What Is a Blood Diamond?

Diamonds are a gem long associated with wedding bells, celebration, and warm fuzzy feelings. So it’s unsurprising that hearing the term “blood diamond” in the same breath can be a bit jarring. It doesn’t feel good to think that the same stones that bring us so much joy are associated with the dark reality of forced labor and inhumane working conditions.

Image of a rough diamond

Whether this is the first time you’re hearing about conflict diamonds or if you’re looking to avoid purchasing a blood diamond for your forever adornment, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll discuss the history of blood diamonds and the state of the situation today. We’ll also help you determine if a diamond or a diamond alternative is the right choice for you.

What Is a Blood Diamond?

The term, “blood diamond” was established by the United Nations in the 1990s to address devastating civil wars taking place in western and central Africa. Regions such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone were heavily impacted by rebel groups looking to exploit these diamond-rich African countries, wreaking havoc on both people and natural resources in the process.

After a blood diamond was mined, it was sold directly to merchants or smuggled into a nearby country where it would be combined with stocks of legally mined diamonds and then sold on the open market. Profits from the blood diamond trade went back into the illegal operation and funds were used to purchase weapons and war materiel for violent rebel groups.

The History of Blood Diamonds

Once a conflict diamond enters the supply chain, it is cut and polished to appear identical to any other stone. This concerned people in the West as retailers were unable to verify the source of these inhumane gems. As more and more shoppers began to question the origin of their engagement ring’s center stone, Diamond traders feared that a worldwide boycott was around the corner.

Map of countries in Africa associated with conflict and smuggling

In the year 2000, the UN Security Council released a report that exposed the existence of blood diamonds in the world diamond market. The Anglo-South African company De Beers came out looking especially bad as it controlled nearly 60% of the rough diamond global trade. As the world’s largest market at the time, Antwerp, Belgium, also took some heat for not confirming the source of the diamonds that they traded.

Many of today's diamonds are conflict free

These upsetting revelations inspired the UN to create the Kimberley Process, a certification system used to determine whether an exporting country’s diamonds are truly conflict free. Today, the Kimberley Process certification scheme is credited with significantly reducing the number of armed conflict diamonds on the international gem market. And according to The World Diamond Council, 99% of all diamonds are now conflict free as each legitimate diamond is tracked from mine to store.

Are There Still Blood Diamonds?

While the number of blood diamonds available on the U.S. market has dropped significantly, that doesn’t mean that the problem of conflict diamonds has been eliminated. Unfortunately, diamonds originating from some regions such as Zimbabwe are still considered suspect. They have been banned from a handful of diamond trading networks due to international concern over forced labor and human rights abuses.

Alluvial mining in Africa

Additionally, some human rights groups argue that our understanding of how many blood diamonds are in circulation could be skewed. The figures that we see are only based on the UN’s definition of conflict diamonds as precious stones that fund rebel movements against a country’s government. Citing Zimbabwe’s abuse of the legitimate diamond trade, activists are calling to redefine the meaning of blood diamonds as stones whose trade is based on violence or aggression of any kind.

Is My Diamond a Blood Diamond?

Currently, diamond exports are dominated by mines in Canada, Russia, and South Africa, where diamond miners are required to treat employees well. If you’ve purchased an engagement ring or diamond jewelry of any kind in recent years or are planning to do so, it’s unlikely that your piece features a blood diamond.

Where Can I Buy Conflict Free Diamonds?

As mentioned above, significant steps have been taken to ensure that diamond producers provide consumers with conflict free stones. The world’s most popular jewelers set their pieces with ethical diamonds and gemstones, meaning that modern consumers don’t need to worry about purchasing a new piece of jewelry that uses blood diamonds.

Shopping for an engagement ring online

However, looking at diamond mining’s destruction as a whole, some consumers might feel that simply avoiding blood diamonds isn’t enough. The truth is, negative human impact isn’t the diamond industry’s only crime; diamond mines are terrible for the earth, too. For these reasons, many shoppers are turning to diamond alternatives such as synthetic or lab grown diamond rings instead.

Chemically the same as earth mined diamonds, lab grown diamonds are a gorgeous, affordable, and ethical alternative for environmentally conscious shoppers. Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds minus the ocean dredging, earth displacement, and habitat destruction. The fact is, technology has come so far, and in this day and age, consumers have the ability to say no to diamond mining completely while having more options for ethical engagement rings.

Speaking of affordability, shoppers who are looking for the most bang for their buck who aren’t concerned with owning a real diamond might want to consider other alternatives such as moissanite or diamond simulants. Both choices are less costly than a diamond and offer outstanding sparkle and beauty that consumers love.

Sources:
https://geology.com/articles/blood-diamondss.html
https://www.britannica.com/topic/blood-diamond

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