Diamonds are beautiful natural resources, widely acclaimed as a symbol of love. The diamond industry has been successful in promoting these lovely stones as “a girl’s best friend.” This makes it very difficult to guess that these sparkling, brilliant, and beautiful stones could also have a darker side.
The diamond you are so eager to buy and possess may have a violent and bloody history; so it is important to ensure that you purchase conflict-free stones. In other words, you must make sure that the diamonds you buy have been mined under ethical and fair conditions, without causing any damage to the environment or violating the rights of diamond mine workers.
Our Mission – Stop Blood Diamonds
Our mission is to raise awareness of blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. Very few people are aware that these beautiful sparkling stones are stained with the blood of millions of innocent people.
Stop Blood Diamonds is here to promote the use of conflict free diamonds. Diamonds are a beautiful natural resource – together we can assure that no person is harmed in their manufacturing.
Diamonds are not a thing of beauty, but a wretched curse for the millions who reside in the diamond-mining areas of the world. They are the source of human rights abuse and untold human misery and suffering. They have been used to fund terrorist activities and civil wars. Objectionable diamond mining procedures have led to not only the destruction of the environment, but also the exploitation of millions of mine workers.
It is only recently that people became aware of the circumstances in which the diamonds they admire so much come from. As a result, they are now demanding diamonds that are not associated with tales of bloodshed, violence, and abuse of human rights.
As a result, governments and companies worldwide are taking the right steps in preventing blood diamonds from entering the legitimate and conflict-free diamond market. But this does not mean that blood diamonds are still not in existence. They still trickle in and mingle with legitimate gems.
The hapless consumer, therefore, can simply never know if he/she is purchasing a blood gem or a conflict-free gem. Our mission is to show you how you can avoid buying a blood diamond and making sure that your hard-earned money is not contributing to a civil war or a terrorist activity.
Blood Diamonds Defined
Blood diamonds also go under the names of war diamonds, conflict diamonds, red diamonds, or hot diamonds. The term is used to refer to diamonds that have been mined in war zones and later sold to raise funds for insurgencies, invasions, and wars. Examples for red diamonds are those that were mined during the civil wars of Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, and Liberia.
The United Nations (UN) has defined blood diamonds as those diamonds that have been mined in areas that are not under the control of any internationally recognized government and sold to finance a violent uprising against that government.
Blood Diamonds in Africa: Facts and Figures
During the last 20 years, a number of African countries have witnessed violent civil wars funded by the sale of diamonds. Some of these countries are the Republic of Congo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Central African Republic, and Cote de’Ivoire.
Groups have also fought violently against one another for control of diamond mining areas. The result of all this violence is loss of life, bloodshed, and shocking abuse of human rights ranging from the use of children in wars to rape.
According to experts, billions of dollars have been raised by selling blood diamonds to fund violent conflicts, civil wars, and terrorist activities throughout Africa. In most cases, these terrorist groups wanted to overthrow legitimate governments and establish control over the lucrative diamond mining areas. The National Geographic News reports that the conflicts in diamond mining areas have resulted in displacing millions of people and killing over 4 million people.
Let us consider the example of the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone. This illegal organization threatened, mutilated, and killed a large number of people living in diamond mining areas in a bid to control the mines. The group moved from one village to the other leaving behind it a trail of corpses, bloodshed, broken families, terrified locals, and mutilated people. According to the statistics, 20,000 people were mutilated, 2 million people fled their homes, and 75,000 people were brutally killed in Sierra Leone.
According to reports released by the US government and the United Nations in 2006, blood diamonds worth $23 million were smuggled into the market from the Ivory Coast and sold as legitimate.
How to Avoid Buying a Blood Diamond
The following are some easy ways to avoid purchasing blood diamonds:
Talk to Your Jeweler
The first and most obvious way to avoid buying a blood diamond is to talk to your jeweler. Responsible jewelers are supposed to know exactly where their diamonds come from. And if they don’t know this essential fact, you shouldn’t be doing business with them.
Your jeweler may claim that is not possible to know the source of the stones, but this is not true. Many companies offer diamonds with laser inscriptions that reveal information about their source. If you are serious about avoiding blood diamonds, you must understand the source of the stones you want to buy. If the jeweler cannot provider a clear answer, you simply should not purchase the diamond.
Purchase diamonds only from jewelers that implement the policy of selling diamonds mined in conflict-free zones. Also, highly reputed diamond retailers will have a report for each diamond they sell. This report is a certificate from gemological labs such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which provide details of the stone’s cut, carat, color, and clarity. Make sure that the stone you are about to buy is lab certified.
Highly reputed retailers also provide conflict-free guarantees for their stones, ensuring that the diamond is definitely not a blood diamond, but comes from a diamond mine that implements fair and ethical labor and trade policies.
Make it a point to purchase your diamonds from jewelers who are committed to ethical sourcing of the stones. Some of these jewelers are Brilliant Earth, Leber Jeweler (Chicago), and Hume Atelier. These jewelers are active in attempting to learn more about sourcing. In addition to demanding certification changes within the industry, they supply funds for organizations that work for the welfare of small-scale diamond mines all over the world.
Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)
Buying a KPCS certified stone can go a long way in avoiding blood diamonds. The members of the KPCS are countries involved in the mining and sale of diamonds, human rights organizations, and others associated with the gem industry. KPCS members have pledged to have nothing to do with diamonds mined and sold by terrorist groups, rebel movements, and the like to fund violent movements against legitimate and established governments.
Unfortunately, you cannot rely fully on KPCS as it does not exclude diamonds used to fund abuse of human rights and war crimes by governments. Also it is silent about objectionable labor practices and the harm that irresponsible diamond mining causes to the environment. Moreover, enforcing KPCS is not that easy and diamond smugglers always find ways to get blood stones into the market.
A better way is to look for standards that are stricter than the KPCS. For instance, Brilliant Earth, an online gem store, offers the “Beyond Conflict Free Diamond Guarantee” that is gets its gems only from environment friendly mines that implement ethical labor practices.
Countries to Avoid
Do not purchase stones coming from conflict areas such as Angola and Zimbabwe. Noted organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented shocking abuse of human rights at diamonds mines in these countries.
Various human rights organizations have shown that countries such as Zimbabwe, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola mine diamonds to supply funds for terrorist activities. If you come across a diamond from one such country, chances are high that it is a blood diamond.
However, you should also remember that all diamond mines in Africa are not corrupt. The diamond mining industry in Botswana, for example, is thriving. Diamonds are responsible for 75% of the country’s export profit and 45% of its government revenue. All this became possible because of a fair and responsible diamond mining industry.
While searching for conflict free diamonds, you should consider purchasing stones that come from countries such as Botswana, Namibia, and Canada. The diamond mining industries in these countries are known for their fair and ethical practices.
Purchase from Reputed Companies
Buy diamonds only from reputed companies such as De Beers, Cartier, Signet, and Tiffany. De Beers, for example, sells diamonds with a guarantee that they come from a responsible source. You may not be able to trace your De Beers diamond to the exact mine from which it comes, but you can be secure in the knowledge the company invests a lot of money for social welfare.
De Beers funds hospitals and schools around the diamond mining areas of South Africa and Botswana. It also funds mentorship programs that help economies based on diamond mining to shift to sustainable means of livelihood in preparation for a future without diamonds.
Companies such as Cartier, Tiffany, and Signet invest in Botswana based plants that cut and polish the stones, thus ensuring that the income derived from diamonds stays in the country and is used for the welfare of the people.
Buy New Diamonds
Instead of purchasing antique or vintage stones, purchase brand new diamonds as it is easier to trace the source of newer diamonds. This is because a number of countries are now taking active steps to prevent blood diamonds from entering their territories. They take the time to trace the journey of a diamond from mine to inventory to make sure that it was not used to fund terrorism.
The Kimberley Process has successfully curbed 99.8% of the blood diamond trade in the world. Since it was established only in 2000, any diamond that got into the market before that year could possibly be a conflict stone.
On the contrary, it is not possible to trace the source of a vintage or antique diamond. Your purchase of such diamonds may not fund terrorist activities, but the diamonds themselves may have a bloody and gory history.
Purchase Lab Grown Diamonds
Laboratories use a technology called chemical vapor deposition (CVD) to grow diamonds from graphite under pressure and heat. They start by placing small diamond seeds in vacuum sealed chambers. The seeds are then treated to carbon gas heated to an excess of 1,800 degree Fahrenheit. The heated carbon then crystallizes on the small diamond seeds making them grow to the desired size. The lab-grown stones are then cut and polished just as natural diamonds.
When you buy a lab-grown stone, you can rest assured that it has been produced without destroying the environment or abusing human rights. Since lab-grown stones strongly resemble natural diamonds, it is a great way to avoid purchasing blood stones by mistake. In addition, you will save a lot of money, especially if you are buying a lab-grown gem with fancy colors, which are easier to grow in laboratories than stones resembling natural diamonds.