What are conflict-free or non-conflict diamonds?
By Aïda Yuen Wong, Professor of Art History at Brandeis University; Founder and Head of Design of Callimode, an Asian American contemporary jewelry brand specializing in luxury designs to express antiracism in Asian calligraphy. Ethical & Sustainable Jewelry with Recycled Gold and Non-Conflict Diamonds.October 19, 2022
Platinum's Newest Competition: Conflict-Free Diamonds
Different people have discussed how conflict-free diamonds, or "conflict-free clarity statement diamonds" are a new trend. The origin of the diamonds may be traced back to diamond sellers with ethical credentials and transparency. These stones follow the Kimberley Process Scheme.
Confidence in the diamonds has never been more important and consumers desire this reassurance when purchasing diamonds. The advantage of these diamonds is that consumers know what they are buying.
Kimberley Process Scheme
The Kimberley Process is named after Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, South Africa, where representatives from the Southern African diamond-producing countries met in 2000 to resolve a threat to the world diamond industry from gemstones being mined and smuggled through illegal channels in order to fund conflicts on the continent.
The KPCS is an international agreement passed by the UN that is designed to prevent conflict diamonds being traded. Any nation that signs on to the agreement says that it will regulate trade in raw diamonds, such that each diamond entering a country has to be conflict-free. The Kimberley process is designed to track diamonds from mining to the market, and to make sure that conflict diamonds are kept out of commerce.
Requirements include, but are not limited to, showing one has been doing business in the U.S. in the diamond industry for at least two years, and providing several references from members of the diamond industry who are well-established. After verifying the contents stated by the applicant are true, in order to comply with requirements under international certificate schemes for raw diamonds and Kimberley Process sealed packing containers, adding registration marks of origin, and issuing an international Kimberley Process certification of origin, customs examines an export customs authorization form.
The KP, which became operational in 2003, controls trade in raw diamonds among participating countries by implementing the certificate scheme at home, making the trade more transparent and safe; and it bans trade with non-participants. As explained on the FAQs section of the Kimberley Process website, participants in the Kimberley Process (KP) are states or regional economic integration organizations that meet minimum requirements for the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme (KPCS) and are thus entitled to trade in raw diamonds with each other.
In accordance with Section 5(c) of the Clean Diamond Trade Act (CDTA), a Kimberley Process certificate accompanying a shipment of raw diamonds exported from the United States should be issued by, or on behalf of, an entity that has had its standards, practices, and procedures reviewed on an annual basis by an appropriate United States government body, and which has entered into agreements with such body regarding issuance of Kimberley Process certificates consistent with the Kimberley Process Certificates.
At a minimum, when buying diamonds, the jeweler needs to be able to say where the diamond came from, and whether or not it has a KPCS certificate.
How Are Conflict-Free Diamonds More Ethical?
Previously, it was common for diamonds registered as conflict minerals to include diamonds of dubious origin as well as industrial diamonds. Now, however, the term “conflict-free” refers to an ethical certification adopted by the diamond industry which certifies only the gemstones mined in certified mines, with no involvement of conflict diamonds. Because of this, it also excludes diamonds mined by minors working in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the United States, if companies are not caught by major U.S. government watchdogs dealing in illicit diamond trade, there is a good chance that they are living up to their word, and selling only conflict-free diamonds.
More than 75 diamond producing, trading, and smelting countries around the world are involved in the Kimberley Process program. In May 2000, a group of African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley to discuss solutions for stopping conflict diamond trafficking. It took several years for the logistics among governments, civil society organizations, and the international diamond industry to be worked out. In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/55/56, supporting the establishment of an international certificate program for raw diamonds, followed by the endorsement by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1459 adopted in January 2003. With tremendous speed and creativity--at least in comparison with most other international initiatives--officials of concerned governments developed what is known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which articulates a minimal set of trade control measures designed to deny so-called blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, the ability to enter the international marketplace.
Global Witness left several years ago, after the program sanctioned exports by two companies operating in the Marange Diamond Field, Zimbabwe. In 2008, Mugabe’s government, named for then-Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, took over the diamond fields, killing more than 200 people in the process.
Is the Portrayal in the Movie "Blood Diamond" accurate?
“Blood Diamond” (Edward Zwick, 2006) is a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, and Djimon Hounso that depicts the horrors of civil war in Sierra Leone, references actual events. There is no question Blood Diamond strives to be historically accurate, but there are a fair amount of faults with the film in its portrayal of the political conflicts roiling Sierra Leone at the time of the civil war. Recently, though, whether or not “Blood Diamond” accurately and fairly depicts the civil war that took place in 1999 Sierra Leone has become entangled with the merits from a filmic perspective. Pete Vonder Haar at The Film Threat gave “Blood Diamond” a mixed review, saying it is a fairly enjoyable actioner, and Edward Zwick does not shy away from portraying violence or wars dread, but it falls slightly short as a social statement.
The problem with “Blood Diamond” is that it attempts to tell a meaningful, powerful story, and it also attempts to make a statement, but does so in too Hollywood-esque a manner, with inflated, less-than-believable dramatic subplots, of course, an irrelevant romance, lots of action, and a Hollywood-ish ending.
Refugees in Sierra Leone said that "Blood Diamond" is a fair representation of diamonds role in this conflict, as well as of the anguish felt by families who were ripped apart, but it downplays the terror and violence. In reality, while the movie is vague when it comes to detailing the role of blood diamond buyers, foreigners buying those conflict diamonds played equal parts in the genocide and war crimes committed during Sierra Leones civil war.
While “Blood Diamond” is a big-budget Hollywood movie, when it is compared with a lower-budget Nigerian movie which shares the same story and themes, “Ezra” (Aduaka, 2007), which seems to do a better job at addressing political conflicts, the effects of the civil war on Sierra Leones population due to conflicts surrounding the diamond trade.
Conflict-Free Diamonds are Rarer on the Market than Regular Diamonds
Only two percent of diamonds mined in the world are conflict-free, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement. In order to meet this goal, it is essential that the jewelry industry make use of independent gemological laboratories that are equipped to determine whether or not diamonds are found in conflict-torn areas. This way, continuing to support diamonds from such areas will ensure that the current supply is not depleted yet further to the detriment of the local residents.
Are Conflict-free Diamonds Worth More?
Diamond producers, who purchase the rough diamonds to turn them into polished jewels, are investing in a new technology they hope will help them to stay competitive: the first conflict-free diamonds. The technology enhances diamonds' luster by putting a thin layer of carbon on the cut surfaces of rough diamonds. Here’s what to expect: diamonds that get more sparkle, more brilliance, and more fire.
A brilliant gemstone is more than just the size and quality of its facets, stone hardness, the clarity of its color, and the presence of the diamond’s inclusions. Diamonds, made in a fraction of a second by nature, are inherently flawed. And the one quality with which these gems are not flawed is rarity. Diamonds from industrial mines are commonplace, and offer grade and quality standards that are lower than those of conflict-free stones.
The goal is to make conflict-free diamonds competitive with diamonds from the Congo, which are mined by soldiers. Conflict-free diamonds will always be more expensive than the diamonds they’re competing against, but they will reduce the amount of conflict diamonds that get into the diamond industry by several percentage points.
The Kimberley Process definition says nothing about how diamonds are mined, working conditions, or even whether diamonds were accidentally funding violence or crimes against humanity committed by the same governments themselves (which, indeed, did occur, and the Kimberley Process allows these diamonds to stay on the market and are considered to be free from conflicts).
Therefore, unless we are talking about lab-grown diamonds or recycyled stones, the Kimberley Process does not guarantee that somewhere in the process from mining to production that no one was raped, kidnapped, hurt or killed. No one from the jewelry industry has ever been held accountable for financing the diamond wars.
That is why, when we choose to buy diamonds, we should think about giving back to society somehow.
Callimode and its manufacturing partner follow the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. This is a consignment traceability system for rough diamonds and is the most proven method of ensuring the ethical sourcing of diamonds.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme allows stones which have been verified to have come from conflict-free sources. Certificates are issued by the original diamond finder. When a diamond is found, it is standard protocol for it to be handed over to the finder. Upon doing so, the finder then submits the stone for verification. Diamonds that have been verified by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme can then be sold. This is also the case for diamonds that have been processed in firms that have been certified.
By this process, Callimode only receives conflict-free diamonds, creating and delivering jewelry that spread love and good business practices.
5% of all our sales will be donated to organizations benefiting Asian communities and anti-racism. We choose several non-profits whose missions are compatible with our own. We also welcome inquiries about collaboration.