The Kimberley process - An honest look

Many diamond retailers use the Kimberley Process to display their commitment to ethical origins, but does this actually give buyers any gaurantees that the diamonds they're buying are free from human suffering? In short, no.
Diamond miners

If you've been shopping for a diamond ring you'll have no doubt heard about the Kimberley Process. Established in 2003, it was intended to prevent conflict diamonds financing violent rebel conflicts, particularly in African nations.

If you're looking for an ethical diamond ring you'd be forgiven for thinking a Kimberley certificate provides a good guarantee that the diamond has come from a good supplier, but in reality it offers very little assurances that the gem you're buying has ethical origins

In our opinion, the Kimberley Process is well-intentioned but ultimately doesn't go far enough to protect vulnerable people in the diamond supply chain or consumers looking for ethical diamonds. At this point, the scheme is almost 20 years old and has never really been effective, but recent developments mean it simply isn't fit for purpose any more.

The Kimberley Process applies to batches of diamonds, not individual gems

In theory any diamond that is extracted from a mine in any of the signatory countries should be vetted before export to ensure it hasn't been involved in any trading linked to armed conflicts.

The major downfall, however, is that the Kimberley accreditation process happens when diamonds are exported from their country of origin, not during their initial extraction. This allows mining companies to mix diamonds from multiple mines into single shipments which all get the same approval certificate.

Because a single Kimberley certificate contains diamonds from multiple mines all ability to trace a specific gemstone back to a mine of origin is destroyed. And if buyers don't know which mine a diamond has come from it's impossible to say whether it's from an ethical source or an unscrupulous one. This flaw makes smuggling conflict diamonds within the Kimberley Process laughably easy, especially considering the levels of corruption in many of the African nations that export the majority of diamonds.

As a result, if you were to ask the majority of diamond retailers where their 'Kimberley Process Approved Diamonds' came from, they would have no idea.

'Conflict diamonds' has an extremely narrow definition

Conflict Diamonds is a term that only really applies to diamonds that are traded to fund rebel groups. It pays no attention to the working conditions or labour choices that the mines operate with.

Also, it ignores any violence caused by non-rebel groups. This was highlighted with brutal fashion in 2008 when the Mugabe government took over the Marange Valley, an area with diamond reserves worth $800 billion. The occupation cost the lives of over 200 workers, but exports from the area continued to be accredited under the Kimberley Process. This controversy led to several prominent supporters of the Kimberley Process withdrawing their support, including Global Witness, an organisation that played a key role in exposing the conflict diamond issue.

With the withdrawal of so many prominent supporters, we're left with an accreditation process that is largely self-regulated by diamond producers who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo whilst reaping the benefits of a largely ineffective scheme.

What you can do to find an ethical diamond

Unfortunately there isn't a universal accreditation scheme which can be relied upon for ethical diamonds, so shopping for one gets a little more difficult.

As a seller of ethical diamond jewellery, we naturally want you to buy a Nightingale ring. You can be sure that our lab and mined diamonds all come from ethical sources, traced back to the mine of origin.

But not everyone is going to buy from us, so if you decide to go elsewhere the best piece of advice we can give is to ask the shop which mine the diamond has come from. If they can't do that, then they can't say whether it's ethical or not. It's simply impossible, no matter how many Kimberley Process certificates they can produce.

Canada Diamonds are a good variant to look out for. Any diamond that comes out of the frozen tundra of northwest Canada comes with a unique tracking number inscribed on the gem via laser. Using that tracking number allows you to track the diamond all the way through the supply process (we stock them, by the way).

Further reading


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