Are you looking for an engagement ring to celebrate your love? Do you also believe that love is the basis of a humane and harmonious world? Then you probably want to avoid financing wars by buying a blood diamond ring. But how can you make sure your jewels are as pure as your love?
Blood diamonds are diamonds that have been mined in areas controlled by non-governmental forces and are sold onto the black market often to fund rebel groups so they can wage war, buy arms or deal in the slave trade. Several wars have already been financed by blood diamonds such as the bloody civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, resulting in the death and displacement of millions of people. Hence the name blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. They finance bloody wars! The Al-Qaeda terrorist group has also used blood diamonds to finance their actions and to launder money.
Often, the workers who mine these diamonds are forced to work in terrible working conditions. The Diamond Development Initiative was born out of a collaboration between governments and industry members worldwide to ensure miners work in good conditions. The organisation provides clean water, sanitation and education to the workers.
To combat blood diamonds, 82 countries along several diamond companies and organisations have united and created the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. A certificate from the Kimberley Process guarantees that the diamonds are conflict-free, and accompanies all official shipments of the diamond. So the first step in identifying whether a diamond is ethical or not is checking whether it has been certified by the Kimberley Process.
However, the Kimberley Process only ensures against conflict diamonds as the scheme does not take into account human rights violations outside of conflicts such as child labour, or tax evasion. Amnesty International is calling to governments and diamond companies to implement stricter regulations surrounding the origin and trajectory of diamonds. An Amnesty International study showed that large diamond traders in the Central African Republic (CAR) still buy diamonds without thoroughly checking whether they were used to finance armed rebel groups.
The two largest diamond trading centres are in Belgium and the United Arab Emirates. Both are members of the Kimberley Process and so have systems in place to regulate the import and export of diamonds. However, researchers from Amnesty International claim that the system is not watertight because of the large number of traders, diamonds and paperwork involved.
Blood diamonds still end up on the market. The United Nations' figures in 2000 show that 52 million dollars worth of diamonds left the Central African Republic for Belgium. While in Belgium, records show imports worth 168 million dollars from the Central African Republic… in other words, somehow the amount of diamonds imported is triple the amount that is legitimately being exploited! This is the result of diamond smuggling by armed groups bringing diamonds from the Democratic Republic of Congo through the Central African Republic to Belgium.
In Antwerp, an additional certificate has been created to better manage the diamond trade. The Antwerp Most Brilliant certificate obliges jewellers to meet strict quality requirements. The label ensures transparency, ethics, safety, durability, service and corporate stability for jewellers and wholesalers selling stones and precious metals. Every two years jewellers are also inspected by Kiwa, an independent research institute. This certificate, however, does not state the origin of the diamonds. Antwerp relies on the Kimberley Process certificate to do that which, as mentioned previously, is not yet watertight.
Large diamond centres around the world carry out too few checks, which means that blood diamonds can relatively easily be traded and sold globally. In 2010, a report by Partnership Africa Canada stated that Belgium is probably the only country in the world to carry out checks on top of the Kimberley Process. These checks are unfortunately too infrequent to completely eradicate blood diamonds from the market.
Lab Grown Diamonds are diamonds that are artificially made in a lab. These artificial diamonds are better for the environment and are produced in good working conditions. To the naked eye, they are indistinguishable from real diamonds. This just proves further how important it is to provide a certificate when selling a diamond to ensure customers are provided with correct information about their diamond.
When buying a diamond, pay close attention to its country of origin. In various regions of the world, conflict is maintained by the revenue from blood diamonds. We would strongly recommend avoiding diamonds from Zimbabwe, Angola, DR Congo, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire.
Countries which you can trust ethical diamonds from are Canada, Australia, Namibia and Sierra Leone.
Take a look at sustainable jeweller Nico Taeymans. He likes to work with rough, uncut diamonds. In 2018, for example, he designed the collection for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. His idea behind the collection was that a diamond can be beautiful and affordable for everyone.
Diamonds are often set in gold or platinum which is important to be aware of because the mining industry can be ethically and environmentally irresponsible. Read all about it in the first part of our guide to sustainable and ethical jewellery. The third instalment of our sustainable jewellery guide will cover circular jewellery and how recycled materials are being turned into beautiful pieces.