How can I avoid conflict diamonds?

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Posted by Robert Hensley
Asked on July 11, 2014 9:40 pm
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I am adamant about helping people avoid anything that mars the romantic experience of buying a diamond. And avoiding the purchase of a diamond that was used to fund conflict is a big part of that.

What are Conflict Diamonds?

Conflict diamonds are diamonds illegally traded to fund conflict in war-torn areas, particularly in central and western Africa. The United Nations (UN) defines conflict diamonds as ”…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.” These diamonds are sometimes referred to as ”blood diamonds.”

[To be fair, it is important to share that many metals, minerals, and other gemstones are also used to fund conflict in this crazy world of ours, so it would be unfair to think that only diamonds are subject to this. And it is interesting to note that the diamond industry is the ONLY industry I know that has set up a self-monitoring system and ways to control the sale of stones by terrorists and illegal governments and rebels. So keep that in mind as your read... ]


Conflict diamonds captured the world’s attention during the extremely brutal conflict in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. During this time, it is estimated that conflict diamonds represented approximately 4% of the world’s diamond production. Illicit rough diamonds have also been used by rebels to fund conflicts in Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo (also known as Congo Brazzaville). (read more)

Today, due to trade restrictions, government policies, and the internationally established Kimberley Process, the flow of conflict diamonds has been reduced to considerably less than 1%.

Eliminating Conflict Diamonds

In July 2000, the global diamond industry made clear to the international community its zero tolerance policy towards conflict diamonds. Dedicated to eradicating the trade in conflict diamonds, it worked closely with the United Nations, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada to create the Kimberley Process Certification System. This system was formally adopted in 2003 and guards against conflict diamonds entering the legitimate diamond supply chain. The diamond industry also adopted a voluntary System of Warranties to assure consumers that their diamonds are from sources free of conflict.

Today 74 governments have enshrined into their national law the Kimberley Process Certification System, and now more than 99% of the world’s diamonds are from conflict free sources. However, even one conflict diamond is one too many. The diamond industry continues to work with governments, NGOs and the UN to strengthen the Kimberley Process and the System of Warranties.

While diamonds have been used to fund conflict, the problem is not the diamonds themselves but the rebels who exploit diamonds (along with other natural resources) to achieve their illicit goals. The vast majority of diamonds come from countries at peace. These countries have been able to invest the revenue from diamonds into the development of infrastructure, schools and hospitals for the good of the communities in which diamonds are found. These countries include Australia, Botswana, Canada, Namibia, Russia, South Africa and Tanzania.

Today, more than 99% of the world’s diamonds are now from conflict free sources and are officially traded under the UN mandated Kimberley Process. See below for more info.

World Diamond Council Created the Kimberley Process

The World Diamond Council was established in 2000 by the diamond and jewelry industry to address the challenge of conflict diamonds.

The World Diamond Council (WDC) has since transformed the jewelry and diamond industries, both in terms of how they perceive their responsibility toward their stakeholders and society in general, and in the way diamonds are bought and sold.

The origins of the WDC date back to the late 1990s, when civil war was raging in several African countries and rough diamonds were being used to finance the guerilla campaigns of rebel forces. With human rights activists and legislators in different countries questioning the impact of diamond sales, the WDC was established in July 2000 by a resolution passed at the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp, Belgium, by the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association.

Eli Izhakoff, a veteran industry leader, was elected as WDC chairman and he immediately set about a creating a broad coalition of key participants from the diamond and jewelry industries, bringing into the new body representatives of national and international industry organizations, major jewelry manufacturers and retailers, mining companies, gem labs and bank representatives.

In September 2000, WDC’s first formal meeting was held in Tel Aviv, Israel. Developing a close relationship with the civil society groups involved in the conflict diamonds issue, the WDC lobbied both governments and the United Nations to create a system that would prevent diamonds from conflict areas from entering the legitimate trade.

On December 1, 2001, the UN General Assembly unanimously approved a commitment to a certification scheme that would eliminate conflict diamonds and institute sanctions against transgressors. It was the industry that had provided the blueprint for the certification system.

Later the U.S. Congress passed the Clean Diamonds Trade Act by an overwhelming majority, and similar legislation was passed in every country that ultimately joined the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which formally launched on January 1, 2003. WDC created of the “peer review” system, which ensures the credibility of the Kimberley Process (KP) Certification Scheme. In the years since it was created in 2003, WDC has participated in large number of review visits to KP member countries.

In mid-2004 the critical importance of the peer review system was seen when the KP expelled the Congo Republic (Congo-Brazzaville). In 2006, it also acted to prevent diamonds being smuggled out of the Ivory Coast to neighboring Ghana where they were being sold with KP certificates.

The Kimberley Process Controls Conflict Diamonds

Conflict diamonds came to the attention of the world media during the extremely brutal conflict in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. The UN, governments, the diamond industry and non-governmental organizations (such as Global Witness, Amnesty International and Partnership Africa Canada), recognized the need for a global system to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain and thus helping to fund conflict.

They developed an agreement called the Kimberley Process, which requires participating governments to ensure that each shipment of rough diamonds be exported/imported in a secure container, accompanied by a uniquely numbered, government-validated certificate stating that the diamonds are from sources free of conflict. View a sample of a Kimberley Process certificate.

Under the Kimberley Process, diamond shipments can only be exported and imported within co-participant countries in the Kimberley Process. No uncertified shipments of rough diamonds will be permitted to enter or leave a participant’s country. This ring-fences conflict diamonds and as such ensures they are unable to enter the legitimate diamond supply chain and thus, cannot be used for illegitimate purposes.

In November 2002, 52 governments ratified and adopted the Kimberley Process Certification System, which was fully implemented in August of 2003.

Today, 74 governments, in partnership with the diamond industry and NGOs, are committed and legally bound to the UN-mandated process. Kimberley Process participants currently account for well over 99% of the global production of rough diamonds.

Kimberley Process participants undergo periodic reviews, along with peer monitoring to ensure compliance. Furthermore, all rough diamond sales are independently audited, and are also subject to separate governmental regulations. Any country that is found not to be in compliance can be sanctioned by the Kimberley Process.

Kimberley Process Requirements

  • Each shipment of rough diamonds crossing an international border must be:
  • Transported in a tamper-resistant container
  • Accompanied by a government-validated Kimberley Process Certificate
  • Each certificate must be resistant to forgery, uniquely numbered and describe the shipment’s contents
  • The shipment can only be exported to another Kimberley Process participant country
  • It is illegal for uncertified shipments of rough diamonds to either be imported or exported by a Kimberley Process participant country
  • Failure to comply with these procedures can lead to confiscation or rejection of parcels and/or criminal sanctions
  • If any concerns arise regarding a country’s adherence to the Kimberley Process, they are investigated and dealt with at an intergovernmental level

How the Kimberley Process Works


After rough diamonds are mined, they are transported to Government Diamond Offices.


After arriving at the Government Diamond Offices, the source of the diamonds is checked to ensure it is conflict free. The diamonds are then sealed and placed into tamper resistant containers and issued a government-validated Kimberley Process Certificate, each bearing a unique serial number. There are 74 countries that have implemented the principles of the Kimberley Process and have it enshrined in their national law. Only these countries may legitimately export rough diamonds.


Diamonds can only legally be imported into one of the 74 Kimberley process countries. Once diamonds are imported, the government customs office, in conformance with its national procedures, checks the certificate and seals on the container. Any rough diamonds without a government-validated Kimberley Certificate or that are unsealed are turned back or impounded by Customs.

Manufacturing / Trading

Once a diamond has been legitimately imported it is ready to be traded, cut and polished and set into jewelry. Several companies may be involved in this process. Each time the diamond changes hands it must be accompanied by a warranty on invoices stating that the diamond is not from a conflict source. This is called the System of Warranties. Manufacturers/traders are required to audit these System of Warranties statements on their invoices as part of their annual audit process and to keep records for 5 years.


Retailers are responsible for ensuring that the diamonds they stock and sell carry a warranty that they are conflict free. Retailers are required to audit these Systems of Warranties statements on their invoices as part of their annual audit process and to keep records for 5 years. The System of Warranties does not require the warranty to appear on the consumer’s receipt. But by implementing measures for greater supervision, compliance and accountability, through the System of Warranties, within the diamond trade, consumers can be assured that the diamonds they buy are from sources that are free from conflict. Consumers can ask for assurances from their retailers that their diamond is from sources free from conflict.

How To Avoid Conflict Diamonds

  1. Choose a reputable jeweler
  2. Ask Questions

A reputable jeweler will:

  1. Only use suppliers who can provide a guarantee that their diamonds are from sources free of conflict
  2. Have a conflict diamond policy
  3. Be able to answer a customer’s questions about the topic

Ask Questions

For further reassurance from a jeweler, ask these questions:

  1. How can I be sure that none of your jewelry contains conflict diamonds?
  2. What is your company’s policy on conflict diamonds?
  3. Can you show me your store policy on conflict diamonds?

In all cases, a store should be able to show that they buy responsibly, and follow the System of Warranties as part of the Kimberley Process.

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Posted by Robert Hensley
Answered on July 12, 2014 4:28 am
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