“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” – Marilyn Monroe
We adorn ourselves in these beautiful minerals which – when polished and cut in the correct manner – show great sparkle and beauty. We have been fascinated with diamonds for thousands of years, and we have employed them as symbols of strength, innocence and love. Even the word ‘diamond’ comes from the Greek word ‘adamus’, meaning unconquerable or invincible. However, there is a darker side to these stunning gems…
Mining of diamonds
Most of the world’s diamonds are found and mined in developing countries such as South Africa. With the appropriate governance and rule of law, the international diamond industry can be essential to the development and economic welfare of these countries.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In 1989, civil war erupted in Liberia, West Africa, and it was then – in the early 1990s – that rebel groups took control of the diamond regions in neighbouring Sierra Leone. At its height, it was believed that the rebels brought in more than $125m from diamond sales, but all the revenue went to fund weapons and training. This war was responsible for the deaths of 200,000 people. It was not until the year 2000 that the Liberian president, Charles G Taylor, was accused by the United Nations of using the diamond mines to fund and support the Revolutionary United Front insurgency. In 2012, Taylor began a 50 year sentence for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
This is just one example of what is meant by Conflict or Blood Diamonds. When these beautiful and much-desired stones are used to fund wars and are sold for arms, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people. Illegal control of diamond mines in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Ivory Coast, and the associated financial gain are just more examples of how brutal wars have been funded.
In 1998, Global Witness, which is a non-governmental organisation formed in 1993, released a report called: ‘A Rough Trade – The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict’ http://www.globalwitness.org/library/rough-trade. This was written to initiate debate and potential action against conflict diamonds. It was further backed in the Fowler Report* in 2000, when an investigation by the UN led to the discovery that diamonds were carefully being smuggled out to Liberia from eastern Sierra Leone, and then leaked onto the international market.
Introduction of the Kimberly Process
The conclusion of the Fowler report encouraged the World Diamond Congress to adopt a new resolution in July 2000 which would help block any sales of conflict diamonds. With this, and the added pressure from Global Witness, diamond producing countries, such as South Africa, Canada and the US united and hosted many meetings over a 3 year period. In January 2003, an international diamond certificate scheme, known today as the Kimberly Process (KP) or Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was introduced. The Scheme imposed legislation which meant no diamond shipments could be imported or exported between countries unless they were officially sealed and accompanied by a KP certificate, guaranteeing the gemstones were conflict-free.
The Kimberly Process has managed to make illegal diamond trading a more difficult process, and many diamonds which would have once been transferred illegally have now made it on to the legal market. The revenue generated by the sale of these diamonds has been reinvested in poorer countries. The ban on diamond exports from Liberia has been lifted, and the country is now trying to build a legitimate diamond industry. Liberia is now a member of the KP also. In 2006, 126 million dollars worth of diamonds were legally exported from Sierra Leone, compared to a similar amount that went to fund the civil war back in the 1990s.
I wish I could conclude by saying the Kimberley process has been a major success and all diamonds are guaranteed to be conflict-free. Sadly, this is still not the case.
It is believed that some corrupt governments are still selling diamonds for arms, even bribing officials in exchange for fake documents, stating that their diamonds are Kimberley Process Certified and conflict-free. Despite some of the good that has been achieved, conflict diamonds still leak through the KP system, to the point where even Global Witness announced that it was leaving the KP in December of 2011. The non-governmental organisation stated that the main issues had not been resolved, and that some governments no longer showed commitment to the cause.
This article only briefly touches on the effects of conflict diamonds, and I hope that it may raise your awareness of where diamonds can come from, encouraging you to ask retailers if they know where the diamonds in their diamond jewellery are sourced.
Claire Hall – Senior Sales Assistant
Claire is the Senior Sales Assistant at AC Silver. Claire commenced her career in 1999, undertaking various roles within the jewellery industry in addition to successfully gaining qualifications in the field.