Some of you may have heard the term “Conflict Diamond”, or “Blood Diamond”, as in the 2006 movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. Conflict diamonds are diamonds that are illegally mined and sold to finance wars or insurgencies, particularly in Africa. It is never acceptable that a luxury item should cause another human being any suffering. I hope to arm you with information and questions you can ask to make sure you never buy something that has a pedigree less than perfect.
Every diamond sparkles; no one can just look at a diamond and tell you the exact origin. So how do you make sure that the symbol of your love hasn’t hurt anyone else in its journey?
What is the Kimberly Process?
The Kimberly Process is a UN-mandated system, and was developed by the diamond industry, NGO’s and interested governments in 2000 as a way to track and certify rough diamond origins. There are approximately 74 countries represented, with participating members adhering to strict requirements to import or export only to other members. The diamond industry states that over 99% of diamonds entering the market now (post Kimberly Process) are certified to be from conflict-free sources.
How the Kimberly Process works.
Here is a rundown of how the Kimberly Process and its System of Warranties works to keep conflict diamonds out of the market:
1. Mining: After mining, diamonds are transported to the Government Diamond Office.
2. Export: The source of the diamonds is checked to be conflict-free, then the diamonds are sealed into a tamper-resistant package, and assigned a Government-generated Kimberly Process certificate with a unique serial number.
3. Import: The importing government customs office checks the certificate and seal. If the seal is broken or the Kimberly Certificate is tampered with in any way, the package is turned back or impounded in customs.
4. Cutting/Manufacturing/Trading: Once a diamond has been legitimately exported and imported into a member country, it can be cut and then set into finished jewelry. Each time the diamond changes hands, a warranty must be provided on each invoice stating that the diamond is from a certified non-conflict source. Manufacturers are required to audit these records and keep them for 5 years minimum. Click here to see an example of an invoice with a warranty.
5. Retail: The onus is on the retail jeweler to ensure that the diamonds they stock are conflict-free. The retailers are provided a warranty on their invoices from suppliers that the diamonds are from conflict-free sources. The retailers are required to audit their invoices and keep records for 5 years. The System of Warranties does NOT require that the customer receive a warranty on their receipt that the diamond they purchase is from a conflict-free source. But with the warranties passing from mine to suppliers to retailers, and with accountability to auditing, it is hoped that this system results in a conflict-free diamond for the customer.
Questions for your jeweler:
Any retailer or jeweler can claim their diamonds are conflict-free. But here’s what you should ask:
Can I see a copy of your store’s Conflict Diamond Policy?
Do you get written warranties on all diamond invoices from your suppliers that the diamonds are from conflict-free sources (System of Warranties)?
Do you have any diamonds with certificates that outline their origins from mine to counter?
Do you have diamonds that are certified from Canada or sources other than Africa?
If in serious doubt, buy Canadian or Estate / Antique.
Canadian diamonds weren’t discovered and mined until very recently, and the government has tried to respect and protect the indigenous people and the sensitive environments in the mine areas as much as possible. Most diamonds from Canadian sources have certificates and inscription numbers etched into their girdles to mark their provenance. Some brand names are Artic Fox, Polar Bear, Canadian Ice, etc. A couple of mines, Diavik and Ekati, are also known for their especially strict environmental standards, so that is another bonus.
Another option is buy an estate or antique diamond, which could always be set into a new mounting. You can be pretty assured that a diamond mined and cut prior to the 1980’s wasn’t part of the political unrest in Africa. It’s recycling taken to a higher level.
So does the Kimberly Process work?
Hmmm. I am very glad that it exists and it most definitely has prevented a significant number of diamonds from falling into the wrong hands. Does it do enough? NGO’s such as Global Witness say that the KP doesn’t go far enough to make the diamond market 100% conflict-free. Ultimately it is up to the consumer to demand that the diamonds they buy come from sources where diamonds do not endanger people’s lives or fund terror groups.
We are headed the right direction. Let’s be conscious, ask questions and be accountable as retailers and consumers.