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Industry Must Read
Blood Diamonds
Sep 29, 2021
At NOVITA, we have previously discussed in detail how the very existence of Blood Diamonds is harmful to the planet and its inhabitants. However, we have yet to expose how well-known brands fool eco-conscious customers into purchasing ’Conflict-Free Diamonds’, which are just Blood Diamonds in disguise. This practice of deceiving potential customers by whitewashing conflict diamonds is not only morally and ethically wrong but also damaging to the emerging sustainability movement. In addition, these underhanded dealings by the most prominent players erode customer confidence in the diamond industry and hamper the hard work of young companies like us, who are trying to modernise it to be more ethical and sustainable. Most importantly, customers are entitled to know whether the symbol of love bought with their hard-earned money is contributing to the destruction of so much land and the misery of so many.
 
WHAT ARE BLOOD DIAMONDS 
 
A short summary of what Blood Diamonds are and how truly frightening their impact on the world is necessary to understand the magnitude of what the companies are doing. Blood Diamonds are thus called not for the colour red but instead for the price paid in blood by miners, mainly enslaved victims of war, in conflict-torn countries like Congo or Sierra Leone. Loosely held paramilitaries led by brutal warlords capture villagers and force them at gunpoint to mine for diamonds until death by exhaustion. With the cash selling mined diamonds to greedy companies, the paramilitaries and warlords are able to purchase military equipment necessary to retain their grip on power, resulting in their continued campaign of terror, including rape, murder, genocide, and ethnic cleansing.
 
You might be wondering who benefits from the existence of conflict diamonds. The truth is, everyone from old giants of the diamond industry all the way down to small diamond cutters and miners has a vested interest in keeping the cycle going. Since slave labour has almost no operating labour costs for warlords and paramilitaries in conflict regions, they are able to sell the diamonds very cheaply. This source of reliable and cheap diamonds is far too lucrative for these companies and groups to give up, who are only motivated by greed and nothing else. In addition, to keep the racket going, they have fought every attempt to bring accountability and reform to the diamond industry till recently. There can be no doubt that the mined diamond industry is complicit in destroying the environment and violating human rights in conflict regions in Africa in the pursuit of artificially low prices and an accessible supply of Blood Diamonds.

It is easy to assume that with the rising awareness of consumers and steady transition towards sustainability, Blood Diamonds are on the way out. However, that is far from the case; blood Diamonds have, just like any industry forced with relentless pressure, simply shifted away from the limelight and rebranded themselves before entering back into the market as ethically mined diamonds.
 

THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH 

According to the prominent diamond companies, all the mined diamonds they sell are ethical and ’Conflict-Free Diamonds’. If that claim were true, the warlords and paramilitaries in Africa would have been starved of funds by now and long since disbanded. However, that is clearly not the case. In fact, the situation is even direr than before; the rate of illegal mining and exploitation of vulnerable people, including children, is rapidly accelerating. The label ’Conflict-Free Diamonds’ created and pushed so heavily by brands and certification agencies is simply a marketing stunt to cover up the unpleasant truth of the mined diamond industry. In fact, it is the latest in a line of concentrated efforts to appeal to the growing segment of responsible customers.


Are ’Conflict-Free Diamonds’ better than Blood Diamonds and, therefore, the ultimate solution? Absolutely not; they are just ’Blood Diamonds’ with better branding. Let us examine their biggest differentiating factor, the claim by brands that ’Conflict-Free Diamonds’ are audited to guarantee responsible sourcing and ethical treatment of miners and workers. Contrary to their claims, it is well known within the diamond industry insiders that all such audits certifying that ’Conflict-Free Diamonds’ only originate from registered mines are an outright lie. If a diamond distributor is afforded the opportunity to acquire diamonds from conflict regions cheaply and consistently, they will all jump at the chance while hiding the fact that they are peddling Blood Diamonds to unsuspecting customers as ’Conflict-Free’ with hefty premiums. Corporations will never miss an opportunity to profit, and none as much as the mined diamond players.


Blood Diamonds entering the global supply chain is not a rare occurrence or a once in while accident. Instead, it results from highly orchestrated coordination by players in the diamond scene and corrupt government officials paid to look the other way. Currently, an excess of 90% of the world’s mined diamonds is funnelled through India for polishing. This bottlenecking of a necessary process is a deliberate and planned act. Blood Diamonds get intentionally mixed in with the other mined diamonds in this one specific stage of the process since there is nothing to differentiate a Blood Diamond from any other diamond. A few decades ago, most diamonds were being polished in Belgium and Israel, with India being decidedly the last choice. However, over time it all shifted to India due to cheap labour. Other countries also have an abundance of cheap, so why India specifically? In a nutshell, it’s their corrupt system and the way it can facilitate the underhanded dealings that are so lucrative to the diamond industry, specifically, the way diamond suppliers, polishers and, finally, government inspectors are happy to overlook any shenanigans as long as they get their cut of the profit.
 

Diamonds enter India for processing in packets, each containing thousands of diamonds of varying quality. The parcels of diamonds are opened by polishing houses, and the contents are poured into a giant bowl. Now we have this huge pile of diamonds from multiple packets, all with different origins. Once every diamond is polished and sent to a grader, there is simply no possible way to guarantee a diamond’s origin since determining its origin is scientifically impossible. Diamonds are crystals made of only one element, carbon, rendering them impossible to trace. Like pieces of silver, iron, gold or any other element, no chemical or physical tests can uncover the diamond’s origin. A diamond dug up by a prisoner of war in Congo is chemically identical to one dug up by mammoth machines in Russia.


All that is to say, any claims by retailers that their mined diamonds are friendly to the planet are purely bogus. They will happily advertise various certifications from non-profits, but the simple fact is that all such certificates that claim a diamond’s origin from a ’Conflict-Free’ mine, for example, in Botswana, are simply presenting you a very well-packaged lie. The certified diamond could, just as easily, be from a conflict area in Congo, and no one can tell otherwise. Even if they state they have a strict ’Chain of custody, it is simply not financially feasible to process diamonds individually, one at a time, with a certifier overlooking every step. Not to mention that in excess of 90% of the world’s diamonds are processed in large batches- thousands at a time- in a country where law and oversight are optional.


It might sound harsh, but the simple truth is that any companies or individuals participating, even indirectly, in the buying and selling of mined diamonds are responsible for the continued existence of Blood Diamonds and the resulting death and suffering of innocents, in addition to the devastating loss of nature. Primates such as the eastern lowland gorilla and numerous other species face extinction because the forest critical to the survival of these endangered are cut down or burned down to make space for mining. A company that sells ’conflict free’ mined diamonds is not ever fully committed to ethics and sustainability since the only diamonds that are truly conflict-free, without a shred of doubt, are produced in a lab by skilled scientists.


No matter how hard we at NOVITA tried to find proven and guaranteed sources of ethically mined diamonds, we could not, eventually coming to the conclusion that no mined diamond is truly clean. We could not in good conscious be at all involved with the mined diamonds industry and risk selling even one Blood Diamond to our customers. NOVITA Diamonds had no choice but to deal exclusively with lab grown diamonds as they are the only diamonds capable of giving power back into consumers’ hands. We firmly believe that our customers deserve not to be unwilling contributors to the success of an industry that thrives on corruption and apathy towards the plight of so many innocents.


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