Recent years have seen consumers become increasingly aware of where their products are coming from, and the ethics behind them. This is especially true when it comes to diamonds. As knowledge becomes more and more widespread about the unethical situations diamonds are sourced from, there are more ethical and sustainable options arising that allow consumers to make purchases they feel comfortable with. This article explores ethical and conflict-free jewellery, why it’s necessary, and the benefits of the different options.
Conflict-free jewellery is a term that refers to diamonds that are sourced and transported in a controlled environment. Diamonds have long had associations with black markets, war and terrorism abroad. You may be familiar with the term ‘blood diamond’, referring to conflict diamonds that have been sold illegally to finance violence and conflict. The increased awareness of the potentially violent associations of diamonds led to certified conflict-free diamonds. Conflict-free diamonds have been mined and sold in the most ethical circumstances; with no associations with war or terrorism. This gives distributors and buyers peace of mind that their diamonds have no connections to inhumane behaviour.
Why conflict-free diamonds are important
In many cultures, it is common for diamonds to be given as a token of love, commitment and celebration – and yet, in diamond-rich countries, they can be a symbol of immense human suffering. In recent decades, diamonds have fuelled catastrophic civil conflicts in Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and more. The diamonds often help finance military and rebel militias, and rivals wage wars to control diamond territories. The result is often mass loss of life, abuse of human rights and tremendous blood-shed. As more and more become aware of the extreme violence in the countries that their diamonds come from, there is no wonder that consumers are demanding diamonds that have not been a part of this bloodshed.
How to know if a diamond is conflict-free
When consumers began to learn more about the dangerous histories of their diamonds, it became clear that there needed to be an intervention that could ensure conflict-free diamonds. In 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was established to protect the mining and transporting of diamonds and provide conflict-free diamonds with a trustworthy certificate. The scheme works by requiring rough diamonds to be transported across borders in secure containers that cannot be tampered with, along with a Kimberley Process Certificate. This prevents diamonds from being stolen and sold illegally along the way. There are currently over 70 countries that participate in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, including the UK and USA. Since 2003, this scheme has claimed to have reduced the global production of conflict diamonds by 99.8%.
Those shopping for diamonds should enquire with the jeweller to see if there is a demonstrable Kimberley Process Certificate, ensuring you find the perfect diamond for you, with the added peace of mind that it has no history of war and bloodshed. For added assurance, ask the jeweller about the methods used to mine and transport the diamond, checking that they were as ethical as possible.
The Fair Diamond Mining scheme in Liberia
The Fair Diamond Mining Scheme in Liberia is actively working to improve the diamond industry at its source. The scheme works by investing in a diamond mine and providing the local diamond miners with a larger share of the revenue. Much of the profits of the mine are reinvested to fund new and safe equipment, and reducing security risks. So far, the Fair Diamond Mining Scheme has reduced a lot of the dangerous work miners traditionally had to complete by hand and allows them to work through the rainy season efficiently. The further aims of the scheme are to improve the communities local to diamond mines, building homes and strengthening the community. Diamonds sourced from a Fair Diamond Mine come with an additional ethical impact compared to just buying conflict-free diamonds, as buyers know that they are strengthening a community rather than potentially weakening it.
Efforts to make the diamond industry more environmentally friendly
The public is becoming increasingly aware of the impact many industries are having on the environment – the diamond industry is no different. Mining and transporting diamonds can often leave your stone with an enormous carbon footprint. Consequently, diamond distributors and sellers have begun to take steps that aim to put right some of the harm done by the diamond industry. The Greener Diamond is a charity working to improve the environmental and humanitarian harm caused by the diamond industry, striving towards a more ethical and sustainable world. They create man-made, low emission diamonds, with profits going towards mining communities. The charity actively frees innocent children who are caught up in diamond conflicts and runs initiatives that provide alternative career paths for children in mining areas.
Why choose man-made diamonds
An ethical alternative to natural diamonds is man-made, lab-grown diamonds. These diamonds are still very much genuine diamonds, with the same chemical make-up and hardness ratings as the real thing. In fact, many expert gemologists cannot tell the difference between a natural and a lab-grown stone! These diamonds are made in a laboratory by recreating the same high pressure, high-temperature conditions that allow diamonds to form in nature. The lack of mining and global transportation means that these diamonds come with a much lower carbon footprint, and the peace of mind that the buyer has made the most eco-friendly decision.
Customers are becoming more aware of the impact of their purchases and being urged to make more ethical decisions. Awareness about the ethics of diamond jewellery is important for making more informed decisions for the environment and for vulnerable communities. Whether you choose conflict-free, fairly-mined, greener or lab-grown diamonds, you can rest assured that you are doing your bit to prevent the bloodshed of diamond mining overseas.