What Are Conflict Diamonds?

The issues surrounding conflict diamonds are not well-known by your average diamond jewelry buyer, and one that is hotly debated by international human rights groups.

Conflict diamonds or blood diamonds are diamonds that are mined in certain African countries (as designated by the U.N. Security Council and the World Diamond Council) where there is continuing civil rebel unrest against legitimate governments and gross civilian abuses take place. The diamond trade in these areas (notably Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) helps fund the ongoing wars.

Monitoring by the international diamond industry is self-regulated and voluntary. Although some leading U.S. retailers, both online and off, have created their own code of conduct to ensure they sell only conflict free diamonds, the U.N. Security Council recognizes that there are several loopholes through which rough diamonds are traded in legitimate countries and which will be difficult to eliminate.

Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is an international coalition of governments, diamond industry and civil interests working on a viable, voluntary certification system to ensure that rough diamonds imported by a country are conflict free.

Some of the issues being discussed include implementing a certificate of origin system to track loose diamond trade, how to create a system of warranties throughout the supply chain, from the mine to the end retailer and the problems of smaller countries not having the resources to implement such programs. With international input from many sources, these issues are not easily resolved, but progress is slowly but surely being made. See the Kimberley Process for more information.

Should Conflict Diamonds Take The Heat?

While no one denies that conflict diamonds do fund rebel armies, many feel that the crux of the issue lies with the political and economic corruption behind these wars, and that the focus of global efforts should be placed there, and not on one industry.

Another issue to consider is that illegal drug trafficking and oil money also finance conflicts and destabilize poor governments not only in Africa, but throughout the world, and that the diamond industry has been targeted as they provide goods for a luxury industry.

The issues are complex with no easy answers. You will have to examine them and decide for yourself. If conflict diamonds do concern you, there are ways to ensure a guilt-free diamond jewelry purchase.

How Do I Buy Conflict Free Diamonds?

As a consumer, you have a right to know where your diamonds originated.

If this concerns you, don't hesitate to ask your diamond dealer if they can provide a conflict-free warranty for your diamond jewelry purchase. Asking for an assurance sends a very powerful message to the diamond industry. Jewelry retailers also will display information that shows they do not purchase conflict diamonds and you should ask for a Certificate of Origin if you have any doubts about their claims.

  • Canadian diamonds offer an alternative to conflict diamonds from Africa as the government tightly regulates their diamond industry. While Canadian conflict-free diamonds are about 10% more expensive, you have solid guarantees that no human rights abuses surround your purchase. Canadian diamonds come with a certificate and an inscription on the girdle of the diamond as proof of Canadian origin.
  • Buy a synthetic diamond, a way to own a clear, or especially a beautiful colored diamond at a fraction of the cost.
  • Ask the dealer if they comply with the Kimberly Process and will certify in writing that the diamond you are buying was purchased from a source that was not involved with funding conflict (notably Sierra Leone, Congo and Liberia).
  • Go vintage. If you can certify that the stone was purchased prior to 1990 (the year Sierra Leone and other conflicts started), it is decent proof. It may need to be clarity enhanced to improve the quality.

Conflict Diamond Resources

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