If you’re in the market for buying a diamond, chances are you’re doing it because you’re in love. Diamonds are typical stones for wedding rings, and some engagement rings. They can also be used in jewelry pieces you gift to someone you care about. However, if diamonds are going to be a symbol of your love and affection, is that statement really so pure when the background of the stone itself is possibly tainted?
Diamonds get mined across the world, with substantial mining operations happening on the African and Australian continents, with other notable mines found in nations like Canada and Russia. These diamonds are a primary source of revenue in impoverished or developing nations, such as those in Africa. The diamond mining industry employes and provides healthcare to thousands of citizens and helps governments fund social services.
Unfortunately, not all diamonds come from places where the industry does well for the locals. Keep reading to learn why you should be cautious about the source of the diamonds you buy.
The Kimberley Process
If you shop for diamonds even a little, you’re going to come across something called the ‘Kimberley Process.’ It’s an international effort used to track and then certify diamonds as being ‘conflict-free,’ meaning they aren’t used by rebel groups or warlords to finance civil wars. In April of 2003, the United States Congress passed a law, which President Bush signed, adopting this process. It then required all American diamond retailers to only buy their diamonds from providers that had documentation stipulating their merchandise was appropriated legitimately. Now, the United States Customs Service enforces the requirements of the Kimberley Process actively when diamonds enter through American ports.
Sounds great, right? All American-market diamonds are conflict-free and your purchase has no blood on its hands. Not so fast.
Criticisms Of The Kimberley Process
While the Kimberley Process is the most substantial effort in global regulation of the diamond trade, it only focuses on ‘blood diamonds,’ which are narrow in definition as the ones that help finance rebellions. Still, smuggling and fraudulent paperwork do happen, although the best estimates say that less than 2 percent of all diamonds on the market are actually illegitimate per the process. Also, the Kimberley Process doesn’t do anything about stones tainted by issues like environmental harm, worker exploitation, extreme poverty, child labor, and general violence.
A lot of retailers use the ‘conflict-free’ status of their diamonds as a selling point, but it doesn’t mean their stones weren’t the fruit of efforts that might have involved torture, beatings, killings, rape, corruption, or environmental degradation.
Due in large part to substandard regulation and planning, the act of diamond mining has wrought havoc across many African environmental areas, as well as other corners of the globe.
Angola, in particular, suffered quite a heavy toll. Irresponsible practices in diamond mining triggered deforestation and soil erosion, and local populations were forced to relocate. Protection for rivers was minimal to non-existent. In fact, rivers were re-routed and dams constructed in order to expose actual riverbeds for easier mining, which was disastrous for wildlife and fish.
In the worst cases, an entire ecosystem can collapse. In eastern Sierra Leone, the Kono district witnessed thousands of mining pits that were just abandoned. Wildlife simply vanished as eroded topsoil turned the suitable farming land into desolate landscapes. Abandoned mining pits are simply public health disasters in their own right. When a pit is filled with stagnant rainwater, it gets infested with mosquitoes who can spread malaria or various other water-borne diseases.
While diamond mining can prove environmentally destructive, it’s not as bad as gold mining or other forms of mining, since it rarely uses toxic chemicals. In fact, proper regulation, enforcement, and planning can mitigate a lot of environmental impacts. Namibia and Botswana stand out as successful examples in responsible diamond mining, as does the Canadian Arctic.
Any jewelry store in Dayton Ohio that is reputable and well-established is going to be able to provide you the history of the diamond they are trying to sell you. Yet, how do you personally know that retailer is giving you the truth? Ask for the System of Warranties statement of that diamond. Also, know what such certifications look like prior to shopping.
Be Smart In Your Shopping
Not every retailer is the same. While many might feature ‘conflict-free’ diamonds, many others will go a step further and only source from environmentally friendly mining places like Canada. Others might even go a step further and spend a percentage of their profits helping out local tribes impacted by the larger diamond industry.
Look Past Known Safe Harbors
A lot of diamond buyers feel like buying Canadian stones is the only way to avoid environmental destruction and human rights abuses along with passing over blood diamonds. It is true that Canada has earned its sterling reputation, but Australia can say the same, as can Russia and many African nations. The biggest factor is going over the documentation of the diamond, seeing the paperwork trail from mine to jeweler, and verifying each step in the chain as much as you can.
Never Pay More
Quite a few factors determine the price of a diamond, but the fact that it’s conflict-free shouldn’t be among them, since all American diamonds are supposed to be that way to start with. Finding a jeweler whose reputation you trust through research is a great start if you want to be a responsible diamond shopper.
Think about antique or vintage rings. Chances are those stones had bloody beginnings, but you can be sure they’re now over, and a skilled jeweler can reset them or even recut them for a more modern ring.
Think About Alternatives
There are synthetic diamonds which have all the sparkle but none of the dirt. Also, colored gemstones are a possibility. They are honestly plagued with many of the same problems diamonds face, but they’re usually far easier to trace.
Don’t Stop At The Stone
If the ethical sourcing of your jewelry matters to you, look past the diamond. Gold mining often leaves toxic waste products such as cyanide and mercury, which are very bad for both the local environment and those who mine there. Gold mining also funds conflicts around the world. Go for options like fair trade or recycled gold.