From Mine to Market: The ins & outs of Conflict Free Diamonds

November 11, 2020 4 min read

From mine to market: an article about the past and current ethical practices of diamond mining

It’s easy for new diamond enthusiasts to not understand the current status of “blood diamonds” or the long journey diamonds make before they end up in a ring. This entry is intended to set correct expectations about the nature of diamond sourcing. 

Conflict free? Well, mostly. 

Diamonds have long been associated with eternal love and commitment, but these beautiful stones have a dark past. The term “blood diamonds” came about in the 1990s, when rebel groups in various African countries including Sierra Leone, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Angola took control of the diamond industry to finance war efforts. 

Hiding behind genius marketing, the diamond industry has long been resistant to share internal information with its consumers, until recently. This lack of transparency from large corporations such as DeBeers has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the origin of a diamond to be determined. Therefore many recycled, heirloom, and even antique diamonds could have been “blood diamonds” at one point in their life. It is inaccurate to declare that a diamond is 100% conflict free, you have many factors that will prevent you from knowing its whole history. For example, the world renowned gemological lab, GIA, offers Diamond Origin Reports. While these reports sound promising and are a step in the right direction for the industry, the fine print only allows diamonds that meet a certain criteria prior to being tested (you can read more on their process here). Basically this means that you wouldn't be able to submit your grandmother’s beautiful old mine cut diamond for a GIA origin report, and the stone's past will continue to be a mystery.

Using recycled diamonds is another big trend in current business practices. While we 100% support this environmental movement. Environmentally friendly does not equally conflict free. Many recycled diamonds are old mine cut or old european cut diamonds that have been re-cut in brilliant or even rose cut shapes, making them more marketable in the current consumer climate. While no one is trying to be shady and hide the diamonds past life, when you purchase the diamond you cannot be 100% sure it was never conflict free at some point in time. This is not true for all recycled stones, but it is important to note.       

From mine to market, a diamond sees many hands before ending up in an engagement ring. Once rough stones are mined from places such as Angola or Zimbabwe, they are sold to intermediaries who cut and polish the them. There are major cutting centers all over the world including Tel Aviv, Antwerp, New York, Russia, India, and China. The cut and polished diamonds are purchased by wholesalers or manufacturers and in turn sold to retailers. Finally, the consumer gets to enjoy the beautiful diamond jewelry.     

Rose cut & Canadian origin diamonds

We acknowledge that diamond mining has had a dark past, but “blood diamonds” are no longer actively mined. What once was a highly unregulated process is now becoming more regulated, thanks to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). Since its origin in the early 2000’s members of this organization have extensive requirements to certify shipments of rough diamonds as “conflict-free” as well as preventing conflict and or “blood diamonds” from entering the trade. According to their website, “Kimberley Process members account for 99.8% of the global production of rough diamonds”. This statistic allows you to be confident that the stone you are buying from a legitimate retailer who works with trusted vendors is “conflict-free” per the KPCS. You can read more about the details of the KPCS and their commitment to ending conflict diamonds here

While the KPCS prevents “blood diamonds” from entering today’s diamond trade, we agree that the KPCS isn’t perfect. It doesn't address human rights and environmental issues that many artisanal diamond miners face. But before you disregard the KPCS as a whole The Diamond Development Initiative, a registered charity and non-profit organization, works with and through the KPCS to address these issues. Please check out their website for more information on their important work.   

All diamonds sourced for Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry are in compliance with the United Nations and the KPCS. Valerie works with a small group of trusted diamond vendors who are accredited within the industry and uphold these strict standards, with no exceptions. If you are looking for a diamond as your center stone, we use our trusted vendors to help us source the best stone for your ring. 

For our designs that use small white diamonds, we aim to use recycled stones whenever possible. When recycled stones are not available we use Canadian origin melee diamonds. Responsibly mined in Canada, Canadian origin melee diamonds are mined in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.  

At Valerie Madison we pride ourselves on being 100% transparent. Our goal is to empower and educate our customers and help them choose jewelry that is right for them. We are constantly learning and growing, but our commitment to the environment and working with trusted vendors stays the same. Valerie’s designs are thoughtfully made and take into account the world around us and it’s natural resources. If you are interested in reading about our sustainability practices please check out  this page on our website.    

 A diamond contour band and diamond solitaire engagement ring