Conflict Diamonds and The Kimberley Process

Conflict Diamonds

The United Nations 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 opposition to those governments…”

Sierra Leone is a source of some of the world’s most beautiful diamonds. Unfortunately, throughout the 1990s, it was torn by bloody conflicts between opposing forces seeking control. Similar conflicts were also occurring in other parts of central and western Africa. These conflicts resulted in horrifying injuries and death to massive numbers of innocent civilians, including women and children. In the late 1990s, it came to the world’s attention that diamonds played a role in funding these violent conflicts. Rebels were selling illegally obtained rough diamonds to raise money for their brutal efforts.


The Kimberley Process

The global diamond industry, alarmed by the situation, decided to act. Industry representatives worked closely with the United Nations, governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada. Their goal was to institute procedures that would eliminate conflict diamonds from the marketplace. Out of this cooperation came the Kimberley Process, designed to monitor and certify rough diamonds as they make their way through the market. The industry officially declared “zero tolerance” toward conflict diamonds in 2000 and fully implemented the Kimberley Process in August of 2003.

Here’s how the Kimberley Process International Certification Scheme works:

  • Rough diamonds are taken from the mine directly to Government Diamond Offices, where their source is checked and confirmed as conflict-free.
  • Inspected diamonds are sealed and placed into tamper-resistant containers. The government issues a Kimberley Process Certificate with a unique serial number and attaches it to the sealed diamond shipment.
  • When the diamonds arrive in a cooperating country, the government customs office checks the certificate and makes sure the seals weren’t tampered with before allowing the diamonds to enter the country.
  • Once the diamonds have been legitimately imported, they can be sold, cut, polished, and set into jewelry. Each time a diamond changes hands, the invoice must contain a statement of its conflict-free origin.
  • At the retail level, retailers are responsible for ensuring that the diamonds they buy are from conflict free sources. While there’s no requirement to label each diamond with a conflict-free warranty, the information must be made available to the consumer if requested.
  • Only governments that follow Kimberley Process procedures are allowed to legitimately export and import diamonds.
Today, Sierra Leone is a peaceful and democratic country. UN peacekeeping efforts ended its civil war in 2002. Conflicts in other areas have also come to an end. More than 70 governments worldwide have adopted the Kimberley Process into their national laws. As a result, more than 99 percent of the world’s diamonds come from conflict-free sources today. For more details about the  Kimberley Process check out their official website:
Source: Gemological Institute of America