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Are diamonds really forever? A look at blood diamonds 16 years later

Everyone knows it takes pressure to make a diamond, and there is major conflict along the way. But the real question is: are we still wearing blood diamonds today?

The answer is an irrefutable yes. As the case with many large-scale cash cows, the money must keep flowing, and thus the industry persists.

But sadly, the diamond industry is one where you must pick your battles (there is no all-encompassing solution.)

blood diamond
Diamonds lay neatly upon a sleek glossy finish. (Credit: Egdar Soto)

Unfortunately, when big cash is on the line, businesses will find a way to keep it flowing (no matter who it may affect).

Thus, It is crucial to truly think about the diamond industry as a whole.

The phony blood diamond narrative

Many of the organizations involved with blood diamonds are not concerned with anything besides the quality of the diamond.

They simply position themselves as the authority in ethical diamond mining practices. In reality, however, the majority of the time these organizations operate based on phony narratives.

For instance, the Responsible Jewellery Council should be a driving force against colonialism and oppression when it comes to diamond source practices. Yet, their organization has clear flaws when it comes to governance, standards, and certification systems. 

In 2003, a process called the Kimberley Process Scheme (KPS) was created to reduce the flow of conflicted blood diamonds. The process, however, is flawed.

Many of its efforts are solely concerned with reducing the flow of conflict in blood diamond revenue to rebel groups, not the flow of conflict diamonds as a whole.

conflict diamond
A man wades in the water and sifts through minerals in search of the perfect diamond. (Credit: Sheku Koroma)

The KPS fails to address environmental harm, human rights abuses, and the perpetuation of violence surrounding blood diamonds.

There are easily-accessible loopholes to their verification processes such as the bunching method.

Since the KPS fails to certify blood diamonds individually, the bunching method is easily utilized.

Diamond senders will just mix in smuggled diamonds with other diamonds to reach the “conflict-free certification” status to pass the KPS standard.

Zimbabwe’s reaction to scrutiny

Since Zimbabwe faced much scrutiny for their diamond-mining practices, they merely forced all companies out and created one monopoly: the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.

This government-operated-and-owned entity forced thousands of families from their homes in order to create new mining turf.

Companies like these will mine at any cost whether it be through empty promises or infusing toxic substances into the water supply. The product of blood diamonds are the only focus. 

Groups fighting against conflict diamond mining

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) strives to intervene and create ethical practices surrounding diamond mining. They seek to institute rules for two different Zimbabwean sectors – large-scale and artisanal.

Large-scale diamond miners typically exploit their workers and operate much like a multinational corporation. Artisanal miners are small-scale vulnerable groups that mine for a source of livelihood

conflict diamond
Labor laws need not apply when the diamond is all they have their sights set on. (Credit: Alex Radelich)

Within the mineral value chain, ZELA hopes to develop a two-tiered system to divide between large scale foreign companies and artisanal workers.

They have the miner’s best interest in mind and aim to reduce unfair licensing fees that drive out the little guy and in effect promote illicit mining practices like blood diamond mining.

What can we do to ensure that we do not purchase blood diamonds?

Always communicate, engage and consult with your jeweler about the sources and ethics surrounding your diamond.

If your diamond comes from Zimbabwe or Angola, chances are that it was mined inhumanely as HR Watch and Amnesty International have consistently deemed these areas the most toxic. 

Buy diamonds from Canada as their environmental standards are rigorously enforced. Or buy diamonds processed within a lab.

Also consider supporting organizations such as the Diamond Development Initiative International because they are working to intervene and ensure best practices for small-scale diamond suppliers worldwide.