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May 31, 2022

What are blood or conflict diamonds?

Author: Becky Waldron

In an age where the conscious consumer is on the rise, supply chain transparency is more of a necessity, and ethical and environmental concerns are highly prevalent, every product, brand and industry are under the microscope.

Diamond mining is a practice that dates back many centuries, and while not always historically unethical, a report published by Global Witness in 1998 shed a much-needed light on the term “blood diamond”. Since the illumination of this unethical practice, the diamond industry has been tainted with complex connotations.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. While we’ll be looking at the history of conflict and blood diamonds, we’re also looking at how the diamond industry is gradually transforming, moving away from its dark past.

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A conflict diamond is that which is a product of insurgency. These diamonds are traded by a rebel group and used to fund war against internationally recognised governments, internal conflicts and other unethical activities.

Conflict diamonds are often mined by victims of forced labour, smuggled into the trade and then sold as legitimate diamonds.

Is a conflict diamond the same as a blood diamond?

These two terms are usually used interchangeably and are essentially the same thing.

The term ‘blood diamond’ refers to the often merciless behaviour that these extremely valuable jewels, and their trade, provoke. From war, to torture, murder and bribery, the diamond trade has previously been far from clean.

Both blood diamonds and conflict diamonds involve the illegal trading of rough diamonds, perpetuating civil war and human rights abuses across the world. Sierra Leone, Angola, Guinea and Ivory Coast are some of the areas that have been predominantly involved in unethical diamond producing practices.

While many associate unethical diamond mining with countries like Africa, other continents are also guilty of this harmful trade.

A brief history into the diamond trade:

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast

In 1953, Sierra Leone was mined by diamond group, De Beers, this was done legitimately until the independence of Sierra Leone from British rule in 1961. In 1991, a rebel group called The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) took control of Sierra Leone, resulting in a civil war that cost over 50,000 lives amongst other brutalities.

Throughout this time, The RUF exploited Sierra Leone’s diamond industry, using it to illegally generate funds and finance conflict.

After the United Nations got involved, banning exports of diamonds from Sierra Leone, Liberia were used to channel diamonds, exchanging the jewels for arms.

Ivory Coast also became a route in which these diamonds were smuggled, following an overthrow from the coup d’état in 1990. Despite illegal diamond trading being banned by the UN in 2005, the illicit trade still exists in Ivory Coast today.

Angola

Between 1993 and 1997, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola bought military equipment off the government of Zaire who were working with De Beers. De Beers admits that they spent $500 million on both legal and illegal diamonds in 1992 alone, while Angolians made $4 billion from the trade between 1992 and 1998.

United Nations intervention

In 1998, the United Nations became aware of the extent of the blood diamond trade and its role in funding civil wars in Africa. In May 2000, a meeting was held in Kimberley, South Africa bringing diamond producing countries together to talk about the state of the trade and how it could be tackled.

What is being done about the blood diamond trade?

Shortly after A Rough Trade was released by Global Witness, and the United Nations were made aware of the extent of the blood diamond trade, the Kimberley Process was established.

This was a result of the meeting held in Kimberley, South Africa in May 2000. Initially led by the South African and Canadian governments, The Kimberley Process is now a security council made up of the United Nations, European Union, World Diamond Council and 74 other governments across the globe.

This certification scheme sets out to safeguard shipping and holds regulated import and export controls. Members of the regime are certified to signify credibility when trading with others and must commit to being transparent in their practices. The scheme has been running since May 2000 and has been working to reduce the impacts of the blood diamond trade and what it finances.

There has, however, been a lot of scrutiny of the Kimberley process over the past decade, with publications such as The Guardian and Financial Times expressing their concerns over how ethical the Kimberley Process is. In Mining Review Africa, a co-ordinator of the Kimberley Process civil society coalition (CSC) said on the matter:

“While Kimberley Process certificates claim to guarantee the conflict-free provenance of stones, as a matter of fact the scheme only intervenes where diamonds are exploited by rebels to fight governments,” - diamonds contaminated with other kinds of conflict are largely unchecked, still making their way to the international market.

The Kimberley Process is a scheme that still is proving difficult to completely regulate and rely on as a means to end the harm found in the diamond industry. There is encouraging action being taken from a variety of diamond companies though, taking matters into their own hands and finding better ways to give people the jewels that they love.

Innovation within the diamond industry

The nature of land-based diamond sourcing is not particularly ethical or simple. That’s why you will see more and more lab-grown diamonds emerging on the market.

Lab-created diamonds have the same anatomical and chemical make-up of natural diamonds, making them no less valuable than mined diamonds. As land mining is taken out of the equation, the possibility of forced labour is reduced if not entirely eliminated. Without mining from the earth, plenty of environmental implications are also avoided.

Recycled diamonds are a more recent concept that take cut diamonds already in existence and repurpose them to be sold again. Although potentially originally unethically sourced, recycling a diamond helps to reduce bad practices from continuing within the industry.

This is also effective as, due to their indestructible nature, diamonds have no wear and tear, so there’s no compromise against the quality you might get with a first-hand rough diamond.

James Allen, Vrai, Aether Diamonds, Aurate and Matilde are just a few of the diamond brands working to make sure their materials are ethically sourced, recycled and/or lab-grown. These companies are demonstrating clear commitment to truly ethical jewellery and sustainable diamonds.

Sourcing from the sky

Innovation in the diamond industry is embarking into a new chapter. At Skydiamond, we set out to transform atmospheric CO2 into the world’s most solid form of carbon - the diamond. Our solar and wind-powered technology sources diamonds from the sky, preserving our planet and striving to protect those vulnerable to forced labour.

There’s undoubtedly a widespread want for diamonds, so Skydiamond are working to fulfil this desire in the most ethical and sustainable way possible. Working towards a sustainable future is not about eliminating the things we love, it’s about finding a new way to live, a better one.

Want to learn more about our diamonds from the sky? Take a look here, we’ve got nothing to hide.

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