Blood Diamonds: The Conflict Continues

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It has been nearly 10 years since the movie “Blood Diamond” exposed the truth behind the sourcing and trading of diamonds in Africa. For those of us who did not know about conflict-diamonds, it was our first glimpse into the dark side of the diamond trade.

While consumer demand for earth-mined diamonds is starting to decline, conflict-diamonds are still entering global markets at a high rate. Between 2010 and 2014, approximately 48 million carats of confirmed blood diamonds hit the international diamond market and are now being purchased by unassuming consumers.

Measures, like the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, were taken mainstream after the movie “Blood Diamond” was released to relieve consumer concerns when purchasing diamonds. Unfortunately, 10 years later, we can clearly see that these measures were just ‘bandages’ put in place by the earth-mined diamond industry. It seems like the Kimberley Process has acted as nothing more than a marketing plan perpetuating the greed amongst the diamond monopoly, so they could continue to sell diamonds while turning a blind eye to the horrific conditions and rebel wars they are contributing to.

Conflict Diamonds

The ugly truth is conflict-diamonds are still an immense problem in today's society and exist in Africa as well as other countries rich in diamonds like Brazil, Russia and India. The Kimberley Process has failed them as well as us; new international policies cannot yet GUARANTEE a conflict-free diamond trade and rebels, governments and terrorist groups continue to fund acts of terror with diamonds. Sadly, since the victims are not stacking up as corpses, the current favored weapon of war used by rebels does not receive the same level of international reprimand. TENS OF THOUSANDS of women, children and infants are being raped and tortured by rebels who are still known to be using conflict-diamonds as funding. Not to mention that diamond mining communities are still among the poorest and thousands continue to die from the lack of basic necessities.

Conflict diamonds

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What you need to know

The Kimberley Certification Process (KPCS)

It’s unfortunate that retailers selling earth-mined diamonds still use the Kimberley Process to comfort consumers who have concerns about blood diamonds and it’s even more unfortunate that consumers are still buying into it. It has been proven time and time again that the Kimberley Process has failed. 

The main problem is that the definition of a conflict diamond is too narrow. The conflict diamond definition, as per the KPCS, is a “rough diamond mined in an area controlled by insurgent forces whose sale is used to finance anti-government military action.” This means that the diamonds mined in Zimbabwe for example, a country notorious for killing, raping and maiming hundreds of artisanal miners, are considered “conflict-free” under the KPCS. This is because, despite being mined under horrific conditions, they did not fund armed forces. These “dirty diamonds” are being certified by the Kimberley Process who label them “clean” prior to being sold to unassuming diamond consumers who think they are purchasing “conflict-free” diamonds.

And let’s not forget the environmental impact diamond mining has on native land and communities . Most consumers who purchase diamonds are not interested in (or haven’t considered) how diamonds are actually mined, what a diamond mine looks like or even how many types of diamond mines there are. And since the Kimberley Process hasn’t put any environmental mining regulations in place, the diamond industry has had no problem taking advantage of this loophole.

Consumers deserve to know about the environmental and aboriginal conflicts associated with purchasing mined diamonds. For example: ‘so-called conflict-free’ Canadian diamonds, as well as diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process, are often mined in environmentally fragile eco-systems, have significant ecological footprints and greatly impact local wildlife – a vital source of food for aboriginal communities. In Canada, the federal, provincial and territorial regulatory frameworks are inadequate to protect the environment from long term and cumulative environmental effects.

Read our post titled "The Kimberly Process Scheme...or Scam?" to learn more.

Today’s Diamond Consumer

Immediately after "Blood Diamond" came out, consumer awareness was heightened, however, diamond sales and production continued to increase, just as it does every year. It is only now, nearly a decade later, we are finally seeing changes across the industry - mostly due to consumer buying habits evolving.

Millennials are breaking traditions. They are not buying into antiquated marketing campaign, which has prompted prominent diamond companies, like De Beers, to take notice. As an example, in August 2015 De Beers cut its full-year production goal to 29 million carats from 34 million carats and has plans to cut diamond prices up to 9%. And with nearly 600 U.S. retail jewelry stores closing their doors in 2015, these statistics alone tell us that consumers are rebelling against conflict diamonds. Diamond mines are drying up and most of the world’s super mines have already been discovered. De Beers has forecasted, “unless major new discoveries are made in the coming years, supply can be expected to decline gradually from 2020.”

The most progressive movement we have seen, and something that most people did not anticipate happening 10 years ago, is the emergence of a cleaner, safer and truly conflict-free diamond industry. The grown diamond industry. While people have been experimenting with the technology used to make diamonds for over a century now, it has only been in the last decade that we have seen extreme advances in creating gem grade diamonds in a lab.

In this day and age, there is no longer a need to mine for diamonds. Diamonds can now be made in a modern-day lab environment that mimics the natural growing environment of a diamond. These diamonds are pure crystallized carbon, making them chemically, physically, optically, and atomically identical to earth-mined diamonds. And the best part –we know their origin, GUARANTEEING them conflict-free and more affordable, priced at up to 40% less than an earth-mined equivalent.

In a world of uncertainty, where there is still so much conflict associated with the sourcing and trading of earth-mined diamonds, will lab-grown diamonds be the answer? I believe they are.

Click to learn more about conflict diamonds