In 2006, a political war thriller film, Blood Diamond, brought our attention to Sierra Leone’s plight. Their predicament – being enslaved to harvest diamonds during the time of significant political unrest.
In one way or another, this movie helped publicized the controversy regarding conflict-diamonds. It raised worldwide awareness of the Western African involvement in the diamond trade and how ruthless this kind of exchange is.
Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, the fact remains that conflict-free diamonds are a way better option to go in diamond shopping. But what are they? And why are they called the “ethical choice?” In this write-up, we’ll answer that and a lot more.
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What Are Conflict-Free Diamonds?
Before Blood Diamond came out, not many people cared about where the diamond they are buying came from. Now, when shopping for a piece of jewelry with a diamond in it, you would watch where it came from. At times you might be greeted with reluctance, but it had to be asked.
Why? Because it is an ethical choice to go for a conflict-free diamond.
But, what is a conflict-free diamond?
A conflict-free diamond is mined and shipped with no association to any rebel or terror groups that run the diamond’s illegal trade – like what was depicted in the Blood Diamond.
Conflict diamonds, or often known as blood diamonds, are those that came from war-torn areas. Brutal tactics like slavery, smuggling, and illegal selling of diamonds define blood diamonds. No one would want to buy diamonds from traders with mining practices highly opposed.
Conflict-free diamonds go through procedures and agreements that conform to specific ethical standards. They are cruelty-free and are safely mined. When you pick a conflict-free diamond, it means you are getting one that followed the Kimberly Process that keeps you and your stone from any societal and environmental harm.
The Kimberley Process
Established in 2003, the KPCS or the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme prevents conflict diamonds from taking the mainstream rough diamond market. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution put it into place following recommendations in the Fowler report.
The Kimberley Process is named after the Northern Cape province in South Africa, Kimberley. The province was where the representatives of Southern African diamond-producing countries met to address the global diamond industry’s threat.
KPCS united governments and many different civil society groups in eradicating conflict diamonds. Under the Kimberley Process, conflict diamonds are defined as; “rough diamonds used to finance wars against governments worldwide.”
This United Nations mandate has about 56 participants, all of which are responsible for stemming 99.8% of conflict diamonds’ large-scale production. Any country that wants to be a participant must guarantee that any diamond from their country does not finance nor support any rebel group.
How The Kimberley Process Works
The multilateral trade regime that the United Nations established in 2003 aimed to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds. They do this by laying out a System of Warranties for diamonds that have been endorsed by every KPCS participant.
Under the KPCS System of Warranties, all buyers and sellers of rough and polished diamonds should make the KPCS affirmative statement on all of its invoices:
“The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. The seller as a result of this guarantees that these diamonds are conflict-free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.”
It is considered a violation if the supplier’s sales invoice fails to issue this warranty declaration unless it can be corroborated by warranty invoices received for purchases. In the System of Warranties, the diamond industry organizations and their members should:
- Trade only with companies that include warranty declarations on their invoices
- Not buy diamonds from suspect sources or unknown suppliers, or which originate in countries that have not implemented the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme
- 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
- Not buy diamonds 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 territory unless they have been exported from such region in compliance with the KPCS
- Not knowingly buy, sell, or assist others in buying or selling conflict diamonds
- 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
The intricacies of diamond trading may result in the stones changing hands multiple times – from miners to different wholesalers, diamond cutters, and finally to retailers. Each trader must certify that their diamond parcel complies with the Kimberley Process at every step of the way.
There is a high possibility that conflict diamonds get mixed into these diamond parcels at one point or another. For that, all we have to rely on is the word of the traders. Nevertheless, KPCS works most of the time, and the unlikelihood of any diamond compliant with it is a conflict diamond.
Conflict-Free and Ethical Diamonds
Picking a conflict-free diamond engagement ring means you are supporting ethical diamond mining practices. As with most countries, jewelers offer only conflict-free diamonds in the US as it is illegal to sell and trade conflict diamonds.
Some jewelers even exert their efforts a notch higher to guarantee that the diamond they have is mined and shipped ethically.
What does “ethically mined” mean, you may ask.
Although the Kimberley Process drastically diminished the figures and viability of conflict diamonds, buyers should still be aware that the diamonds won’t always meet the highest ethical standards. In Africa, for example, artisanal miners are by and large very poor and utilize simple equipment.
Since they are small-scale, they often operate beyond the bounds of legal standards. Their working environments can be unsafe. Not to mention the process they do may cause substantial environmental degradation. Occasionally, child labor may even be present.
This is the main reason that you should always be careful about where to shop for diamonds and engagement rings. Choose a trustworthy vendor known for ethically sourced diamonds. You can sleep well at night knowing your stone is conflict-free and ethically sourced.
Diamond Development Initiative
Since artisanal mining is still customary in some regions, the doubt whether you are getting an ethically mined diamond is still there. Thus, if you are looking at getting a diamond but are concerned about contributing to arsenal diamond mining, you may donate to the DDI.
DDI or Diamond Development Initiative works to harness diamonds’ capacity to aid cooperatives of artisanal and small-scale miners in obtaining a brighter future for themselves and their communities. It brings the largely unregulated and informal sector into the formal economy in ways that can benefit not just their community but also the diamond industry.
Conflict-Free Diamond Options
Finding conflict-free diamonds faces you with a few challenges, but there are always other choices. You can get a diamond without feeling like you are violating human rights. All while helping make the world a better place.
Canada has some of the authoritative and firmest guidelines in sourcing diamonds that all of them contain an actual inscription. Canada’s Dominion Diamond Mines runs a fully audited process to guarantee they only produce the most ethically mined diamonds.
Diamonds from Canada possess a unique serial number that you can input on their online database to confirm your diamond’s legitimacy. However, be cautious of diamonds marketed as Canadian origin without the Canadamark certificate.
While these diamonds’ origin is certified by the seller, the audit may not be as trustworthy as the Canadamark process. Moreover, even when they are true of Canadian origin, they could be cut and polished in other countries like India, where workplace safety and fair wages aren’t guaranteed.
Canada Diamonds may come with a premium price. But, you wouldn’t put a price on having peace of mind, would you?
Recycled diamonds are also a highly viable option for your engagement ring. These diamonds are previously owned and put back into the diamond supply chain. Since they are recycled and refashioned, they are not newly mined, leaving nearly zero environmental and social impact.
Heirloom diamonds are also considered recycling. Since they are passed on from generation to generation, they are, in every essence, recycled.
However, heirloom diamonds are not guaranteed to be conflict-free, especially for old stones that are nearly impossible to locate the origin. Nonetheless, this kind of diamond spares one more diamond from potentially being mined unethically.
In recent years, enterprises have been trying blockchain technologies for tracing diamonds from mine to market. This technology behind bitcoin forms a chain of information that is almost impossible to manipulate falsely.
Blockchains fitted for the diamond industry are steady and robust supply chain verifiers. But, most of them are still in the developmental phase. For instance, Everledger, a company that has begun tracking diamonds, has sample reports that show diamonds from a Botswana sort to a GIA grade report.
This process is undoubtedly an excellent start for transparency in the diamond mining industry as tracking would begin at the mine in an ideal world. For now, from mine to rough sort, the only reliable source to rely upon is the Kimberley Process.
Laboratory-created diamonds stand as another option in your search for ethical diamonds. They are chemically and optically impossible to tell apart from a mined diamond. They are as beautiful and durable as the mined ones.
Recently, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) declared that lab-grown diamonds are “real” diamonds. Therefore, when you pick a lab-created diamond, you get the real thing – one that is indistinguishable to the naked eye, and just with an unusual origin.
Another optimal alternative came into the picture for conflict-free diamonds – the Kalahari Dream. They are 100% ethically sourced. And, the program fully supports African communities that rely on the diamond industry.
The Kalahari Dream is a mission embarked upon by De Beers. The process is to sell diamonds directly to the consumer. These diamonds are directly sourced from South African mining companies like Lucara, Debswana, and ODC.
Originally found in ancient meteorites some centuries ago, Moissanites are the closest stone to a diamond. While they are not technically a diamond, they can be a better alternative since they are entirely conflict-free.
Moissanites are crafted in laboratories due to their rarity. With absolutely no risk posed to the environment and no negative social impact, many buyers prefer them. Plus, they are a lot more affordable compared to a diamond or even lab-created ones.
Where To Buy Conflict-Free Diamonds?
Conflict-free diamonds can be hard to steer clear of. But not if you equip yourself with knowledge about them. To make it easy, go for trustworthy and reputable vendors committed to choosing ethically sourced diamonds only.
James Allen strictly adheres to the Kimberley Process for every diamond they release. Not only that, but they also observe the Patriot Act and the United Nations Resolutions. Their suppliers’ binding contracts guarantee that the stones acquired comply with all applicable laws and are 100% conflict-free.
Blue Nile’s Conflict-Free Diamond Policy states that the company has zero-tolerance toward conflict diamonds. The company only acquires diamonds from the largest and most respected suppliers known to enforce the Kimberley Process standards.
Valerie Madison’s diamonds are sourced in compliance with the UN and the KPCS. The company trades with reputable dealers globally that don’t work nor support shady operations. Aside from that, they also offer other alternatives like Moissanite, lab-created, and Canadian Origin diamonds.
There is more to diamond shopping than just looking if they are eye clear or well-cut. Behind every diamond mined are environmental and human concerns to be considered. Diamond harvesting has brought severe damage to the environment, but it has, throughout history, fueled conflict in war-torn areas.
If you are socially conscious, the right piece of jewelry for you is sourced ethically. There is a wide range of conflict-free stones, all stunning and affordable. Although 99% of diamonds in the marketplace today are conflict-free, it is still wise to arm yourself with knowledge about them when looking for one.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Is it illegal to own a blood diamond?
A: In the US, the law makes it illegal to buy or sell blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. However, there are still retailers who do not comply with this law. Even without the law that prohibits the selling and buying of such stones, it is always up to you if you get wrapped up in the size and sparkle of the diamond. Turning a blind eye to the darker side of these dazzling gems is quite a burden to carry.