Imagine a country where precious gemstones litter the landscape, where the “cash crop” isn’t corn or wheat or soy but diamonds. Sierra Leone is such a place. The West African nation boasts an abundance of natural resources - which has proven to be a mixed blessing. The issue of resources, and the subsequent distribution of revenues, is fraught with conflict. A recently-unearthed 706-carat diamond shines a light on the importance of sourcing diamonds responsibly and ethically.
Photo Source: Forbes
What a Rock: The Discovery of a 706-Carat Diamond
Sierra Leone’s land yields some of the best diamonds in the world - crystal clear and of stunning quality. So, when a team of miners discovered an orange rock with red speckles in March 2017, they nearly discarded it. It’s well they didn’t.
The orange rock turned out to be the find of a lifetime. Reverend Emmanuel Momah, who leads the team, took the stone to an expert who identified it as a 706-carat diamond. Its value: $50 million. What Rev. Momah did next created a stir.
He turned the diamond over to the government. Per law, when miners find diamonds over a certain size, they must hand it over to government officials. The officials then handle the sale, tax the revenues, and distribute the rest of the proceeds to the miners and license holders (entrepreneurs who secure the rights to the land being mined). Theoretically. In practice, many in the mining trade are skeptical.
They fear that the government will fail to properly compensate the miners and license owners. In fact, in the 1970s, this exact situation unfolded. A 900+ carat diamond was found and sold for $2.5 million by the government. The money vanished.
Diamond sales of this scale pour much-needed monies into the country’s coffers - which is the law’s intent. However, some express concern that corruption or incompetence will divert funds into individuals’ pockets - or at least away from miners and license-holders.
In many cases, when mining teams find large stones, they simply find foreign buyers, conduct quick sales, and keep all of proceeds for themselves. This is illegal, it subverts funds from the country, and creates an atmosphere of even greater conflict.
If there’s another thing that Sierra Leone has an abundance of, it’s conflict. This is especially true in terms of diamonds. “Conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds” were used to fund factions during the brutal civil war (1992-2002). While the war is over, the disruption and chaos still remains a blight on the country’s diamond market.
Sourcing Your Diamonds Ethically
The discovery in Sierra Leone is an important reminder for those who purchase diamonds: selecting conflict-free, ethically-sourced stones is essential. Many suppliers have caught on to the marketing advantage and claim to offer conflict-free diamonds. While this may be true, you need more than a supplier’s word for it. How can you tell if the stones you purchase really are ethically mined and sold?
The Kimberly Process
All of the diamonds we supply are purchased from legitimate sources. To ensure this, we require our suppliers to adhere to the Kimberley Process warranty system. If they do not comply with this requirement and provide us an assurance statement, we do not do business with them.
The Kimberly Process is an integral component of the K. Rosengart approach. It is an international initiative designed to “stop the trade in ‘conflict diamonds’ and ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.”
Members must adhere to extensive requirements (e.g. providing a duly validated certificate when shipping rough diamonds, establishing a system of internal controls to eliminate the presence of conflict diamonds, etc.). Our suppliers must meet all of the Kimberley Process requirements (detailed here). Otherwise, we will not purchase from them. You, and your customers, deserve the highest quality, conflict-free stones. This process ensures that we can deliver them.
When the diamond trade is run ethically, people receive the compensation to which they are entitled, funds are not diverted to radical, dangerous groups, and governments act with greater transparency. This benefits everyone. While conflict-diamonds do exist, we are doing our part to eliminate the risk that they slip into legitimate commerce. This enables you to do your part.