how to select the perfect engagement ring
The last thing a newly engaged couple wants is to imagine that the money they spent on their wedding engagement ring funded a war in another country. Yet many couples are unaware of the ethics involved in buying diamonds. If you're looking to buy an engagement ring, you should know all you can about blood diamonds first – and do your best to ensure that your diamond ring is conflict-free.
What is a "Blood Diamond" – and What is "Conflict Free"?
Blood diamonds are mined in a war zone and sold to fund an invading army, insurgent efforts, or the power struggles of local warlords.
As recently as the 1990's, about 15% of diamonds sold worldwide were being sold to fund war activities. Because of steps taken by the international community to make it more difficult for countries at war to export diamonds, the World Diamond Council estimates that the percentage has fallen to roughly 1%, as of 2004. However, the system is not perfect.
In 2000, the diamond industry established the Kimberly Process. The leaders of Africa's top diamond-mining countries met in Kimberly, South Africa, to construct a process that forced its member countries to keep track of the value of the diamonds they export and import. This makes it possible to determine how much countries spend and earn from diamonds, and to hold them accountable for any illicit diamond sales.
However, any country can join the Kimberly Process simply by sending a letter to the foundation's president. The country diamond trade is not investigated or held to any standards as a requirement of membership. This means that some conflict diamonds are slipping through the cracks in the system.
The loophole has led many countries, including Canada, the US, and the European Union, to enact more stringent diamond-buying policies to ensure their markets are not receiving blood diamonds.
A diamond that is "conflict free" is a stone that was mined, cut, and produced under ethical labor conditions. Its sale was not used to fund a war, and it can be traced directly from the sales floor back to the mine.
How to Buy a Conflict Free Engagement Ring
Despite the measures taken by the diamond industry and your government to prevent the sale of blood diamonds, it falls to you to ensure your diamond is conflict-free. As a consumer, here are some important guidelines to follow.
Buy a diamond that hasn't crossed national borders during processing. Before it gets to a sales floor, a diamond must be mined, cut, and polished. Many countries export raw diamonds to large cutting and polishing factories across international borders.
The problem is that when diamonds cross borders this way, their identities often don't cross with them. This makes it easy for illicit diamonds to be slipped into the pipeline. A diamond is much less likely to be bloody if it's been cut, polished and mined in the same country, rather than following a long supply chain.
Buy a diamond with a laser-engraved serial number. To ensure that diamonds are conflict-free, they must be tracked during every step from the mine to the consumer. To do this, many diamonds are engraved with a serial number that can be used to establish a record of their movements.
Vendors committed to selling conflict-free diamonds will often have a system in place to ensure no blood diamonds get slipped in – of which engraved serial numbers are only a small part. A good system should be free of corruption and include surprise investigations of processing and mining facilities.
Buy a diamond processed under ethical labor conditions. Even if your diamond was not sold to fund a war, it may still be "dirty" if it was produced under unfair labor conditions. It's important to know the labor practices of the country your diamond is from. Workers for these companies should be paid a fair wage, work under safe conditions, and live in the region so that the company benefits the local economy.
Buy a diamond certified by its regional government. Conflict-free diamonds usually come with a certificate from the government in which they were mined and processed, with a guarantee that they were not processed outside the country borders.
Your wedding is an occasion for joy, and your engagement ring should be a lasting symbol of your love. To make it truly meaningful, it's important that you do everything you can to ensure that your diamond has not been used to finance harm to people in other countries. By buying conflict-free diamonds for your engagement ring, you can do your part to make the world a better place.