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The Kimberley Process explained

Last week, whilst publicly speaking about ‘diamonds‘, I was asked some interesting questions about the Kimberley Process. It is not an easy subject to tackle so I felt it would be easier to explain by writing it down.

What are conflict diamonds?

These days, most people are aware of the term ‘conflict’ or ‘blood’ diamonds – diamonds mined and sold to fund violent civil discord in countries like Sierra Leone,  Angola and the Central African Republic.  The United Nations defines them as “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”

What is the Kimberley Process?

Established by the United Nations in 2003, The Kimberly Process is an international certification scheme designed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream diamond market. It enables legitimate traders to certify their diamonds as ‘conflict free’ by setting out to control the production and trade of rough diamonds.

Member countries must agree to implement a series of measures to ensure they neither import nor export diamonds mined to fund violence. Currently, the number of participants stands at 55, representing 84 countries.

So will the Kimberley Process ensure my diamond is conflict free?

Is it enough to buy your diamond in a country that has signed up to the Kimberley Process? Unfortunately, almost certainly not. Though the Kimberley Process has greatly reduced the number of conflict diamonds on the open market, rebel forces are still able to smuggle illegal diamonds across borders where they make their way into the mainstream gem trade. Some experts estimate that up to 10% of diamonds sold in mainstream markets are conflict diamonds. Others point out that the Kimberley Process definition of conflict diamonds is too narrow and excludes bloodshed perpetrated by governments.

What about working conditions and environmental issues?

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was designed to address a specific problem – diamonds mined to fund wars and uprisings.  However, it’s important to remember that the Kimberley Process is not the same as a Fair-Trade scheme.  A diamond certified by the Kimberley Process as conflict free may still have been mined in a way that damages communities, the environment and the miners themselves.

What can I do as a consumer?

As consumers, we have collective power—after all, it’s our demand for diamonds that drives the industry.

The most important thing you can do is ask questions.  Ask your jeweller where their diamonds were mined.  If they can’t tell you, walk away. 

Make a resolution not to buy diamonds that come from countries known for human rights abuses.  You can check Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for information.  Many jewellers from big names to individual artisans are committed to buying diamonds only from countries where ethical standards are rigorously enforced, and which can provide a paper trail from mine to shop.  This paper trail is particularly important because it is not yet possible to determine the origin of a diamond once it has been cut.

If you want to go deeper into the Kimberley Process, follow this link to this excellent article about Kimberley Certificates written by the Raw Stone.

So, be the change you want to see in the world!  Have fun shopping for your perfect diamond, but don’t forget to add another to the four Cs – Carat, Colour, Clarity, Cut… and Certification.

Kim Rix, GG GIA

Author of Gemstone Detective

Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence

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