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A brief history of blood diamonds

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Blood diamonds fund conflict

The diamond trade is subject to more than its fair share of abuse. In particular, diamonds 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. 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.

The emergence of the Kimberley Process

Recognising the diamond trade's role in funding civil war, the industry took further initiatives to limit the scourge of blood diamonds. In 2000 a group of delegates from diamond-producing countries met in Kimberley, South Africa, 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.

Problems with the Kimberley Process

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 that 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 21st century, 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, even though these are not technically defined as conflict diamonds.

Russian diamonds are funding the invasion of Ukraine

Russia is the world's largest producer of natural diamonds, accounting for about 1 in 3 of every diamond mined in the world in 2021. The US Treasury Department estimates that diamonds are one of Russia's top non-energy exports, generating more than $4.5 billion in 2021.

Despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian diamonds remain Kimberley Certified as conflict-free. In response to the war in Ukraine, the US banned the import of Russian diamonds, but the EU has continued to allow the import of Russian diamonds. As a result, European consumers are inadvertently helping to fund Putin's war machine.

Only traceable diamonds can be guaranteed to be conflict-free

You cannot rely on Kimberley certification to guarantee that a diamond is not funding conflict. To be sure your diamond was ethically sourced, you need to know where it came from.

At Ingle & Rhode, we offer a choice of natural Canadian diamonds and lab grown diamonds, both of which are guaranteed conflict-free.

David Rhode
Together with Tim Ingle, David created Ingle & Rhode to offer a better alternative to the traditional luxury brands. Since 2007, we’ve provided our customers with genuinely ethical engagement rings, wedding rings and fine jewellery – free from conflict diamonds, dirty gold and child labour. With more than 16 years experience in the jewellery industry, David has deep expertise in diamonds, gemstones and jewellery design and manufacturing.