“Diamonds are forever,” sang Shirley Bassey in the iconic title song for 1971 James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever. Known as one of the hardest naturally occurring minerals on earth, diamonds can last, perhaps not forever, but certainly for several lifetimes. But it’s not this well-known quality that make diamonds such intensely coveted gemstones. It’s what diamonds represent—beauty, wealth, power—that make it so irresistible to many.
However, the diamond that people love and covet also hides a dark secret. Many of these diamonds are tainted by the blood of the innocent and the oppressed. They are known as “blood diamonds.”
Blood diamonds are mined in diamond fields in war zones and conflict-ridden areas to finance violent revolts and civil wars. Rebels and militant governments use force to coerce civilians to work in diamond fields. These blood diamond workers are subjected to beatings, sexual violence, starvation, and deplorable conditions at the hands of their abusers. Several nations came together to try and stop the flow of blood diamonds in the market; thus, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was passed in 2002. Although it helped poor governments earn more revenues and solve some of their problems, it ultimately failed in its purpose.
Since then, countries like the United States and Canada have passed their own policies against blood diamonds. As the country with the largest consumer for diamonds, the United States several policies to prevent the entrance of conflict diamonds in the country. In 2003, the US government passed the Clean Diamond Act, which enacted the KPCS in the country.
Despite the government’s efforts, blood diamonds persist to this day. As a consumer, you have a moral and social responsibility to do your part. By buying ethical and conflict-free diamonds, you help stop the blood diamond trade and contribute to these efforts:
Diamonds have a long and bloody history in Africa. It has generated billions of dollars to fund civil wars and violent conflicts in several African nations, including Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Zimbabwe. In 2008, over 200 Zimbabwean miners were massacred by the army in when they seized control of the Marange diamond fields. The years of wars and conflicts in the various African nations have already claimed more than 3.7 million lives, and they continue to subject millions of innocent people to killings and sexual violence as the illegal trade and conflicts remain.
Helping End Modern-Day Slavery
Those who work in illegal diamond mines live in deplorable conditions. Children as young as 11 and 9 years old are forced to do backbreaking work to find diamonds. Many of the blood diamond workers, young and old, die from diseases and injuries due to the dangerous working conditions. Moreover, it’s not just, rebel groups who are forcibly taking citizens to work in diamond mines. Some African governments exploit their people and commit atrocities in their diamond fields. When you purchase unethical diamonds, you are funding these organization and perpetuating this abuse.
Promoting Ethical Diamond Practice
It’s important to remember that not all diamonds are harvested at the expense of people’s lives. Legitimate diamond mines in Botswana has supported numerous lives in the nations. The flourishing diamond industry, where 45 percent of the nation’s revenue is taken, has lifted the country from its status as one of the world’s poorest countries in 1966. It’s not just in Botswana, but about 10 million people in the world are supported by the diamond industry. Revenue from the industry has contributed to the efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.
How to Buy Ethical and Conflict-Free Diamonds
The diamond industry has a conflicted history, but it has also uplifted nations and lives. As a diamond consumer, you can do your part to ensure that you support legal means to harvest diamonds by doing these things:
- Do Your Research
Know and understand where your diamond is coming from. Read about the history of diamonds, how they’re collected, and who collects them. While the United States have banned diamonds from conflict-ridden areas (which are the likely sources of blood diamonds), this hasn’t stopped illegal traders from smuggling conflict diamonds in other areas. Only when you’re educated enough will you know to ask the right questions to verify if you’re buying clean diamonds.
- Find a Reputable Jeweller
Ensure that the affordable diamond ring you’re getting for your proposal or your wedding is conflict-free. Find a reputable jeweller, who is transparent about their source of diamonds, as well as precious metals. Diamond miners are not the only ones who are exploited. Children as young as 9 years old are being forced in the Tanzania and the Philippines are force to work in gold mines. Make sure that your jeweller has legal sources, who don’t employer child labor or slavery for their products.
- Ask Questions
As a customer, you’re within your rights to ask the source of the product. Knowing how conflicted the history of the diamond industry is, your jeweller should be able to cautious about the sourcing of their diamonds. Consequently, they should be well-informed about the details of their manufacturers and suppliers, and be able to confidently track their diamonds to clean and legal sources. Ask about the path that their diamond takes. Avoid diamonds that come from Angola, Zimbabwe, and other nations that are known to collect blood diamonds and those that smuggle these diamonds from such areas.
- Don’t Accept Easy Answers
Probe into the source of diamonds. Be wary about jewellers who can’t give you detailed answers. This can indicate that they haven’t looked deeply on the issue. Like how the government has done much to prevent blood diamonds from the entering the country, illegal traders also do a lot to circumvent these measures. Probe critically, and don’t accept easy answers.
Diamonds are forever, but the conflict and suffering they fund must not persist. And it’s not going to stop until people proactively advocate against blood diamonds. It will take more a law or policy to stop the illegal trade and abuse of innocent people. Blood diamond are closely tied to the war and conflict in the nations where they are harvested. Until these conflicts last, people will be enslaved to harvest diamonds at the risk of their lives. A single person will not be able to resolve this issue, but every effort to purchase clean and legal diamonds contributes to the greater cause. Don’t let the brilliant sparkle blind you from the realities. Be a conscious and conscientious diamond consumer.