Conflict-free diamond

A conflict or "blood diamond" is a diamond mined in a conflict or war zone, with the profits of the diamond funding the ongoing conflict. The government or rebel organization controlling the mine sells the rough diamonds and uses the money to purchase weapons, training, equipment and other resources to continue their civil wars, armed conflicts, terrorism or insurgency.

By definition, all lab-grown diamonds are conflict-free.

Conflict diamonds: Historical Accounts

Up to the early 2000's, conflict diamonds were coming from numerous locations in Africa including Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo and Zimbabwe. They were estimated then to be 4-15% of the total world annual production. Over the years of raging conflicts, "blood diamonds" contributed to the deaths of over three million people, forcing millions out of their homes, turning children into slaves or soldiers. Those diamonds are still in circulation on the world diamond market.

With the termination of multi-year long wars in Congo, Angola and Sierra Leone in 2001-2002 the flow of conflict diamonds entering the legitimate diamond trade was significantly reduced. Simultaneously, a new international system to control rough diamond trade appeared.

Kimberley Process

Launched in 2003, the "Kimberley Process Certification Scheme" (KPCS) was established as a self-enforced procedure to regulate the international trade of rough diamonds. The Kimberley Process imposes a set of requirements that each participating government must meet.

Under the rules of the KPCS, each participant should 'establish a system of internal controls designed to eliminate the presence of conflict diamonds from shipments of rough diamonds imported into and exported from its territory' and, in addition, commit to transparency and the exchange of statistical data. Participating countries can only trade between each other, properly documenting and monitoring all import-export operations with rough diamonds. All international shipments of rough diamonds should be done in tamper resistant containers and accompanied by a Kimberley Process Certificate confirming non-conflict origin of diamonds.

As of 2010, there were 49 participants of the Kimberly Process representing 75 countries. They account for 99% of the global production of rough diamonds.

Since its introduction, the Kimberley Process has further stemmed the flow of conflict diamonds and guided many countries toward the right path, making them compliant with the KP minimum standards. Diamond industry organizations like the World Diamond Council claim that over 99% of all rough diamonds are being exported through the UN-mandated KP scheme1.

While the Kimberley Process is a step in the right direction for stopping blood diamonds, the system in its present form is not working to its full potential. Illicit conflict diamonds continue to enter the diamond supply chain and mix with diamonds from legitimate sources.

The KPCS has been criticized for having too limited resources to enforce and oversee the legal flow of rough diamonds. Any violations within a country are up to the local legislative systems, many of which are poorly regulated or enforced. As an example, in Guyana, blank signed certificates can be purchased on the streets for $1 per carat of falsified export2.

Polished Conflict Diamonds

A conflict diamond loses its conflict origin during polishing. Once a diamond is polished, it is no longer monitored by the Kimberly Process or any other body or entity. It is impossible to determine from what country and when a particular polished diamond originated from, so there is no way to guarantee the non-conflict origin of any polished mined diamond. To alleviate those concerns a voluntary and self-regulated 'System of Warranties' was developed by the World Diamond Council (WDC). The system encourages each diamond vendor to assure its customers that its diamonds, rough and polished, are from conflict free sources. This is done in a form of a statement on all invoices declaring that the diamonds, to the best of the vendor's knowledge, are conflict-free. Unfortunately, the System of Warranties lacks mechanisms of verification and enforcement, which makes it meaningless.

With a laboratory grown diamond, rough or polished, you have peace of mind – it is conflict-free and origin-guaranteed.

Recent Accounts

According to the 2009 edition of Partnership Africa Canada's Diamonds and Human Security Annual Review, the Kimberley Process is failing.

In Angola, up to 30% of diamonds by value come from illegal mining. The Democratic Republic of Congo has active conflict zones, with armed groups controlling many mines. In many countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea, independent, individual diggers source their diamonds from artisanal mines. The KP records do not begin until the diamonds are sold from the digger to a comptoir, or field buyer, creating opportunities for laundering diamonds into the 'conflict-free' KP certified channels. The PAC report estimates over 15 million carats per year are laundered through methods such as these. In other countries such as Sierra Leone and French Guinea, lax or nonexistent legislation allow smuggled diamonds to be legally exported through the KP. Countries such as French Guinea, Guyana and Lebanon report unbelievable or inconsistent export statistics, suggesting smuggling and laundering.

Government-led massacres and widespread human rights abuses have been occurring in the Marange diamond fields of Zimbabwe since 20083. Numerous NGOs and industry members have asked for trading bans and sanctions against Zimbabwe4. Over a year later, only after being invited by Zimbabwe, the Kimberley Process has appointed a monitor to oversee the serious KP violations and to supervise exports, yet has no power to stop any smuggling or abuses5. In June 2010, Global Witness released a Return of the Blood Diamond report detailing KP's continual failures in Zimbabwe .

In May 2009, Ian Smillie, one of the Kimberley Process founders, departed KP due to ineptitude and failure to discipline violating countries. Martin Rapaport resigned from the World Diamond Council in February 2010 primarily due to their coverup of the abuses in Zimbabwe. "Tens of thousands of carats of blood diamonds are now in dealers' inventories and jewelers' showcases–and are being actively sold to consumers...Instead of eliminating blood diamonds, the KP has become a process for the systematic legalization and legitimization of blood diamonds," says Rapaport6. In August 2010, the Kimberley Process certified approximately 900,000 carats of questionably mined diamonds from Zimbabwe partially lifting the trading ban 7. The next lot scheduled to go on sale in September 2010 valued at estimated $1.5 bln was suspended due to fundamental disagreements among KP members many of whom continued to consider Zimbabwe to be in violation of the Kimberley Process and its diamonds to be illegal.

The most recent decision of the KP Chair in June 2011 8 completely lifted the trading ban despite the vocal opposition from Western nations and human rights groups.

"The United States is deeply disappointed with the Kinshasa Intersessional as it related to Zimbabwe...We believe that work toward a solution must continue, and that until consensus is reached, exports from Marange should not proceed" said the US state department spokesman Victoria Nuland 9.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that "the text circulated by the KP chair was not agreed by consensus and is not therefore valid under KP rules and procedures"10.

Despite the recent KP decision, Zimbabwe rough diamonds continue to be illegal in the European Union, the USA, Canada and in many other like-minded countries. The vast majority of diamond trade organizations advise their members not to trade controversial Zimbabwe diamonds. "In the meantime, The WDC urges all members of the trade to deal only in rough diamonds that are accompanied by KP certificates that comply with the consensus decisions of the Kimberley Process"11.

Contrary to that position, in August 2011 the Government of India authorized imports of Zimbabwe diamonds to its cutting centers 12. An unregulated flow of polished conflict diamonds worth hundreds millions of dollars is expected to reach consumers amidst the season of 2011. The situation continues to develop...

Regardless of the ongoing issues in Zimbabwe, the only country under UN sanctions, as of August 2011, is Cote d'Ivoire13. Their diamonds are the only diamonds officially viewed as "conflict diamonds" by the Kimberley Process, despite numerous NGO and industry reports stating otherwise. Cote d'Ivoire diamonds are still being mined and entering the market, believed through Mali, Guinea, Ghana and possibly other countries.

"By now it should be clear that a Kimberley Process (KP) certificate does not ensure a diamond is free of human rights violations or other serious ethical problems. In fact, a KP certificate does not even ensure that a diamond is legal for trade in the United States or European Union..." writes Martin Rapaport 14

Conflict-free is not Fair Trade

The Kimberley Process does not address human rights as part of its 'minimal standards' that countries are expected to follow15, nor do they have a mandate to deal with unspeakable human rights violations 16. NGOs have reported thousands of children being forced to dig in diamond mines. Many miners work in slave-like and sub-standard conditions for long hours earning merely pennies per day.

By contrast, synthetic diamonds are created in a controlled laboratory environment by well paid scientists, engineers and technicians. The majority of our diamonds are then polished by some of the finest cutters in Antwerp.

External References on Conflict Diamonds: