When we talk about diamonds, we always focus on the shiny side of famous rocks, but there are also some other things to consider.
There’s always the question of whether is there such a thing as an ethical diamond? There sure is, and if you want to know more, then this article is for you.
Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are diamonds illegally obtained by exploiting war-ravaged areas, mainly in central Africa, since the late 20th century.
So the biggest question is: Are blood diamonds still sold? And if they are, who works on preventing people to profit from someone’s misfortunes?
Our main goal is to help you find answers to these questions and to help you identify proper ways of buying diamonds, so you can avoid coincidental mistakes related to diamond purchases.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the sales of blood diamonds, we highly recommend you find all the answers to your potential questions below!
What Are Blood Diamonds?
Blood diamonds are diamonds that are illegally obtained and traded, with the goal of funding conflict in war-torn areas. They are also called Conflict diamonds, Hot diamonds, or Red diamonds.
As the Encyclopedia Britannica defines them:
“Blood diamonds are any diamonds mined in areas controlled by forces opposed to a country’s legitimate, internationally recognized government and that are sold to fund military action against that government.”
Most of these diamonds are found in central and western Africa, where the enslaved civilian population is forced to use primitive methods to extract diamonds from mud or gravel along river banks.
Usually, those diamonds are in “rough” form, meaning they have recently been extracted and not yet cut. Many men, women, and children in countries like Sierra Leone are used as slaves to extract blood diamonds.
These terms are used to highlight the negative consequences of the diamond trade in certain areas or to label an individual diamond as having come from such an area.
If you would like to know why they are called blood diamonds, you can learn everything about the origin of that phrase in an article here: Blood (Conflict) Diamonds: Why Call Them Blood Diamonds?
There is, of course, the question of how blood diamonds are transported from the warlord-controlled area of central Africa to the shops in Europe and America.
Blood diamonds are usually smuggled to first-world countries via established routes used by organized crime syndicates and are mainly sold on the black market.
There are reports that estimate that as much as 21% of the total diamond trade in the 1980s was being sold for illegal and unethical purposes, of which as much as 20% had its origin in conflict areas.
Countries like Angola, Sierra Leone, DR Congo, Liberia, and Ivory Coast, have suffered internal problems and/or civil war since the early 1980s, which created opportunities for certain people to exploit those problems with the goal of financial gain.
That is the period when blood diamonds first started to appear in international trade.
Since then, a lot of resources and manpower, provided by the world’s largest and most powerful countries, have actively worked on the prevention and identification of blood diamond production and trade.
Many international organizations are formed in order to reveal the origins of blood diamonds and to hold accountable people responsible for the illegal activities surrounding them.
Prevention Of Sales Of Blood Diamonds
Global Witness, an international NGO (Non-governmental organization) established in 1993, with the goal of breaking the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide, was one of the first organizations to pick up on the link between diamonds and conflicts.
Also, one of the most important steps in the fight against conflict diamonds is the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1173, passed in 1998, which identified the blood diamond trade as a “war funding issue”.
The World Diamond Council, an organization representing the entire diamond value chain, including representatives from diamond mining, manufacturing, trading, and retail submitted a report in 1999 saying that joint efforts of the world’s countries to suppress conflict diamond trade resulted in a reduction of less than 4% of the world’s diamond production.
Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler published the Fowler Report in 2000, naming most of the countries, organizations, and individuals believed to be involved in the trade of conflict diamonds.
That report resulted in swift action by the United Nations, and the UN Security Council passed resolution 1295, tightening the sanctions against UNITA (National Union For The Total Independence Of Angola), an organization believed to be tightly connected with the production and trade of conflict diamonds in Angola and surrounding regions.
In December 2005, the United Nations Security Council banned all exports of diamonds from the Ivory Coast in order to prevent conflict diamonds from making it to the western markets.
That export ban lasted almost 10 years before it was suspended in 2014 after the Kimberley Process officials notified the UN council that Ivory Coast has met the appropriate standards in the production of artisanal diamonds.
Liberian president Charles Taylor in 2003 was extradited and faced trial in The Hague on accusations of supporting insurgency groups in Sierra Leone while profiting from the conflict diamonds that were provided in exchange for weapons and equipment.
He was found guilty on all charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in April 2012.
While attempting for many years to construct a legitimate diamond mining industry, Liberia is still under suspicion for diamond production using child labor, according to the United States Department of Labor “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor”
In July 2000, the World Diamond Congress at Antwerp adopted a resolution to strengthen the diamond industry’s ability to block sales of blood diamonds.
The most important part of the fight against the blood diamond trade is undoubtedly the Kimberley Process. Read more about it in the next part of the article.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is the process established in 2003 to prevent blood diamonds from entering the mainstream rough diamond market.
The goal of the process, as described by the official Kimberley Process website, is:
“To ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments”
How do they do it?
First of all, the World Diamond Council created a system of warranties for diamonds that has been accepted by all countries and members of the Kimberley Process.
Under that system, all sellers and buyers of polished and rough diamonds must make an affirmative statement on all invoices.
Each company that trades diamonds must keep a record of all the warranty invoices received for purchases.
That ensures that all diamonds found in the market circulation are of certified origin, which prevents any blood diamonds from ever entering the system.
In addition, there are many principles of self-regulation adopted by the diamond industry organizations and their members in order to combat the issue of conflict diamonds.
Some of them include:
- To trade only with companies that include warranty declarations on their invoices
- To not buy diamonds from suspect sources or unknown suppliers
- To not buy diamonds in or from any region that is subject to an advisory by a governmental authority indicating that conflict diamonds are emanating from or available for sale in such region
- To not knowingly buy or sell or assist others to buy or sell conflict diamonds
- To ensure that all company employees that buy or sell diamonds within the diamond trade are well informed regarding trade resolutions and government regulations restricting the trade in conflict diamonds.
Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has established a number of working groups in order to carry out its programs.
As of 2019, there are seven groups working closely with Kimberley Process.
Are Blood Diamonds Still Sold?
Knowing all we have said about blood diamonds, the question still remains: Are blood diamonds still sold?
There is no real straight answer, but the closest one is: probably yes.
Despite all of the steps taken by more than 59 participants, representing 85 countries and represented by the European Commission, Kimberley Process members account for 99.8% of the global production of rough diamonds.
That still leaves 0.02% of the world’s rough diamonds unaccounted for, and probably coming from less than ideal environments.
Now, being as it is, it is a fairly small number, but that doesn’t mean that blood diamonds are history.
There is still a lot of work to be done on this front, and consumers and companies alike can take steps in order to ensure that their diamonds are ‘clean’.
Companies involved in the diamond trade regularly check their supply chains to ensure that they are not trading with diamonds linked to human rights abuses and other harms.
They also report on their efforts and findings, helping other companies to avoid trading in such regions.
These processes remain essential if we want to end the trade in blood diamonds.
As far as the consumers are concerned, there are a few quick and simple steps that can be taken in order to ensure that you stay clear of conflict diamonds.
We invite you to check out more about that in the following part.
How To Avoid Buying Blood Diamonds?
As we said before, there are a few steps you can take if you want to ensure your diamonds are conflict-free.
Number one on that list would be to buy new diamonds, not vintage or antique ones:
Many countries around the world make great efforts in order to suppress the trade in blood diamonds. U. S. included, they closely monitor diamonds from the time that they are mined until they end up in the jeweler’s inventory, insuring that the diamond has a legitimate origin and is not being sold to fund war or terrorism.
However, all of those measures and processes were not established before 2000.
Before that, there were almost no measures in place to account for the diamond origin, and the countries had no guidelines or regulations in order to prevent trade in conflict diamonds.
Any diamond that entered the market before 2000 could be a blood diamond.
There is no way to determine what kind of history antique diamonds carry with them or where exactly they’re coming from.
Another thing you can consider is to buy Lab-grown Diamonds:
Man-made diamonds are structurally, visually, and physically identical to the natural ones but are made in a lab instead of being mined from the ground.
That ensures that lab-grown diamonds are 100% conflict-free and also have little to no environmental impact.
Lastly, we encourage you to always ask questions:
Ask your jeweler where those diamonds come from, and always buy diamonds from retailers that have a written policy that describes their commitment to selling conflict-free diamonds.
Some of the countries known for ethical diamond mining are Botswana, Namibia, and Canada.
Look for the diamonds that originated there instead of buying one from a place such as Angola, Liberia, Zimbabwe, or Congo.
Finally, we encourage you to talk about warranties. Many retailers and jewelers offer their customers a warranty that guarantees that a specific diamond is conflict-free.
Blood diamonds are rare in the United States, but nevertheless, it’s important to be cautious and informed when making your choices to make sure you don’t end up with one of the less-than-ethical stones.
Blood diamonds are a bad part of the diamond industry history. And all we can do is hope that’s all it is, history. So, are blood diamonds still sold?
Yes, but they make up less than 1% of the diamond trade worldwide. Many of the world’s countries work hard to suppress the illegal trade and slave labor connected to conflict diamonds.
With the rise in the popularity of lab-grown diamonds, and raised awareness of many diamond purchasers, we can tell that the age of blood diamonds is coming to an end.
The formation of stable governments in central Africa is the biggest way forward in order to secure stability and legal mining in those areas.
As long as we respect the guidelines and regulations concerning the diamond trade, there is nothing more to do but wait until the processes set in place do their job and uncover the last-standing illegal mining and smuggling operations.