Diamonds | The Kimberley Process

Among the most precious of stones, a diamond is – literally and figuratively – a real gem. Whether worn on a finger, around the wrist or neck, or in the earlobes, a diamond sparkles, glows, and dazzles with its brilliance and fiery radiance.

Beyond the 4 Cs – carat, cut, color, and clarity – that determine diamonds’ quality and value, this stone also symbolizes eternal love – the main reason it has long been the most popular choice for engagement rings.

Unfortunately, diamonds mined in some parts of the world have also played a highly contentious role in funding civil wars, as well as perpetuating human rights abuses and exploitation of workers. That’s why gems originating from certain regions are commonly referred to as “conflict” or “blood” diamonds.

As a consumer, you might be concerned – and rightfully so – about the origin of the diamond you are thinking of buying.  Hopefully, this article will guide you, answer any questions you may have, and inform you about the availability of conflict-free diamonds in the United States.


A bit of history

The 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” had re-ignited worldwide interest and concern over the inhumane mining methods and the illicit, war-fueling trade, but the issue of conflict diamonds is hardly a new phenomenon. Its beginnings can be traced to about 1870, when diamonds were first discovered in South Africa and De Beers Consolidated Mines gained monopoly over most of the diamond supply to the world.

In the 1930s, at about the same time that diamond engagement rings became popular in the United States, De Beers legally took control of the mines in Sierra Leone. However, when traders realized that huge profits could be made by smuggling diamonds out of the country, black-market trading became widespread.All too often, governments turned a blind eye to the looting and abuses that took place. Sadly, much of the ill-begotten profits have been spent on devastating civil wars; very little, if any, of the money has trickled down to ordinary citizens of this volatile region, where poverty levels are staggering.

In the past decade, however, as concern over this issue grew, numerous governments, NGOs, and human rights organizations had called on diamond producing nations to step up their efforts to stop the mining and trade of conflict diamonds. Several initiatives were subsequently formed and considerable strides forward have been made in curbing the export of these gems.


A move in the right direction

In May 2000, major stakeholders met in the South African town of Kimberley, where the first diamond was found in 1866, to discuss the ways of tackling this problem. Later that year, the United Nations, European Union, the governments of 74 countries (which grew to 80 by 2012), and the World Diamond Council – representing the industry – established the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), to ensure that all the traded diamonds originate from legitimate sources and practices. Under the agreement, each shipment of rough diamonds must include a certificate guaranteeing that the stones come from places where miners work in safe conditions, are paid a fair wage, and where profits are not used for illicit purposes.

To qualify as a KPCS member, each participating country is required to pass appropriate legislation and establish an internal system to regulate and monitor diamond mining, importing and exporting. Also, members are allowed to trade only with other participating states to ensure the cohesive implementation of the rules.

The United States joined the scheme in 2003, the year KPCS became operational. The Clean Diamond Trade Act, signed into law on April 25, 2003, enacted the U.S. adherence to the Kimberley Certification Scheme. Additionally, this legislation requires annual reviews of the standards, practices and procedures of any U.S. organization that issues Kimberly Process certificates. The Washington DC-based Jewelers Vigilance Committee is the industry’s “go-to” legal compliance and ethics expert on matters related to KPCS.


Achievements and failures

In many ways, the KPCS has been a positive development in the flight against blood diamonds. There has been a more rigorous oversight in the participating countries, with government-approved experts regularly inspecting the mines and monitoring the trade.

According to Global Witness, an international NGO that campaigns against conflicts and corruption fuelled by natural resource exploitation, the scheme “has chalked up some notable achievements, including pioneering a tripartite approach to solving international problems, and helping some of the countries that were worst-hit by diamond-fuelled wars to increase their official diamond revenues.”

All that is encouraging, but the certification scheme is not infallible and has not so far succeeded in totally eliminating the trade of conflict diamonds. There are numerous reports of fake certificates being issued, and certain countries continuing the rogue trade due to lack of concerted political will and plain old greed. As Global Witness reports, some member states “put economic and political interests in front of defending the fundamental principles of the scheme.”

This flaw in the system does raise concerns, but given the U.S. government’s compliance with the spirit and letter of the Kimberley scheme, an American consumer can be assured about the provenance of the diamonds sold in this country.

According to the U.S. State Department, the Customs Service “actively enforces the Kimberley Process requirements as diamonds enter American ports.” From time to time, according to government reports, federal agents intercept and seize shipments of rough diamonds that don’t conform to KPCS regulations and are in violation of the 2003 Clean Diamond Trade Act.

As you can see, despite KPCS’s weaknesses, existing laws and initiatives do make a difference.


A far-reaching oversight

The Kimberley Scheme is just one of several initiatives focused on stemming the flow of conflict diamonds. Other organizations working towards this goal (in addition to Global Witness) include:

  • Diamond Development Initiative, which, as its name suggests, is “an engine for development in countries where artisanal diamond diggers labor in absolute poverty outside the formal economy.” The Ottawa, Canada-based organization works to ensure that diamonds coming from these regions are mined and distributed for the benefit of local communities and legitimate governments.
  • The Madison Dialogue – so called because it came into existence on New York’s Madison Avenue – encourages companies, groups, and society in general to practice sustainable and responsible methods of mining diamonds and other minerals.
  • The Rapaport Group promotes the development and implementation of free, fair, ethical, and transparent markets, including the elimination of human rights violation in the diamond and jewelry industry.


Know what you are buying

By now you might be wondering what can a socially responsible consumer do to ensure that the diamond he or she is thinking of buying comes from legitimate sources?

Being aware and conscious of this problem is the first step. Information is power, so the more you learn about this issue, the better prepared you’ll be to ask the right questions and get straightforward answers.

Keep in mind that many nations, such as Australia, Botswana, Canada, Namibia, Russia, South Africa. and Tanzania (all of them member states of the Kimberley Scheme), export only conflict-free diamonds.The two questions a consumer should ask a jeweler before purchasing diamonds are: “What is your company’s policy on conflict diamonds?” and “Do you know who your suppliers are and where their diamonds come from?”

A reputable jeweler will not only know the origin of his or her diamonds, but will also provide detailed and specific information that will answer your questions.All the diamonds offered by this company are KPCS-certified. Furthermore, we also provide diamonds that are sourced from transparent and secure locations and suppliers who not only adhere to KPCS requirements, but also have additional safeguards above and beyond the scope of the Kimberley Scheme.

For example, our CanadaMark diamonds come from the Ekati Diamond Mine located in Canada’s Northwest – the third largest supplier of gem quality diamonds in the world. Every CanadaMark diamond carries laser-engraved serial number, proving its origin and authenticity.

We also offer diamonds sourced out of Namibia, an excellent supplier of ethical diamonds, which, like their CanadaMark counterparts, are cut and polished at the source. This locally based manufacturing process provides employment to indigenous communities.

Another option we are happy to offer you are beautiful recycled diamonds, which are a great, eco-friendly alternative to new stones.

If our customers are looking for a specific cut or style that we can’t obtain from these sources, we will then offer just KPCS certified diamonds. Either way, you can be sure that the diamonds you purchase from One Stone Shop are not the product of unethical and inhumane practices.

Here’s the bottom line: if concerned consumers around the world stop buying diamonds that come from questionable and / or untraceable sources, the flow of money used to spread violence and inflict abuses on mine workers and populations in general, will be cut. This is how each individual can make a truly positive and meaningful impact on the lives of millions.