By Rebecca Price
It’s that time of year where guys are furiously looking for the perfect diamond for that special girl. Yes, the wave of engagements will no doubt come in the spring, and each giddy girl will inevitably Instagram her newly-ringed finger. However, do they know where their diamonds came from, or the journey that that little rock made from a mine all the way to the black, velvet box?
But I digress. First, we need to know where diamonds come from. An article on geology.com explained that since the 1870s, the continent of Africa has been the biggest producer of diamonds. According to a survey conducted in 2011 by the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, Botswana sold the most diamonds, clocking in at 25 million carats, with Russia and Canada coming in second and third.
However, not all of these diamonds are sold legally or mined under agreeable conditions. Hence the term “conflict diamonds,” which the United Nations defined as “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”
But because of the extreme wealth that diamonds can bring to a continent as poor as Africa, civil war has broken out throughout Africa, and many of these wars have been fueled by the blood diamond industry. Amnesty.org revealed that there have been about 3.7 million deaths in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia and Sierra Leone that involved the blood diamond trade.
Sadly, it’s hard to regulate the legal trade of diamonds all throughout the continent of Africa, and, for that reason, many of these blood diamonds have found their way to jewelry stores in America.
Now, steps have been taken to prevent the sale of blood diamonds with The Kimberly Process, which was mandated by the UN in 2003. The Kimberly Process was put in place to regulate the diamond trade and ensure that only conflict-free gems were exported from mining countries.
However, that doesn’t mean the violence has stopped just because the UN says it should. According to the Wall Street Journal, thousands of Africans work under terrible conditions in diamond mines. “Because they lack government permits, miners and their families say they are routinely beaten and shaken down for bribes by soldiers and private security guards—and, in extreme cases, killed,” the article reads. Not only that, but the workers in these mines, even if they are technically “legal,” work for less than a dollar a day.
Despite this, the UN claims that 99 percent of diamonds are fair trade. How are these working conditions fair, though? Additionally, CBS News warns readers that it’s very difficult to tell fair trade diamonds from conflict ones. And if diamond regulators can’t differentiate between the two, how is the consumer supposed to?
If you’ve ever seen “Blood Diamond” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou, you already have some idea of what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t seen this film, I urge you to do so. Not only is it an amazing movie, but it really opens your eyes to the violence that the diamond trade brings to the central and west African regions.
And although buying fair trade diamonds doesn’t mean that Africans won’t continue to die for the diamond industry, you can rest assured that you are not financing the bloodshed. Like Dennis Bright of the Council for Peace Reconciliation said in the CBS News article, “The fellow who gives a diamond ring to a lover should know that probably because of that diamond a girl of 10 has been raped, a boy of two has lost a limb…I think people should understand that from where I stand, I have seen horrors that have been caused because of this battle over stones.”
So, guys, if you’re thinking about popping the question, please take the time to research where the diamonds you’re looking at have come from. Brilliant Earth is one such company that prides itself on only selling conflict-free diamonds. There are also beautiful alternatives, such as pearls, sapphires and other gemstones.