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Diamonds to die for
Jade Burke investigates the issues surrounding the illegal use of diamonds and gives advice on how to buy these precious stones safely
Written on 28 February, 2013 by jadeburke77.
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Diamonds are a beautiful stone with great potential to transform a piece of jewellery into an extraordinary item; however, the history of how these glamorous stones are mined is often unlawful. 'Conflict Diamonds', also known as 'Blood Diamonds', are mined within war-torn countries including Africa and Angola to be sold illegally to fund wars and to purchase weaponry. They have also been used by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, for money laundering activities and to finance the group during ferocious battles.

What are Conflict Diamonds?

Conflict Diamonds are mined in illegal circumstances, which creates a huge amount of suffering for the individuals mining these valuable stones. This contributes to the mass amount of work exploitation, environmental degradation, violence and the general, violation of human rights in battle-scarred countries. Although these stones are exceptionally beautiful and often represent luxury and prosperity, in reality they front a much more sinister purpose. Conflict Diamonds have been used to fund civil wars, which have resulted in total destruction in countries such as Angola and Liberia, where many lives have been lost. During the mining of these gem's human rights are regularly violated. Child labour is a huge problem, while rape and violence is part of the daily routine for the miners in the diamond industry. It is unacceptable for these individuals to be subjected to the horror of this industry, and it seems we have the power as retailers to contribute to stop the existence of the terror associated with these stones.

The Kimberley Process

Many organisations such as Global Witness have sought to try and prevent the use of Conflict Diamonds by educating jewellery retailers and consumers and by campaigning to stop the industry developing. They have managed to control and reduce the amount of suffering that comes with mining for diamonds; however it is still a very real problem. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was developed in Kimberley, South Africa during May 2000, and by November 2002 negotiations were finally made between the International Diamond Industry and civil society organisations to put an end to diamonds being sold to fund warlords in battle. The main purpose of the process was to monitor the diamond industry and ensure the gems were not being sold illegally. The Kimberley Process has caused controversy over recent years as many organisations, such as Amnesty International, argue that it is not combating the illegal use of diamonds effectively, while the process argues it has undoubtedly improved many people's lives in foreign countries that suffered at the hands of brutal diamond smugglers. When speaking to J. J. Harder, the advisor to the Chair of The Kimberley Process, he said: "The KP is proud that virtually all conflict diamonds have been eliminated from the trade. However, there is always room for improvement. Enhancing the effectiveness of enforcement is a major step that can be taken to further reduce illegal trade." Diamond experts also estimate that Conflict Diamonds are virtually non-existent as they now only represent one per-cent in the international trade of diamonds, whereas during the 1990s this was estimated at 15%. J. J. Harder commented on this: "This seems to be a direct result of the Kimberley Process and an international commitment to limiting conflict that is fuelled through the sale of rough diamonds." But this is disputed as Global Witness pulled out of the process in December 2011, announcing that it was not paying enough attention to the links between diamonds and violence. Global Witness was one of the first organisations to bring to our attention the tyranny that was involved with the diamond industry, and its leave from the process was therefore a huge shock. In a press release taken from www.globalwitness.org, dated from the 5th December 2011, the Founding Director stated that the process: "remains stuck in time" and that it was not able to deal with the pressures, which is why they decided to leave. "We now have to recognise that this scheme, begun with so many good intentions, has done much that is useful but ultimately has failed to deliver." It is unfortunate that the process has not been as successful as it aimed to be, as in more recent years it has notably ignored many incidents that are illegal and unjust. For example The Human Rights Watchdog group revealed that the governments of Zimbabwe, Côte d'Ivoire and Venezuela have all violated the system, and yet they were not penalised for their transgressions. Ingle and Rhode, a London jewellers that only sells conflict-free diamonds, said to us: "In reality the process is flawed as it doesn't guarantee that they are conflict-free and does not tell us where they have been mined. We get our diamonds from Canada, instead of Africa as we are told which mines they have come from." Despite this, The Kimberley Process argues it is doing all it can and it is instead up to the jewellery retailer or consumer to help put an end to the Conflict Diamond trade. Amnesty International stated on their website in 2007 that, Alex Yearsley from Global Witness said that they: have the power to effect industry-wide changes simply by demanding that their diamonds are clean.

Supporting The Cause

As a retailer you can support the cause to stop the mining of illegal diamonds by selling clean diamonds and finding out the history of the stone. Tim Ingle, from Ingle and Rhode, emphasises this by telling us: It is immoral to buy something that forces people to be murdered and raped. It is like saying, why shouldnt we murder people? Therefore any vintage product you buy, it is necessary that you can find out as much information about it as possible. As vintage jewellery has usually been made in earlier years it is likely that some pieces would have been made with Conflict Diamonds. You have the right as a retailer to demand information about the stone you are selling, so ask about the details of where it was mined and how. These stones are incredibly valuable so problems with smuggling are inevitable, however we can help put an end to the evils surrounding them.


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