Blood Diamonds and Why You Should Consider The Alternatives
Just because the hype about blood diamonds died down, doesn't mean the problem has magically disappeared. True, after the major diamond stakeholders got together in 2000 to implement the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, funding for African rebel groups appeared to drop significantly. However, as is obvious to anyone living in Angola, Zimbabwe and other diamond-rich nations, the blood diamond problem is still a cause of human misery. Ten years on after the Kimberly Process, some say it hasn't changed much at all. The term "blood diamond" has become shorthand for the abuse of human rights associated with the diamond trade - known also by its other name, "conflict diamonds." When shopping for diamonds, most retailers prominently display signs indicating that their diamonds are "conflict-free" certified. The diamond industry doesn't want such a potential public relations nightmare affecting their profit margins. Even if participation in the Kimberly Process costs money, it's pennies compared with the risk of worldwide disgust at what some people have to go through, just so Westerners can have a sparkling rock on their finger. If you rated the Kimberly Process as a public relations exercise alone, and not a system to stop conflict diamonds, you could say it was impressively successful. But there's a problem with the "conflict-free" label - it doesn't actually guarantee anything. Advocacy groups and critics have pointed out the obvious loop-holes and flaws in the certification process. In practice, this means that murder, kidnapping, extortion, beatings, mutilation, slavery and rape continues as direct result of diamond mining, and those who seek to profit from it. The Wall Street Journal reported from Angola on 6/19/2010, confirming that such abuses are still taking place. One of the loop-holes in the Kimberly Process is that abuses occurring in territories controlled by recognized governments don't count as blood diamonds. The WSJ reported that soldiers in Angola routinely shake down diamond miners for money, often resulting in deaths and beatings, while in Zimbabwe massacres and rapes have taken place at the hands of government soldiers taking control of diamond-rich sites. The people living nearby are then forced at gunpoint to become diamond miners - essentially slaves. So while the Kimberly Process impeded the funding of rebel groups, it greatly increased the legitimacy of corrupt governments and dictatorships, allowing them more power to abuse their own people. Diamonds from these governments can have a "conflict-free" label slapped on them; meanwhile consumers are unaware of what people had to suffer to bring them those diamonds. While most jewelers hope that the blood diamond problem disappears, one way or the other, even those with any sense of ethics can't afford to boycott the sale of diamonds. It's a tradition that is so entrenched in Western society that many jewelers would go out of business if they attempted it. Some jewelers, including TiRings.com, are offering alternatives like pre-configured (i.e. already crafted and ready to wear; doesn't need to be special ordered) white sapphire engagement rings, in the hope of shifting consumer habits away from diamonds as that is the only real solution. At least for now, while the problem is so significant. Why white sapphire? It features a similar optical dispersion rate to diamonds and is rated 9 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness (diamonds are 10 out of 10). The white sapphire must be high quality and have the right type of cut, but even then, it is barely a tenth of the price of an inferior diamond and only a trained gemologist could tell the difference. However, there are other alternatives, like synthetic diamonds and cubic zirconia. In this case, however, it's more about being able to look down at your hand and not be reminded of a child's parents being murdered by machete, as he is stolen away to become the next generation of diamond miners.
- Susan Smith