Conflict Free Diamonds


"Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn!"

– Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1993

Diamonds continue to be in great demand, in particular for use as settings in engagement or wedding rings. The durability, beauty, and tradition of using diamonds to symbolize lasting and deep commitment make it the single most sought-after and valued stone. One of the longest-standing traditions in the Western world has been the use of diamonds in engagement and wedding rings. This continuing high demand, connected with the tremendous value of diamonds, and their origination, in many cases, from poverty-stricken regions of the world, has led to conflict.

Tragically, in certain cases, this conflict has resulted in terrible violence and suffering. Diamonds originating from terrorized and war-torn regions of Africa are referred to as "Blood Diamonds." Many people in developed nations and around the world remain unaware of the horrors that sometimes lead to the very diamonds set in rings meant to symbolize a happy union. Politically aware Westerners, however, have recently begun to take strong measures to correct these injustices, refusing to buy "Blood Diamonds" and insisting on diamonds from peaceful regions.

Jewelers and suppliers of precious stones, with increasing frequency, certify their diamonds as "clean" or more commonly, "Conflict-Free." What does this certification mean? How is such a certification obtained? And how has the Conflict-Free diamond trade had an impact?

"Conflict-Free" diamonds are stones the trade in which has not supported civil war, terrorism, or brutality against local populations. This designation arose in response to the turmoil surrounding the diamond trade, especially in Angola, Sierra Leone, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as other areas of South Africa. In these regions, the diamond trade was taken over by violent rebels and warlords. While using the funds from diamond mines guarded by paramilitary and mercenary troops, these guerilla forces have been known to terrorize local villages and mutilate miners and trespassers, including subjecting people to forced amputations.

In response to this abominable situation, several watchdog groups arose, and their combined efforts, including consciousness-raising in the West, and political and economic pressure, led South African countries with a legitimate trade in diamonds to implement a new system called the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). This system tracks every diamond from mine to supplier or jeweler, and each Conflict-Free diamond is authenticated as originating from a nonviolent source.

A recent survey conducted by Amnesty International showed that while consumer interest in Conflict-Free diamonds has risen, jewelry retailers have been somewhat slow to respond. Only 27% of the responding jewelers indicated they had a policy on Conflict-Free diamonds, and only 13% were willing to certify that their diamonds were "clean."

However, the international movement to end the trade in Blood Diamonds has gained tremendous momentum. The United Nations, The European Commission, the World Diamond Organization (the main trade group in diamonds), and even giant diamond supplier, DeBeers, have agreed to trade only in KPCS-certified diamonds. These breakthroughs have largely resulted from grassroots, consumer pressure.

Consumer demand for Conflict-Free diamonds has soared. Although raw diamonds from regions of violence and war account for only 5% of the total global diamond production, consumers have spoken resoundingly, and the number of requests for Conflict-Free diamonds has increased by 1,500% in the past 6 years. Consumer interest in combination with several diamond embargoes, endorsed by the world diamond trade and the United Nations, have greatly reduced or curtailed the horrors of a diamond trade that was violent, terroristic, and utilized to support armed conflict.

The growing movement toward wedding ceremonies that reflect the strongly held values of the bride and groom is reflected in the Conflict-Free diamond effort. An increasing number of couples are choosing wedding ceremonies that are carefully crafted to embody their spiritual, social, and political values. Sometimes called the "green" wedding movement, this trend is marked by gift registries that include donations to favorite charities, organic or locally-grown catered food, personally written vows and new ways of designing the ceremony itself. Conflict-Free diamonds are yet another way to emphasize that the partnership of marriage is rooted in deeply held conviction. Wedding rings, a symbol of lasting commitment, need not support appalling violence and human rights abuses, thanks to the growing number of jewelers who offer Conflict-Free diamonds.


Peter Breslin


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Peter Breslin is a musician, astrologer, Tarot reader, teacher and freelance writer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has taught mathematics, music, writing, and literature in the course of a 20-year teaching career in Pennsylvania, New York, New Mexico, and California. Writings include a variety of pieces for publications online and otherwise. He is currently at work on a novel.

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