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What are Blood Diamonds?

04 Nov 2020

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If you have watched the movie Blood Diamond (2006), a political war thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, and Djimon Hounsou, then you have a fair idea about blood diamonds. But if you have missed it, no worries, because I am about to tell you about Blood Diamonds. In 1990, the UN defined a blood diamond as, “Blood diamond, also called conflict diamond, is any diamond that is mined in areas controlled by forces opposed to the legitimate, internationally recognized government of a country and that is sold to fund military action against that government.” Besides blood and conflict diamonds, they are also referred to as brown diamonds, hot diamonds, or red diamonds. Their origin is mostly from three specific conflict zones in - Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone which was plagued with forced labour and the profits from the diamond sales used to buy arms for rebel groups. A need to recognize the origin of these diamonds developed with growing public consciousness. Since then companies like Tiffany & Co., Signet and De Beers’ Forevermark brand have instituted strict sourcing policies for their diamonds that address many of these concerns.

Tracing the Origin

Blood diamonds gained attention during the Sierra Leone civil war in the 1990s. The rival groups fought with each other to control diamond mining, resulting in bloodshed, loss of life, and human rights abuses – from rape to the use of child soldiers.

Consumers are now aware of how a diamond is mined, its impact on the environment, and related human rights issues. They are consciously making efforts to seek out conflict-free diamonds especially while buying solitaire rings for engagements or wedding diamond rings. But until 2003 how to buy a conflict diamond was not known. These blood diamonds once they are cut and polished, are difficult to verify and tell apart from any other diamonds. This happens since the diamond changes hands on average eight to 10 times between the country of origin and its final destination.

With this seeming large problem in the global diamond trade, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was set up to guarantee that diamonds are mined and shipped according to certain ethical standards.

Sad Facts about Blood Diamonds

Diamond trade had the most negative consequences in Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. We don’t exactly know if they are all true but if they are, then yes they are macabre:-

  • Sierra Leone suffered the worse war over diamonds. 
  • The rebel groups cut off people’s hands and feet and the feet of children if they did not find them useful after a time.
  • Close to 300,000 carats of diamonds were mined by slaves on the Ivory Coast.

The Kimberly Process Movement

The diamond industry pegged at USD 80 billion-a-year receives 65% of the world’s diamonds from African mines. In 1990s when the diamond trade began to escalate unrest and civil wars in African countries, the diamond industry took notice and in 2003 established the Kimberley Process.

It began in 2000 when the UN Security Council mentioned the presence of conflict diamonds in world markets in a report. It implicated and criticized two companies - De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. and the Anglo-South African Company which at that time controlled roughly 60% of the global rough diamond market for not verifying the origin of the diamonds.

What is the Kimberley Process?

The Kimberley Process is an international certification system designed to confirm to buyers that the diamond jewellery they are purchasing guarantees conflict-free diamonds. In May 2000, a meeting was held in Kimberley, South Africa, where the world’s major diamond producers and buyers met to address a growing threat by consumers to boycott the purchase of diamonds. Led by South Africa and Canada, they once again met on July 19, 2000, at the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp and passed a resolution to block sales of conflict diamonds.

The resolution contained:

  • An international certification system for the export and import of diamonds,
  • Kimberley Certification must be presented by the gem's owner or obtained from a renowned attorney before a gemstone is allowed to be exported to any country,
  • Accept only officially sealed packages of diamonds,
  • All individual trading from the diamond bourses of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses to stop immediately, and
  • Authorized criminal proceeding on anyone trafficking in conflict diamonds.

On March 13, 2002, the UN approved the Kimberly Process Certification and by November it was recognized by governments, diamond producers, and Non-Government organizations. Today 70 countries closely monitor the journey of the diamonds and receive a Kimberley Process certificate verifying conflict-free diamonds.

Advantages of Kimberly Process

i. Restricted the free flow of blood diamonds that consequently led to a downfall of rebel groups.

ii. Helped governments of the affected African countries to redevelop the nations after the civil wars, and sell mined diamonds at a better price.

iii. It has brought a large volume of diamonds in the legal market that otherwise was illegally traded.

iv. Reassures buyers that the diamond purchased is literally bloodshed free and ethically sourced.

Alternatives to Blood Diamonds

Lab-grown Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds, are man-made and created mechanically. They resemble diamonds in their chemical and visual characteristics but are not real or natural. They are cheaper than natural diamonds but also have a very low resale value.

Kalahari Dream

An initiative by De Beers, these diamonds are purchased from South African mining companies like Lucara, Debswana, and ODC who support African communities to earn a living, especially in Botswana. They are 100% ethically sourced.

Canadian Diamonds

While African diamond mines have been the heart of diamond business, Canada has entered the industry as a major source of quality diamonds. Since Canadian diamonds are mined with strict guidelines on labour practices and environmental damage, they are most ethical. These diamonds also carry a CanadaMark, a unique ID number to trace them from the mine to the vendor and final buyer.

Recycled or Pre-Owned Diamonds

Several recycled diamonds are antique cuts that offer vintage or European appearance. Other recycled diamonds maybe even recut or repolished. These repurposed diamonds marginally help to reduce diamond mining.

Conclusion

With the widespread adoption of the Kimberley Process, the worst of the African civil wars are behind us and the share of blood diamonds in the global diamond trade has fallen from as much as 15 percent in the 1990s to less than 1 percent by 2010. It is time to rejoice with the latest diamond jewellery collection without a worry.


About Rukshana -

Rukshana is a freelance content and communication strategist based out of Mumbai, India. She mingles her expertise in PR with comprehensive domain knowledge and creative writing skills to assist and propagate business, worldwide. Being a quick learner, she utilizes her diversified digital expertise to provide copywriting and content writing services to create highly profitable brands, products, and services.