Conflict Diamonds


By Teresa Toole, for The Ringworks Studio

The Kimberley Process* has been complex and difficult. Many are unhappy with less than perfect compliance with the principles in the document. However, I believe it is an idea worth fighting for. If we consider ourselves participants in a civil society and value human life and dignity, we need to support all steps in the right direction. This is a new path of social responsibility for industry. The idea of connecting the method of making a living to how it affects both our humanity and environment is just beginning to happen.

 “All our diamonds are from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict, and in compliance with UN resolutions and we hereby guarantee that the diamonds are conflict free based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees.” The Breuning Company

 A few years ago, Representative Tony Hall, from Ohio, initiated a consumer campaign to boycott the buying of diamonds. He initiated this because he saw that in Sierra Leone and Angola (among other countries in Africa), diamonds had become a kind of underground currency. The so called rebel groups, like UNITA and RUF and corrupt local governments would take over a diamond mine by force and sell the diamonds to raise money for weapons, etc. Other resources have also been used for illicit trade, however diamonds being small and worth so much money, made for an easy fuel source to continue violent conflicts. Rep. Hall along with the organization Global Witness, showed the world horrific pictures of large numbers of adults and children, whose hands were chopped off by the violent combatants in Sierra Leone.

 The diamond industry took the consumer boycott threat seriously and to their credit worked intensively to find a solution.  The diamond mining, cutting, and selling markets are very complex, reaching across the globe.  This report is quite simplified, but in essence what happened is that world diamond conferences convened and negotiated with Rep. Hall, the UN, and the US government. They hammered out a document known as the Kimberley Process. Their important task was to identify where each diamond came from, with the idea of refusing to buy from those who continue violent conflicts. Once a diamond is polished, it is impossible to trace to a mine (a different story for many colored stones).  The solution was in essence a political decision to tighten the paper trail of each diamond and control the diamond path through the marketplace from the mine to the consumer. This requires the cooperation of vast numbers of separate, diamond connected businesses in the supply chain.

It is said that this struggle to clean up the diamond trade is in part responsible for the ending of the civil war in Sierra Leone, at that time, but, of course conflicts and war keep multiplying. We will support and work for the Kimberley Process. We really hope to see more diamond manufacturers and jewelry business' strive to reach this ethical standard set by the Kimberley Process Document. Look into the official website and you will learn a lot more.