This is an interesting discussion and it’s understandable that people have fairly strong views – a woman’s engagement ring is unique to her and tells a personal story of ups and downs, joy and disappointment. Attaching significance to material objects (in this case, jewellery) is an unfortunate but enjoyable aspect of being a human. Throughout history, we have always appreciated beauty and skill. Of course, ideas of beauty vary from culture to culture and from person to person.
I do not agree that natural diamonds have inherently bad connotations – not in today’s society, at least. Buying a new diamond today is far safer than it was 8 or more years ago… The civil war in Sierra Leone (1996 – 1999) exposed the ‘blood diamond’ industry to the world. Many innocent people, including children, were forced to work in a diamond industry which propped up the violent regime of Dictator Charles Taylor. Similar illegal activities were occurring in other African nations, such as the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe, where corrupt leaders sought to fund their oppressive political and military campaigns via the sale of diamonds. The international community was rightly appalled.
However, the story does not end there. The UN took action and sought to regulate the international diamond trade. The Kimberly Process (KP) was set up in 2003 and has been protecting the rights of miners and workers for 8 years. KP is similar to other ‘Fair Trade’ schemes in that it seeks to regulate the industry and offer a fair deal to workers – however, KP is different in that it is legally binding under international law. Today in the UK and in all other UN Member countries, it is only possible to buy KP diamonds. It is against the law to sell any diamond without a KP certificate. YOU MUST ASK TO SEE A CERTIFICATE.
KP diamonds come from KP member countries, which include:
In my opinion, buying KP diamonds is a constructive and wholly good purchase. Particularly if buying from Botswana and Namibia, two of Africa’s most successful emerging democratic states. These countries depend on the diamond trade for economic stability. If we refused to buy diamonds because of the atrocities that happened in Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivore and Zimbabwe then smaller, peaceful African nations would suffer. And economic problems can lead quickly to political unrest. By boycotting African diamonds we would cut-off a legitimate source of income for those nations operating lawfully and fairly under the Kimberly Process. We would do more harm than good.
The African continent is blessed with rich natural resources which are coveted by the West (and the Far East). Oil, diamonds, gold, uranium… some of the most precious materials known to man. As a result, the weaker African nations are often victims of exploitation and political corruption. Its the reason why Europe scrambled to colonize Africa 1800s, savagely carving it into new countries and planting the seeds for years of turmoil and violence as nations struggled to claim independence.
It’s all very well to ‘tut tut’ about blood diamonds and choose to boycott the industry, but I think that choice is more damaging to Africa in the long term. The Kimberly Process offers a safe way to purchase diamonds from African nations that operate democratically and protect the rights of their workers. This activity ought to be supported and endorsed.
Diamonds are a natural resource created by volcanoes – many diamonds are millions of years old. They are part of the earth and a symbol of the earth. They are one of the strongest, hardest materials known to man. They can only use diamonds to cut diamonds. And when they are cut by master craftsmen, diamonds are undeniably beautiful.
A man-made diamond or a synthetic diamond will never have the ageless truth of a genuine, natural diamond. Sure, perhaps you can get a bigger man-made stone and impress your friends. But when you own a real diamond, you feel a sense of responsibility to it and it makes you think about where it came from: the miners, the traders and the craftsmen who cut and polished it. There is a complex history behind natural diamonds which imbue them with romance. Support the KP diamond trade and support human rights and economic development!