What Are Conflict Diamonds?

With Blood Diamonds, aka conflict diamonds, currently in the news, courtesy of Naomi Campbell, we thought this might be a timely article.


First let us start with what diamonds are.


Diamonds are crystals of pure carbon formed millions of years ago deep below the Earths crust and forced up to the surface in rivers of volcanic lava. The diamonds are then separated from the cooled volcanic lava, or Kimberlite as it is properly known, by mining. Also, as diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man, many survived the effects of erosion and were distributed over a large area by being washed down rivers into the sea.

The use of diamonds as gemstones of decorative value is the most familiar use to most people today, but in their rough or uncut form they are a far cry from the image that we know and prize. Four characteristics, known as the four Cs, are now commonly used to describe diamonds: these are carat, clarity, colour, and cut, and rough diamonds have to be sorted and graded before being shipped to specialist polishing and cutting centres around the world. Not all rough diamonds are suitable for jewellery, the rejected diamonds are used for industrial drilling and cutting tools.

Now for “conflict” diamonds

In 1998 it was brought to the worlds attention that some of the more politically unstable central African and west African countries were funding their wars against the legitimate governments by the sale and control of rough diamonds.

Diamonds sold through this process are known as conflict diamonds or blood diamonds and in 2002 an agreement was reached by 40 participating governments to control the export and importation of rough diamonds. This agreement became known as The Kimberley Process and provides documentation and certification of diamond exports from producing countries to ensure that the proceeds of sale are not being used to fund criminal or revolutionary activities.

Recently a system of self regulation was announced by the World Diamond Council under which all diamonds sold, rough or cut, are covered by a warranty given by the supplier. Buyers guarantee to buy only from suppliers who give this following warranty:

“The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.”

An important note is that The Kimberley Process only applies to rough diamonds whereas self regulation applies to both rough and finished diamonds. As it is not possible to know the origins of old recycled and part exchanged diamonds from before the existence of The Kimberley Process, UK trade bodies recommend that trade in these diamonds is covered by the following declaration:

“The seller warrants that conflict diamonds will not be knowingly sold and that, to the best of his ability, he will undertake reasonable measures to help prevent the sale of conflict diamonds in this country.”

Diamonds are a common focus of fiction and one of the most recent offerings by Warner Brothers released in 2006 was The Blood Diamond directed by Edward Zwick, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou. The Blood Diamond is the story of Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a South African mercenary and set in 1990’s Sierra Leone. It involves the quest for a rare rough pink diamond and the chance of a new life if found.

Author: Alan Hadley  www.geti.cc

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