How do I Avoid “Blood Diamonds” or “Conflict Diamonds”?

October 31, 2011

While the typical retail buyer of diamond jewelry isn’t concerned with wars in Africa when at the jewelry counter, it is important for everyone to have some awareness that in the past, trade in rough diamonds have financed rebel wars that have caused untold amounts of suffering. Thanks to concerted international action, when consumers go to buy diamonds, they can be reasonably assured that their purchase is not being used to purchase arms in conflict-torn countries.


There was a time when someone went to buy diamond jewelry, there was significant chance that their purchase was the end of the line for a diamond that was mined by hand in a poverty stricken country in the midst of civil war. In 1999, one of the leading exporters of what came to be known as “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds” was UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), a political party that was engaged in a vicious civil war in Angola. The role of the diamond trade in financing the Angolan civil war was exposed in a report by Global Witness, which highlighted that the global diamond market was largely controlled by one company in one city — De Beers in Antwerp.


Even though U.N. resolutions were in place that banned the sale of blood diamonds from places like Angola, there was no way for a diamond buyer to know where a diamond came from, even if it was common knowledge that a trader was dealing with UNITAS. After Global Witness published its report, the international diamond industry began to hold meetings to address ways to strengthen record keeping to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds. In 2002, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was adopted as a means of certifying that a diamond does not come from a banned conflict zone.


Since 2002, all major diamond producing and trading countries have joined the Kimberley Process and the trade in conflict diamonds has been drastically cut to the point that the typical consumer can be rest assured that they are not financing a war in Africa.


The Kimberley Process has also helped poor countries to develop their legitimate diamond trade. Sierra Leone, which was once a source of conflict diamonds, joined the Kimberley Process in 2007 and now has a thriving and legitimate diamond trade that is helping to reduce poverty in the country.


Of course, if you are looking to buy “conflict free” diamonds, one way to do so is to buy an older or estate jewelry piece.

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