We buy products because we need or want them. Simple enough. But we also want to feel good about the brands we support. We want to feel good about the coffee we drink, the shoes we lace up, strap on, or zip-up, the beauty and hygiene products we use… and the jewelry that we wear.
It is important to many of us that companies treat employees well and pay them fair wages; that they care about the communities in which they operate; that they do not wantonly harm the environment; that they are, when it comes down to it, decent.
It’s not always an easy endeavor. It can be difficult to discern where your products are really from, who produced them, and where your money goes. This has led consumers to begin asking the hard questions, such as “What are sustainably sourced diamonds - and where do I find them?”
What Are Sustainably Sourced Diamonds?
Diamonds are stunning, dazzling, and treasured for their exceptional beauty and prestige. But there is a dark side to their story - and it is one that increasingly concerns buyers. We have all heard of “conflict diamonds,” those stones that were mined in wartorn areas and traded to fund violence.
In 2002, the Kimberley Process was born after efforts by the United Nations General Assembly; this is a global initiative designed to curb the flow of conflict, or blood, diamonds. Participants must follow stringent regulations concerning the import and export of diamonds and commit to strict transparency requirements. They can only trade with partners who meet Kimberley Process standards. This effort has kept 99.8% of conflict diamonds off the market.
The Kimberley Process was a significant step forward - but we need to go further. Just because a diamond is conflict-free does not mean that it is ethically or sustainably sourced. This is an important fact of which the public needs to be aware.
A conflict-free diamond can still be sourced from a mine that pays its workers starvation wages, that engages child labor, that uses threats, coercion, and intimidation to generate profits, that commits unspeakable acts of violence, and that acts in ways that are destructive to the environment.
Hardly a diamond that socially- and environmentally-conscious consumers can feel good about wearing.
Sustainably sourced diamonds are those that come from mining companies that engage in socially and environmentally conscious practices. They don’t use child labor; they pay workers fair wages; they invest in the surrounding communities (i.e. building new infrastructure, health care clinics, schools, etc.); they are committed to minimizing environmental impact and even bettering local communities in terms of clean water and other necessities.
For this reason, sustainably sourced diamonds are also referred to as “ethically sourced diamonds.”
Identifying Sustainably Sourced Diamond Sellers
Now the big question is, where do you find sustainably sourced diamonds? It is not as easy as buying ethical or fairtrade coffee or tea! In fact, it can be quite challenging. Here are some tips to help:
Research, Research, Research
When searching for a diamond, people often educated themselves about the 4Cs (cut, clarity, color, and carat weight). Great idea! But go further. Scour jewelers’ websites to find information about the stones they use and where they came from. If this information is not readily available online, take your search in person.
Ask to See Certification
For reputable jewelers, providing certification is part of the process. They are happy to do so because they know they are offering ethically sourced diamonds. Ask to see the stone’s System of Warranties and any other available documentation.
Know Where the Diamond Comes From
Certain countries are known to uphold the highest standards when it comes to sourcing and trading diamonds. These include:
- Sierra Leone
Countries that have a red flag attached in terms of human rights violations and environmental destruction include:
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of Congo
Be an Aggressive Investigator
You may have to ask tough questions. It’s worth it. Interrogate suppliers:
- How do you ensure you are sourcing diamonds in an ethical way?
- Can I read your policies on souring diamonds?
- Where are your diamonds mined?
- Is it possible to track the origins of your diamonds? How do you do it?
- Do you have any documentation?
Watch Out for Unclear Answers
Reputable brands can answer your questions as to sourcing, certification, documentation, policies, and anything else you care to ask. If someone is giving you the “run around,” you can feel free to run away. Answers that are vague, unclear, incomplete, or just feel wrong are just as valuable: they’re telling you to look elsewhere.
Sustainably sourced diamond sellers are just as concerned with the origin of their stones as buyers are. They do not want to support unscrupulous, dangerous, and/or environmentally destructive companies that care for nothing but profit. Instead, their goal is to support miners - and workers and their communities - in creating a sustainable, ethical system for delivering beautiful products in a fair, equitable, ethical way.
Contact K. Rosengart to learn more about diamond sorting.