How to Buy a Conflict-Free Diamond
Nearly a decade ago, Leonardo DiCaprio rocked the big screen in Blood Diamond, a film about a smuggler, an American journalist and a farmer all in search of a rare pink diamond in Sierra Leone. Since Blood Diamond first raised awareness about the diamond trade – and how rebels use the diamond trade to finance conflicts against legitimate governments, exploiting local labor with deadly consequences and human rights violations – brides-to-be have increasingly opted for conflict-free diamonds. But how do you know if a diamond is truly “conflict free”? From choosing diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process to re-setting vintage rings and family heirlooms, here are three ways that savvy brides-to-be are finding the perfect engagement ring that’s also an ethically responsible choice.
Understanding the Kimberley Process
The Kimberley Process is an international system put in place to prevent the trade of diamonds that fund conflicts and rebel movements. Established in 2003, the Kimberley Process has been effective at reducing the trade of conflict diamonds by requiring the 75 member nations to set up import and export control systems for rough diamonds. However, since the Kimberley Process focuses primarily on rough diamonds used by rebel movements, critics charge that it does not address the broader range of risks to human rights posed by the diamond trade in countries like Zimbabwe. Enforcement has also been a problem. Despite an embargo placed on the diamond trade in Central African Republic (CAR), conflict diamonds continue to reach international markets. Despite these shortcomings, the Kimberley Process remains an important and effective means for restricting the trade of conflict diamonds.
Beyond Conflict Free: Ethically-Mined Diamonds
Canada is a top-source for ethically-mined diamonds and other gem stones. Diamonds mined in Canada’s Northwest Territories are mined in compliance with strict labor and environmental laws. The Canadian government works closely with local indigenous communities to care for the protected Arctic environment. In Africa, mining operations in Namibia and Botswana meet strict labor laws and environmental protections not found in other African countries.
Watch out for diamonds sourced in Zimbabwe, Angola and Cote d’Ivoire, three countries where the diamond trade is well documented for fueling lengthy civil conflicts, violence, corruption and forced labor. If you have concerns about a diamonds origin, ask for more information from the seller, including a certificate of origin.
Vintage Diamonds & Family Heirlooms
Another option savvy brides-to-be (and their grooms) are increasingly choosing are vintage engagement rings. Whether brides are having family heirlooms re-set or shopping re-sellers that offer vintage options, choosing a pre-loved ring is a wonderful way to interweave your love story with a beloved family member’s– and avoid many of the issues surrounding conflict diamonds today.
No matter what type of diamond you dream of wearing on your finger, work with a jeweler you trust who will take the time to answer your questions about a diamonds origins and mining practices. While the outcry over “blood diamonds” has pushed jewelers to adopt higher standards, it still pays to do your research.