The Death of the Blood Diamond

There is only one gemstone that has cost almost 4 million people their lives. It has funneled billions of dollars to terrorist organizations and rebels. It has funded conflicts in multiple countries. This same stone has also given 5 million people access to healthcare. It has enabled every child in Botswana access to free education until they’re 13. It has led to 1 million jobs in India. It is also on almost every woman in America’s engagement ring. The diamond is the most controversial stone in the world, due to a rough history, and a lack of good press about the end of blood diamonds.

blood diamonds

Diamonds were first discovered in South Africa in the mid 1860′s, when a teenage boy found a shiny stone on his father’s farm. After the stone passed hands a few times, someone discovered that it was a diamond. Within 15 years, diamond mines in Africa outpaced India’s diamond production over the last 2,000 years! In 1880, De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. was founded, and they began mining in Africa. At its peak in the late 1980′s De Beers controlled 90% of the diamond trade. Today, that number is down to 45%. De Beers has been heavily criticized due to their monopoly, price-fixing, and unethical, immoral mining practices.

The fall of De Beers was due in part to public awareness. In addition to blood diamonds, many people refuse to buy diamonds from De Beers after their dark history has become well known. Besides public awareness, diamond mines have opened in Canada, Russia, and Australia, further impacting the monopoly. Israeli diamond companies have also opened competing mines in Africa.

Diamond panning in Africa

The history of blood diamonds begins in Sierra Leone. In 1935, De Beers took over the diamond mines in Sierra Leone. Soon afterwards, traders discovered they could make a larger profit if they bypassed De Beers and smuggled diamonds from illegal mines. This was the first step in what eventually led to diamonds being used to fund the civil war. Sierra Leone became independent in 1961, and in 1968 Siaka Stevens became their prime minister. He supported the illegal diamond trade to help gain support for his political campaign. He also nationalized both the illegal and De Beers diamond mines. In under 20 years, De Beers diamond exports from the Sierra Leone went from two million carats to less than 50,000 per year.

On March 23, 1991, 100 rebels who called themselves the Revolutionary United Front took over eastern Sierra Leone. This began a civil war lasting until 2001 that was mostly fought over control of the diamond mines. The exports from these mines were used to fund the continued conflict, which was the first use of diamonds to fuel a civil war.

Revolutionary United Front soldiers

Blood diamonds first gained international attention when Global Witness, a non-profit human rights organization, published reports in the late 1990′s on the use of diamonds to fund the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola. This news shocked many, as diamonds were, and still are, the most beloved gemstone in the world. At the time, nearly 20% of all diamonds imported to Europe and North America were used to fund civil wars. Something had to be done, so, in 2003, the Kimberley Process was enacted to stop the sale of blood diamonds around the world. The Kimberley Process has 54 members who represent 81 different countries. The reason for the large difference is that the EU is counted as only one member.

There are five main goals of the Kimberley Process.

  1. First, in memory of those who died in Sierra Leone, in Angola, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African countries in conflicts fueled by rough “Conflict’ Diamonds;”
  2. Second, to end the killing in on-going conflicts in Africa;
  3. Third, to save the children of Africa whose lives would be threatened by future conflicts fueled by conflict diamonds;
  4. Fourth, to ensure those countries which depend on diamonds for their development and economic well-being will benefit from their patrimony; and
  5. Fifth, to assure consumers the diamonds they wish to enjoy are without the taint of conflict.

The Kimberly Process has its critics, but research by American University has concluded that overall it has been incredibly successful. In 10 years, the export of blood diamonds has gone from 20% of the diamond industry down to less than 1%! While there have been a few cases of fake certifications, the regulatory bodies have been very proactive in ending them. In addition, this is the first time in history an international regulatory method has been implemented to this extent. The success of the Kimberly Process could lead to other industries following suit.

At Renaissance Jewelers, we understand the issues involved in the sale of diamonds, and we are very careful to make sure our diamonds are only morally obtained. Our diamonds come from Eknam Diamonds, Inc.. Eknam is a member of The Jewelers Board of Trade, and all of their diamonds are certified to be conflict free. On every sale, they sign this pledge:

The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with the United Nations resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free.

While diamonds are a very controversial gemstone, they are finally coming out of the darkness. Between the Kimberly Process, better awareness, and many of the conflicts ending, blood diamonds will soon be a thing of the past.

You can view our diamond catalog here. If you are someone who is still skeptical of the Kimberley Process, we also have diamonds that are certified to have come from Canadian mines.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us at (352) 335-7188, or email us at