By Aurelie Sinclair
Blood diamonds – also called conflict diamonds – were once kept almost completely out of the US diamond market by the Kimberley Process. However, with the Process’ recent failings, more and more are finding their way into the mainstream supply of gemstones.
The Kimberley Process is voluntary and self-regulating. It monitors the diamond industry by placing labels on diamond shipments, certifying that these diamonds are conflict-free. This is meant to guarantee buyers that the diamonds they are getting are not financing human rights violations.
Unfortunately, there has been something of a problem and blood diamonds are finding their way into the hands of people who would otherwise never purchase them.
Diamond fields in Marange, Zimbabwe are the main source of these conflict diamonds right now. Hundreds of people – adults and children being held prisoner to work in these diamond mines – have been killed under the military supervision put in place by Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe.
The diamonds coming from this area are funding Mugabe’s regime. Not only this, but the prisoners are enduring torture, including beatings, dog attacks, and sexual assault.
All 49 members of the Kimberley Process must reach consensus over each diamond shipment before the diamonds in that shipment can be certified. Because of the human rights violations surrounding the Marange diamond fields, there have been restrictions over the diamonds shipped out from the area. However, despite disagreements among the members, diamonds are now being shipped out that do not comply with the Process’ guidelines because the president of the Process, Mathieu Yamba, has authorized shipments independently.
Jewelers and buyers the world over rely on the Process to make sure that they diamonds they are receiving and passing on to customers are not blood diamonds. With the failure of the Kimberley Process, however, there is a bit of a kink in this.
This means that jewelers as well as buyers are having to step up and take responsibility for the diamonds that they sell and purchase to ensure that they are not feeding funds into Mugabe’s political machine. It can be difficult to tell a fair trade diamond from a conflict diamond, but there are some ways to avoid accidentally buying blood diamonds.
How to Avoid Buying Blood Diamonds
First and foremost, do some research into the retailer that you will be buying from. Only make purchases through trusted jewelry stores and retailers that have great reputations. Even if you know that they have a great reputation, ask questions.
They should be comfortable answering any questions that you have when you tell them why you are asking. If they cannot answer your questions, refuse to, or appear uncomfortable with their answers, do not buy from them. Ask for a written guarantee that the diamond you are purchasing is conflict-free – if they refuse or cannot do so, the possibility of the gem being a blood diamond is much higher.
Ask to see the invoices that the retailer obtained from their diamond suppliers. You should be able to find out exactly where the diamond you are considering purchasing was mined from. If it was mined in Zimbabwe, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, or Congo, do not buy it. If anything about the invoices or documentation seems off, the jeweler cannot answer all of your questions satisfactorily, or you just feel uncomfortable, go elsewhere.
Keep in mind that there are many diamond sellers out there who will have nothing to do with blood diamonds. As long as buyers exercise caution and know how to tell the good diamonds from the bad, there is no reason to stave off purchasing them. The only way to determine that is to make sure that your dealer can give you a chain of custody with the diamond, from the mine all the way to his store.
If people are more careful about the diamonds that they purchase, it will encourage your local jewelry to support the best efforts in ethical diamond production.
Aurelie Sinclair is a former jewelry store owner who now loves to share information about her passion by blogging. She has been a longtime advocate of conflict-free diamonds and encourages people to buy their diamonds from trusted jewelry retailers like Birks and other ethically responsible retailers.
FJA is a forum open to a diversity of opinions in support of its mission. Any editorial expressed in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the views of Fair Jewelry Action members.