This universal symbol of love and commitment does unfortunately have a dark side. A side we as consumers are never exposed to with the exception of possible seeing it being addressed in the movies or on the news.
The illegal diamond trade, especially in conflict zones is filled with problems rangings from the exploitation of labor (in some cases, children) to using the money for war funds.
Problems Related to Purchasing Ethical Diamonds
With the spread of information, people are now more aware of purchasing a diamond that has been sourced ethically and in an environmentally friendly way. The most prevalent problems associated with purchasing ethically sourced diamonds are as follows.
The Misleading Nature of Conflict Free Diamonds
You may have heard the term conflict diamonds also known as blood diamonds. This phrase was first coined in the 1990s when rebel groups were taking over mines in western and central Africa. Once the mines were in their control, the rebels would illegally trade diamonds for money and weapons to stage bloody wars against governments and civilians.
To tackle this problem the Kimberly Process Certification System was established in 2003 to stop the flow of blood diamonds. But the problem with this process is that it only ensures that the diamonds aren’t fuelling any rebel wars. It doesn’t take into account diamonds tainted by violence, environmental harm or child labor.
The Kimberley Process has duped buyers in regard to ethically sourced diamonds. Diamonds certified under this process does not take into consideration those who have mined or the environment and surrounding communities. Conflict-free diamonds are only regulated to ensure that they don’t fund rebels without giving other aspects any regard.
Most Diamonds are Not Traceable to Their Origins
As much as most people would like to believe it, most diamonds are not traceable to their origins like other products such as organic produce. The reason for this is that a diamond changes many hands from mining to retail and not all of them are honest.
Thought most of the diamonds mined today are done so industrially, there is still no reliable method to distinguish a corrupt diamond from an ethically sourced one. The reason being that despite the technical advancements, there is still no way to trace a diamond back to its original source.
What Should an Ethically Conscious Buyer Do
Canada isn’t the country that comes to mind when you think about diamonds. The main reason is that it is a relatively new source for diamond production. Diamonds were first discovered in the 1990s and Canada has now emerged as a major supplier of high-quality diamonds, many of which are able to be traced back to the source.
Though they may be more expensive, Canadian diamonds are mined in accordance with strict adherence to fair labor laws and environmental standards.
Do not settle on a diamond simply because it has been verified through the Kimberly Process or because the retailer gives vague assurances about the supplier.
Consumers need to ask questions about their diamonds and not settle for an easy answer. You can also ask for a guarantee of the diamond origin by asking for a credible certificate of origin such as CanadaMark for Canadian diamonds. Even independent bodies such as the Jeweltree Foundation are promoting ethical business practices in the diamond and are also able to issue a credible certificate of origin.
Know Your Supplier
Buy from suppliers that make a commitment to ethical sourcing and have a sound reputation in the market for giving back to the communities living around the mines. For instance, De Beers Forevermark diamonds are guaranteed by the company to be ethically mined following stringent criteria throughout the entire supply chain. Though these diamonds cannot be traced to the exact mines where the stones were extracted from but De Beers invests in local schools and hospitals around mining communities, especially in Botswana. Other companies that are known to engage in ethical sourcing and investing back in mining communities include Tiffany, Cartier, and Signet.
Thought it might seem like a strange option, recycled diamonds are the world’s largest diamond resource according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Recycled diamonds are gaining a lot of popularity nowadays, especially amongst buyers looking to avoid the environmental and ethical issues associated with tainted stones. They have no stark differences when compared to a freshly mined diamond. Recycled diamonds are often re-polished and re-cut after being separated from their original mount.
Synthetic diamonds or lab-created diamonds are great options for buyers seeking environmentally friendly and ethically sourced rocks. These stones are completely man-made and free of risk to miners or the environment while looking like real diamonds.
Countries to Avoid
You should avoid purchasing diamonds from countries like Angola and Zimbabwe where there are numerous instances of abuses in and around mines, verified by credible institutions such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
African nations such as Botswana and Namibia are good options for ethically sourced stones. These countries have a good reputation of ensuring that the income generated from diamond mining created jobs and promotes development. Laws that give rights to miners are also strictly enforced by these countries.
Buying diamonds is much like buying any other commodity or investment; you conduct your research and make a decision based on what feels right.