Where do diamonds come from?
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but ethical diamonds should be the first choice of any discerning lover of diamond jewellery. Sourcing diamonds from ethical sources is the best way to ensure that your sparkling new ring has not contributed to environmental destruction or conflict in developing countries.
An exciting and ethical alternative to buying naturally extracted diamonds is to consider man-made or lab-made diamonds. Free from conflict and child labour, man-made diamonds are produced in a lab by exposing carbon to high-pressure and high temperatures to form a diamond crystal. However, not everyone may find the idea of synthetic diamonds necessarily appealing; some people may simply prefer mined diamonds. If you are looking to purchase ethically sourced diamonds which are certified ‘conflict-free’, then it is important to understand how diamonds are sourced and what factors contribute to them being ethical.
Unethical practices in the diamond industry
Diamonds go through a lot before they end up on your fingers. Found underground, they are mined, sorted, cut, polished and put into pieces of jewellery before they find their way to a retailer. It is easy to forget about this long process and the potentially unethical practices which exist alongside it whilst shopping for an engagement ring. However, consumer awareness about the unethical practices involved in the diamond trade has increased over the last few years and created a new demand for ethically and sustainably produced diamonds.
One of the most troubling aspects of unethical jewellery concerns the procurement of ‘blood’ or ‘conflict’ diamonds. At a basic level, ‘conflict diamonds’ are diamonds which are sold illicitly to fund armed fighting. Countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone are some of the worst affected by the trading of diamonds to finance the purchase of arms. In the 1990s ‘conflict diamonds’ funded many wars in African nations, contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
In 2003, as a partial result of the Angolan Civil War, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established to stop ‘conflict diamonds’ from entering the supply chain and ending up on the diamond market. While the aim of The Kimberly Process (KP) was to ensure that diamonds which are KP certified are ‘conflict-free’, unfortunately it remains largely ineffective.
Finding ethical diamonds
In order to become Kimberly Process certified, organisations must adhere to strict safeguarding procedures and practices. These practices include not buying diamonds from sources or regions where advisory or governmental warnings about the trading of conflict diamonds have been issued. Diamond industry organisations are also required to trade only with those who have been KP certified and commit to transparency in practice and the exchange of statistical information.
In addition to funding conflict in war-torn countries, the diamond industry also contributes to local environmental destruction and the perpetuation of child-labour. In Liberia, the use of child labour in diamond mines and the channeling of diamond profits into war meant that the UN placed a moratorium on the mining, sale and export of diamonds in Liberia from 2001. The ban was only lifted in 2007 as a result of drastic new legislation, such as the Fair Mining Scheme and the Mineral Development Policy & Mining Code.
When looking to purchase ethical diamonds, the most important step is to find out where the diamonds come from and whether they are conflict-free. Easy alternative to ensure this is Lab-grown diamonds – also ‘Real’ diamonds.