Blood Diamonds: A Stain on the Gemstone Industry

Blood Diamonds

Diamonds, for many, represent love, luxury, and a symbol of commitment. But for some countries in Africa, diamonds have come to be known a different name: blood diamond.

Blood diamonds are diamonds mined in war zones and used to fund armed rebel groups or repressive governments. These conflicts have resulted in millions of deaths, displaced populations, and horrific human rights abuses.

The 1990s saw brutal civil wars erupt in Angola, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all fueled the illegal diamond trade. Forced labor, violence, and child soldiery became tragically intertwined with the mining of these precious stones.

Raising awareness and seeking solutions

The international community was not blind to this issue. Organizations like Global Witness brought the world’s attention to the devastating consequences of blood diamonds. Their 1998 report, “A Rough Trade,” exposed the role of diamonds in funding the Angolan civil war.

In response, the diamond industry, along with governments and NGOs, established the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2003. This international system aimed to certify the origin of diamonds and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream market.

Has the Kimberley Process been effective?

The Kimberley Process has undoubtedly played a role in reducing the trade in blood diamonds. However, challenges remain. The system relies on self-reporting participating countries lab grown diamonds, and critics argue it has loopholes that allow conflict diamonds to slip through.

For example, the definition of a conflict diamond is narrow, focusing solely on those used to fund wars against legitimate governments. This excludes situations where diamonds fund human rights abuses governments themselves. Additionally, corruption and smuggling make it difficult to fully track the origin of diamonds.

The fight for ethical diamonds

Consumers today have a greater awareness of the ethical implications of their diamond purchases. Many jewelers are committed to selling conflict-free diamonds and can provide certification from organizations like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

Looking ahead, continued vigilance is necessary. Consumers can demand ethical sourcing from jewelers and support organizations working to reform the diamond industry. Governments and the Kimberley Process need to address the scheme’s shortcomings and ensure that diamonds truly represent love and celebration, not violence and suffering.