Reputable jewellers source their diamonds from the world's best, most respected and largest diamond suppliers. They make every effort, as do their suppliers to ensure that they do not knowingly purchase or sell any conflict diamonds. They buy only from suppliers who warrant that their diamonds are from sources free from conflict. They are committed to the highest standards on behalf of their customers. They comply with the Kimberley Process. In 2000, the world adopted the Kimberley Process, a UN-Mandated process that assures customers that 99% of diamonds are sourced free of conflict.
Conflict diamonds or "blood diamonds" are diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments. Since the issue of conflict diamonds first gained notice within the diamond industry ten years ago, the flow of blood diamonds has been dramatically reduced, most significantly by implementation of the Kimberley Process. Ethical and conflict free diamonds are those that are mined in conditions free from blood-shed, child-labor and ecological destruction. Workers earn fair wages and enjoy safe and violence-free work environments.
The Kimberley Process, launched in 2000, is an international initiative to prevent proceeds from the sale of conflict diamonds from financing civil wars, rebel uprisings, and other forms of unrest which have led to the suffering of many innocent people groups.
The 80 countries that participate in the Kimberley Process agree to trade rough diamonds only with those other countries which have adopted the process. The Clean Diamond Trade Act of 2003 and Executive Order 13312 were used to legally commit the U.S. to the Kimberley Process, and established a framework for how the process is implemented. In addition to the Kimberley Process, the USA Patriot Act bestows more power to government officials to monitor worldwide communications and trade with the US. This act mandates compliance with the Kimberley Process for all U.S. jewellery distributors, minimizing illegal activity from one of the world's largest diamond buyers.
As mentioned, The Kimberley Process changed the way diamonds are sold across the globe by placing an onus on countries who source them. After the wars in Sierra Leone, the 80 countries decided they had endured enough and worked with the United Nations, the World Diamond Council, and the European Union to develop a diamond origin verification process called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).
Today, the KPCS is the industry standard, and 99% of diamond distributors adhere to its procedures. By streamlining legitimate diamond sourcing, the Kimberley Process has eliminated most conflict diamonds in the market and improved the economic development of impoverished countries.
The Kimberley Process requires the following:
That every rough diamond imported or exported be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate, sealed in a tamper resistant container. Rough diamond parcels lacking a certificate are prohibited from entering or exiting the country.
That rough diamonds be imported from or exported to only those other countries which participate in the Kimberley Process.
That all rough diamond imports must be registered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and that all rough diamond exports must be filed in the Automated Export System prior to departure, regardless of value.
That rough diamond importers and exporters must retain records of all Kimberly Process certificates for at least five years. In addition, an annual report must be filed declaring all import and export activity for the year.
As a result of the Kimberly Process, diamonds are now among the most monitored and audited of any natural resource in the world. The extensive certification process prevents conflict diamonds from entering the supply chain by isolating non-participating countries from the world diamond market. By depriving illegitimate forces of what was once a significant source of funding, the Kimberley Process has become an important factor in restoring civil order and economic stability to developing nations.
Reducing the flow of conflict diamonds from illegitimate sources has also increased the flow of legitimate diamonds from smaller, developing countries which otherwise might have been overlooked in the diamond trade.
The adoption of the Kimberley Process by the world's leading diamond producers and consumers has reduced conflict diamonds 15% of all diamonds sold in the 1990's to less than one tenth of one percent today. Conflict free diamonds are now a source of prosperity, especially in Africa:
65% of the world's diamonds come from Africa, earning these countries $8.5 billion annually.
Diamond export revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive a free education; unheard of in that nations history. Since diamonds were discovered in Botswana, the number of secondary schools has increased 100 fold.
Approximately 40% of Namibia's export earnings come from diamonds. These funds are a critical source of funds in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in that country.
After a decade of civil war, Sierra Leone was banned from the diamond trade in 2000. Within 3 years, the war ended and Sierra Leone had joined the Kimberley Process. Today, diamond export revenues are the single most important source of funds for the rebuilding of infrastructure, health services, and education systems in Sierra Leone.
There's few ways to be 100% certain you're purchasing a conflict free diamond ring, but here are some tools that can help you feel better about your decision:
Some jewellers can provide a Diamond Origin Report to review. Diamond Origin Reports are much like diamond grading reports as they list the diamonds's 4Cs (Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat) and denote any flaws. However, a Diamond Origin Report also lists the diamond's country of origin and provides a laser inscription of the report number on its girdle.
By knowing where your diamond was mined, you can learn whether your diamond came from a Kimberley Process compliant country. You can also visit the GIA's website to request more information on diamonds that have origin reports.
It's important to work with a jeweller you trust who can tell you all about your chosen diamond. Ask questions, take notes, and be sure to learn more about your diamond's origins to make an educated purchasing decision. Jewellers should also have access to the documentation required to back up their claims, such as any regulations they follow as a company or even Diamond Origin Reports to verify the stones are from compliant countries.
If you're buying a diamond online, be sure to check each retailer's website to learn more about how they handle diamond sourcing. Many companies dedicate entire web pages to explaining where they stand regarding the Kimberley Process diamonds and promoting safe diamond mining conditions.
Overall, the Kimberley Process has significantly cut down on the presence of blood diamonds. But, there are limitations to the process that leave some loopholes, and there are always people willing to exploit regulations.
In addition to forged documentation and member countries secretly trading with non-members, the Kimberley Process often faces human rights issues despite having the best of intentions. Child labor, fair wages, unsafe working conditions, and environmental destruction are just a few of the problems that the Kimberley Process does not fix simply by requiring diamond sellers to confirm a stone's origin.
To take responsible diamond buying a step further, you can always opt for a diamond that is certified as "ethically sourced". Much like conflict free diamonds, ethically sourced diamonds have the elimination of serious human rights violations at their heart. However, the guidelines imposed by ethically responsible diamond operations encompass a broader set of issues than the regulations put for in the Kimberley Process.
So what do ethically sourced diamonds protect that conflict free gems don't? While all ethically sourced diamonds are conflict free, not all conflict free gems are ethically sourced!
Safe mining practices and labor standards are a large part of ethical sourcing, as workers in non-unionized locations face unfair wages, work safety hazards, and even the risk of death. Child labor is another issue, as young people are forced to work to support their families and face unbearable conditions.
Ethical sourcing also covers environmental degradation, which is a major problem with diamond mining. The two main forms of diamond extraction are pipe mining and alluvial mining, and both put a huge strain on natural resources. Additionally, the carbon footprint left by both the human workforce and the machinery utilized in diamond mines is massive, causing even larger scale problems worldwide.
The Kimberley Process helped cut off the supply of blood diamonds, but ethically sourced diamonds are the only way to ensure everyone within the diamond mining process has a fair shot at a good life.
There are multiple other white gemstones and responsible alternatives you can utilize in your ethically sourced engagement ring. Below are some common alternatives for diamonds that ensure ethical practices:
Another great way to promote sustainability is by utilizing recycled diamonds. Recycled gems can include family heirloom pieces, antique jewellery, or really any diamond that you are reusing instead of purchasing a new stone.
There are also diamond dealers that offer recycled diamonds, which are gems from original pieces that are removed, repolished, and even recut. These diamonds can then be reset into any ring you wish.
Recycled diamonds are a great alternative because they do not drive up the demand for recently mined stones. Plus, by purchasing a diamond that was already mined many years before, you are not promoting unethical practices and instead are typically supporting a small business in the process.
You can get a lab-created diamond that is structured exactly like a natural one. Lab-grown diamonds are true copies of natural specimens, except they were made by humans through scientific processes that compress or collect carbon into their crystalline structure.
It's a much faster process than the millions of years of compression and heat needed to create a natural diamond, so the supply is larger! As such, lab-grown diamonds typically cost about 30-50% less than natural gems, making them more affordable.
Lab-grown diamonds are equally durable and sparkly, so the only real difference is their sustainability. No mining means no labor abuses or environmental impact! You can find lab-grown diamonds at many online retailers.
If you don't require an actual diamond, there are diamond simulants that can suit your needs without any worries about ethical practices. Many simulants are created in a lab, so they leave a minor environmental footprint and require little labor.
The most diamond-like simulant is moissanite, which is a durable lab-grown product that has more fire and brilliance when compared to an actual diamond. Plus, they have a unique quality of scintillation and are slightly more lightweight.
Cubic zirconia (CZ) is an incredibly affordable alternative to diamonds, and its lab-grown nature means it's always flawless and brilliant. Still fairly durable, cubic zirconia costs a fraction of the price of a diamond, with most gems ranging in price from $20-$100.
White Sapphire, is other alternative you may want to check out if you're not sold on a diamond.
Oftentimes, buyers decide which diamond they will buy based on their budget and what they can afford. Below are pricing methods for ethically sourced and conflict free diamonds as well as how to save money during your purchase:
Conflict free and ethically sourced diamonds do sometimes cost more than your average stone. Often, the extra money comes from the effort exerted to give local workers a fair wage, the lack of conflict, or even extensive processes or equipment used to leave a smaller environmental footprint.
Additionally, it's not uncommon for less reputable retailers to put the "conflict free" label on diamonds that have questionable origins and hike the price up 25%. As consumers become more cognizant of the atrocities of diamond mining, some retailers see this awareness as an opportunity to use conflict free titles as a marketing scheme.
In short, ethical diamonds come at a cost to both the seller and consumer, but they don't have to be expensive! You can find a diamond within your budget as we'll discuss below. Here are a few suggestions to save money on conflict free and ethically sourced diamonds:
In the list of ethical diamond alternatives above, we listed several types of stones that offer more ethical purchasing options. Most of these stones are simulants that are created in a lab and do not have any mining practices associated with them whatsoever.
Typically, diamond alternatives cost much less than natural diamonds. Because there is such a premium on compressed carbon that comes directly from the ground, you can save a decent amount of money by opting for a stone that sparkles "like" a diamond.
If you don't want to participate in the diamond mining cycle, try a recycled or antique stone instead. Recycled diamonds are actually one of the largest sources of gems nowadays.
Antique pieces tend to use old cuts that are much less common today. With no mining or environmental impact whatsoever, recycled diamonds are an ethical win all around!
A most certain way to avoid unethical mining or practices is to stick with lab-grown stones. Plus, lab-grown diamonds cost significantly less and leave no footprint in their wake. No alternative stone beats the durability, sparkle, and overall likeness of a lab-grown diamond!