What are Cruelty-Free Diamonds?

Growing consumer pressure on the diamond industry has led to a self regulating movement among major diamond companies to more carefully monitor the sources of their product. The result has been clear labeling of some diamonds, indicating that they are cruelty-free, meaning that they were not involved in the blood diamond trade which rages across much of Africa. Consumers are encouraged to purchase cruelty-free diamonds so that they can be assured that the gems they wear did not contribute to civil war and other similar conflicts.

A blood diamond is a diamond which was involved at some point in trade for weapons. Blood diamonds are a large problem in African nations like Sierra Leone, Angola, and Liberia. These diamonds are often illegally smuggled out of diamond mines and used in trade for weapons and other military supplies; in some cases, they are actually smuggled into diamond mines so that they can enter the supply chain of commercial diamonds. The sale of blood or conflict diamonds supports suffering, death, and terrorism, and some consumers are opposed to being part of this trade, even unwittingly.

In response to these concerns, several humanitarian organizations suggested creating a label for cruelty-free diamonds, if a diamond company could ensure supply chain security and assure consumers that the products they are buying are legitimate. The cruelty-free diamonds campaign is similar to the No Dirty Gold Campaign, another consumer awareness campaign which is designed to get people to think about the sources of their jewelry. The idea is that First World consumers can have a powerful impact on the markets that supply them, and that by demanding cruelty-free diamonds, consumers could help put a stop to the conflict diamond trade.

Some diamond companies are ideally positioned to take advantage of the desire for cruelty-free diamonds. Arctic diamonds, for example, can be kept totally separate from the African diamond supply chain, and many Canadian diamond companies already certify their diamonds as cruelty-free, even providing their diamonds with individual registration marks and certificates of authenticity, so that consumers can be assured of their provenance. Companies that mine in Africa face large hurdles, as diamonds are small and easy to smuggle, and it can be very difficult to ensure that the supply chain is secured, especially when unscrupulous dealers accept non-certified packaged of diamonds. Humanitarian groups are interested in working with major diamond companies on this issue, however, and several proposals for certifying cruelty-free diamonds from Africa are under discussion.

In 2000, several major diamond distributors met in Kimberly, South Africa, to talk about ways to secure the diamond supply and prevent the sale of conflict diamonds. Several measures were adopted, together forming the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, which creates a chain of safe countries and suppliers to buy and sell cruelty-free diamonds. However, the process is largely self regulating, and many humanitarian groups have argued that additional measures are needed, especially from within nations which are heavily affected by the trade in conflict diamonds. It is hoped that consumer pressure for cruelty-free diamonds will make certification easier and more profitable for diamond companies.


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