One of the reasons I feel so good about my decision to found AIDIA Fine Jewelers, a lab-grown diamond jewelry company, is due to the lingering issues surrounding mined diamonds and conflict. Like many valuable minerals, diamonds have long been implicated in conflicts, mostly in countries where civil wars have erupted.
Precious resources like diamonds are often used as portable, untraceable wealth for rebels who exchange them for weapons and to support other illegal activities that foment conflict. In the 1990s, diamonds were the fuel for horrific wars in the African nations of Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, for example.
In response to these diamond wars, the jewelry industry, human rights groups, and governments joined together to form the international Kimberley Process trading system, which today monitors the flow of rough diamonds in and out of countries where diamonds are mined and traded. Thus, the trade can prevent conflict diamonds from getting into the mined diamond supply.
After the settlement of most of the African wars of the 1990s, and the establishment of the Kimberley Process, the number of conflict diamonds shrank from as much as 15% of the world’s total to a fraction of one percent.
But unfortunately, this success does not mean questionable diamonds are behind us. One of the biggest problems is that the definition of “conflict” the Kimberley Process uses is quite narrow: “diamonds that finance conflict waged by rebel groups against governments.”
In recent years, however, the worst violence diamonds have triggered is by government security forces who routinely and systematically harass and intimidate artisanal miners and local communities around rich diamond mining areas in places like Zimbabwe and Angola. In a bid to control the diamond mines, these governments regularly commit human right abuses. Yet, these diamonds are not strictly defined as “conflict” – thus they still make their way into the broader diamond supply.
If such news concerns you, as it does me, then you might be a person who’s in the market for a lab-grown diamond, where you can be assured its provenance is in a laboratory, rather than a killing field or an abusive diamond mine.