“Conflict diamonds,” also known as blood diamonds, are those sold to fund armed conflict and civil war. Human rights organizations link more than four million deaths and millions more displaced people to the trade in conflict diamonds. Blood diamonds became more prevalent in the 1930’s in Sierra Leone, where top quality gem diamonds were discovered without the proper infrastructure to safely regulate the mining of these stones. Many African nations fell into tragedy from the same double-edged blessing that Sierra Leone experienced. Today the illicit diamond trade is believed to fund armed conflict in Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and may finance terrorists groups such as al-Qaeda.
Siaka Stevens became Prime Minister of Sierra Leone seven years after independence in 1968. A populist, he quickly turned diamonds into a political issue, tacitly encouraging illicit mining and becoming involved himself in criminal or near-criminal activities. All important decisions were now made by the prime minister and his right-hand man, a Lebanese businessman named Jamil Mohammad. From a high of over two million carats in 1970, legitimate diamond exports dropped to 595,000 carats in 1980 and then to only 48,000 in 1988.
The ’90s movie Blood Diamond, with Leonardo DeCaprio, did immeasurable work to raise the awareness of Westerners who just walk into a “sparkly” jewelry store without any clue as to certain diamonds’ affiliation with war and terror.
In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution supporting the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. By November 2002, negotiations between governments, the international diamond industry and civil society organizations resulted in the creation of the Kimberley Process Certification System, a document that sets out the requirements for controlling rough diamond production and trade. The KPCS went into force in 2003, when participating countries started to implement its rules.
The Kimberley Process requires that all diamonds transported across borders must be accompanied by a certificate that they did not fund conflict. To date, there are 54 participants representing 81 countries with the European Union and its member states counting as a single participant.
With new awareness and widespread cooperation of nearly all of the diamond industry, your chances of purchasing a blood diamond today would actually be very slim. Eli Izhakoff, Chairman and CEO of the New York-based World Diamond Council says, “We have to start by knowing that 99.8 percent of all diamonds coming into the market are conflict free. Everyone agrees on that number.”
That being said, is there any way to know for certain that the stone you are about to purchase is conflict free? The only way to be 100 percent certain is when a diamond is laser-inscribed at the mine where it came from and registered as conflict free. This practice is not very common as the cost is sometimes prohibitive. So the honest answer is usually there is no definitive way to tell. But here are a few tips to increase your chances of staying clear of blood diamonds: Only buy from a reputable jeweler whom you know and trust. Ask to see the company’s policy on conflict diamonds. If you are still concerned that the consummation of your new marriage shouldn’t commence with conflict, perhaps choose a colored gem which is far less likely to have been involved in war.
Garden State Jewelers have been serving the community since 2005. Their success is based on treating each customer with respect and honesty. Stop in or visit them online at www.gardenstatejewelers.