“Diamonds are forever…”
“Diamonds are a girls best friend…”
We’re all very familiar with these lines…and, most (I’m hoping) are somewhat familiar with what “conflict diamonds” are. Diamonds are extremely prevalent in our culture…every Valentines Day or Christmas, we are inundated with Jewelry commercials urging us to ‘buy her that necklace that will last a lifetime‘ or ‘finally pop the question and WOW her with a diamond engagement ring‘. The United States is by-in-large the highest consumer of diamonds in the world.
So–lets start first by defining what a “non-conflict diamond” is…and with that, lets first discuss what a “conflict diamond” is.
In relation to diamond trading, conflict diamond (also called a converted diamond,blood diamond, hot diamond, or a war diamond) refers to a diamond mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army’s war efforts, or a warlord‘s activity, usually in Africa where around two-thirds of the world’s diamonds are extracted.
From countries like Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Ivory Coast and Congo – diamonds have been used to fund wars, coup d’etat, weapons trafficking and unlimited amounts of Human Rights violations including enslavement, dismemberment and death. Then, around the year 2000, came the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)
Some diamonds have helped fund devastating civil wars in Africa, destroying the lives of millions. Conflict diamonds are those sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war. Profits from the trade in conflict diamonds, worth billions of dollars, were used by war lords and revels to buy arms during the devastating wars in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sierra Leon. Wars that have cost an estimated 3.7 million lives.
While the wars in Angola and Sierra Leone are now over, and fighting in the DRC has decreased, the problem of conflict diamonds hasn’t gone away. Diamonds mined in rebel-held areas in Côte d’Ivoire, a West African country in the midst of a volatile conflict, are reaching the international diamond market. Conflict diamonds from Liberia are also being smuggled into neighboring countries and exported as part of the legitimate diamond trade.
Then, around the year 2000, came the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)
The process was established in 2003 to prevent diamond sales from financing rebellious movements. The certification scheme aims at preventing “blood diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market. It was set up to assure consumers that by purchasing diamonds they were not financing war and human rights abuses.
The idea is to regulate the diamond market – placing sanctions on countries whom are not abiding by the United Nations-backed KPCS regulations. This has had an incredible effect in forcing countries, who wish to have an active open trading market for their diamonds, to be transparent with their activities in obtaining these diamonds & trading them.
If you purchase a “conflict free” diamond today, this is what your new jewelry has been approved through. This process allows you to get your bling-bling with confidence that you aren’t directly effecting any conflicts in these diamond rich countries.
But what about indirectly?
Lets think about it this way: what drives Diamonds to be apart of this phenomenon that allows trade for massive weapons trafficking or genocide or fully funding of civil wars? Why is there value here? Why is this small item able to fund and arm rebellion armies?
The answer I come to is: DEMAND.
The demand from the consumers (that’d be us) is what makes these items so incredibly powerful.
With knowledge that we won’t be able to 100% stop conflict diamonds from being mined and traded (perhaps reduce, but not eliminate) – is that enough to comfort us? Are we ok that 10,000 children will become child soldiers or enslaved workers this year, instead of – say – 50,000?
“So”, you ask, “Sean, why do you claim ‘there is no such thing as a ‘conflict free diamond’??”
To me, the answer is simple:
So long as we breed a culture that continues to glamorize diamonds (even ‘conflict free’ KPCS-approved ones) – we are establishing an atmosphere in which diamonds remain in HIGH (multi BILLION dollar+) market. So, even if we all were responsible and asked our jeweler to verify that they are purchasing “conflict free” diamonds…or even being frugal and deciding to get that Cubic Zirconia
– we are contributing to the demand
for diamonds. And thus, we are indirectly contributing to the value of conflict diamonds, which continues to be a booming market despite the KPCS regulations (reports of Liberia, Ivory Coast and others simply trafficking the diamonds to neighboring countries for ‘legal’ trade).
Even your diamonds are “conflict free” they contribute to the atmosphere that empowers war lords and rebels to continue the Blood Diamond Trade.
Next time you buy a diamond from her:
EVEN IF they are considered “conflict free” diamonds…
Consider that you could be indirectly effecting her:
Just give it some thought, please.