The Painful Truth Behind Diamonds

"That cherished diamond ring that you may be wearing has a painful history"

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A diamond is seen as the ultimate symbol of love, commitment, and joyful new beginnings for many. But these sparkling stones are more a curse than a blessing for many people living in countries where diamonds are mined. Too often, the world’s diamond mines produce not only diamonds – but also civil wars, violence, worker exploitation, environmental degradation and unspeakable human suffering.


Violence: Most of the world’s diamonds are mined in poor African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. As a direct result of diamond mining, these countries have endured brutal civil conflict. Diamonds intensify civil wars by financing militaries and rebel militias. Rival groups also fight with each other to control diamond-rich territory. The tragic result is bloodshed, loss of life, and shocking human rights abuses – from rape to the use of child soldiers. Thousands of people have died and more than a million have been displaced. In addition, past wars fueled by diamonds have taken about 3.7 million lives. Millions of people are still dealing with the consequences of these wars: friends and family members lost, lives shattered, and physical and emotional scars that will last generations.


Exploitation: Many of the world's diamonds are mined using practices that exploit workers, children, and communities. A million diamond diggers in Africa earn less than a dollar a day. Miners regularly die in accidents due to inadequate and poorly monitored health and safety laws. Child labor is widespread. Because children are considered an easy source of cheap labor, they are regularly employed in the diamond mining industry. In some areas of Africa, children make up more than a small part of the workforce. One survey of diamond miners in the Lunda Norte province of Angola found that 46% of miners were between the ages of 5 and 16. Further, widespread corruption deprive diamond mining communities of funds badly needed for economic development. As a result, hundreds of thousands of miners and their families lack basic necessities such as running water and sanitation. Hunger, illiteracy, and infant mortality are commonplace. Even within developing countries, diamond mining communities are often the most impoverished. 


Environment: Due to inadequate planning and regulation, diamond mining has wreaked environmental havoc throughout Africa and other parts of the world. Decades of reckless diamond mining has taken a heavy toll on Africa’s environment. Irresponsible diamond mining has caused soil erosion, led to deforestation, and forced local populations to relocate. In some extreme cases, diamond mining can cause entire ecosystems to collapse. For example, diamond miners in the Kono district of eastern Sierra Leone have left behind thousands of abandoned mining pits. Wildlife has vanished, topsoil has eroded, and land once suitable for farming is now a desolate moonscape. The mining pits have created a public health disaster as well. When the pits fill with stagnant rainwater, they become infested with mosquitoes, spreading malaria and other water-borne diseases.


The Kimberley Process: In 2003 something called the Kimberley Process was set up to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream diamond markets. The process was set up "to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments." However, the effectiveness of the process has been brought into question. Organizations such as Global Witness and IMPACT have pulled out of the scheme claiming that it has failed in it's purpose and does not provide markets with assurance that the diamonds are not conflict diamonds. Organisations such a Human Rights Watch have also argued that the Kimberley Process is too narrow in scope and does not adequately serve to eliminate human rights concerns and exploitation from the diamond production chain, nor does it deal with the poverty prevalent in Africa's diamond mining communities.

According to the investigative newspaper The Guardian, in it's analysis of the Kimberley Process concluded: "In practice little has changed. The very system set up to eradicate the trade in conflict diamonds is now giving the industry a perfect cover story, as it continues to operate in the same opaque way it always has."

Diamond Alternatives

For these reasons we do not use mined diamonds in our jewellery. We prefer to use Moissanite or Zirconia gemstones instead. 

Both are visually and aesthetically comparable to diamonds. According to Swarovski, Zirconia has a comparable brilliance and hardness to diamonds, with a ranking of 8.5 on the Mohs Scale, and Moissanite 9.25.

With the right selection and cut these diamond alternatives can display the same or even better characteristics than a diamond, at a significantly lower price. In some respects these alternative gemstones are more desirable to diamonds as they are flawless. From an ethical standpoint they are preferable because they are conflict free and produced in an environmentally responsible manner.

View our Anti Slavery Policy.

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