A Brief History of Blood Diamonds

The trade in diamonds is subject to more than its fair share of abuse. In particular, diamonds that are mined in battle zones and sold to fund war and insurgency are called ‘blood diamonds’ (also known as conflict diamonds).

The idea of ‘conflict-free diamonds’ gained currency in 1998, when sanctions were put in place against Angola by the United Nations, preventing other countries from purchasing diamonds from there. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Angola was locked in a vicious civil war for 27 years, and the rebels’ insurgency against the government received substantial funding from the illegal diamond trade. The phenomenon was by no means isolated; at the time, estimates suggested that around a fifth of all world diamond production was used to finance conflict.

Recognising the role that the trade played in funding civil war, the diamond trade itself took further initiatives to limit the problem of blood diamonds. In 2000 a group of delegates from diamond-producing countries met in Kimberley, South Africa, in order to create a process by which the provenance of stones could be verified. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, as it became known, aimed to starve the insurgents of funds by strangling their trading networks. The World Diamond Council was formed in 2001 to address the same aims.

Unfortunately, the Kimberley Process is seriously flawed. One of the major sources of controversy concerns the criteria under which countries are given membership. Because the process is self-certifying and not legally enforceable, there are no criminal sanctions for non-compliance and it is still possible for countries who are members of the scheme to trade conflict diamonds.

Several African countries with a history of trading blood diamonds are now members of the Kimberley process. In the opening years of the 21stcentury Liberia was placed under sanctions by the UN for the role that its diamond trade played in funding civil war and terrorism; these have now been lifted. Côte d’Ivoire, which was a conduit for Liberia’s illicit diamond trade and suffered its own civil war, remains under sanction. The Democratic Republic of Congo has joined the process despite its civil wars in the 1990s, and is now a major exporter of diamonds. Recently, Zimbabwe has come under scrutiny due to allegations of widespread smuggling and abuse at the Marange diamond fields, despite the fact that these are not technically defined as conflict diamonds.

At Ingle & Rhode we create ethical fine jewellery, view our engagement rings in London, or let us create you a bespoke ring, you can view some of our previous bespoke engagement ring commissions online. All our rings use Fairtrade gold and diamonds that are conflict free such as Canadian diamonds.

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