiting in the ground for millions of years. For others, the assurance of an ethically manufactured diamond tips the scales toward lab-grown stones.
If you choose a lab-grown diamond, be aware that these stones don’t generally hold their value like mined diamonds do. Still, they can be an attractive option for shoppers seeking conflict-free stones.
Make Your Decision
Your engagement ring purchase will affect the people who have mined it, cut it, designed it and sold it. You can do your fellow humans a favour by insisting that the diamond is ethically produced.
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