The 2006 film, Blood Diamond, generated a torrent of articles in the media highlighting the serious problem of diamonds being used to fund civil war and armed conflicts in some African nations. It's not often that consumers face the stark provenance of what they buy and it clearly struck a chord.

Many people are now asking how they can avoid purchasing such diamonds. One sure way is to buy a Canadian diamond. Not surprisingly, Polar Bear Canadian diamonds are gaining attention because of the ethical mining practices in Canada. Each diamond is laser-etched with a tiny polar bear in its girdle which marks it as a conflict-free gem. Diamond discoveries since the 1990's have made Canada the third largest producer of diamonds in the world. So this northern producer will clearly benefit from the movie.

Simulated diamonds are also being pushed as alternative sources. The least expensive is high lead glass crystal like Swarovski. Cubic zirconia, the best known synthetic diamond, has been around since the 1970's. More recently, the lab-cultured moissanite diamonds have been publicised as a superior type of synthetic diamond. They're more difficult to tell apart from natural diamonds and costs far less. The jury is still out whether their sales will take off. All being said, mossainite diamonds are still synthetic and may well languish the same way cubic zirconia has for decades. Four out of five engagement rings sold today are gem-set with diamonds, real ones. Will this movie honestly change the expectations of future recipients?

The diamond industry is trying to regulate themselves with the Kimberley Process which involves the certification and secured transport of diamonds to reassure buyers that they are clean. Critics have been quick to point out that blood diamonds still do enter the supply chain either through illegal smuggling into market countries or "laundered" through countries like Ghana where they are falsely certified. With public awareness of the diamond certification process at an all-time high as a consequence of this movie, false certification and illegal smuggling attempts will rise. In early February 2007, US Customs agents seized 11,000 carats of illegal diamonds in Arizona.

If we were to stop buying natural diamonds because we are afraid of unintentionally purchasing a blood diamond, then arguably the people we will hurt the most are those who have already suffered terribly during those bloody years of civil war. Small scale alluvial mining is still carried out in Africa. An estimated 1 million miners hunt for diamonds through the back-breaking methods of panning and sieving. Poor Sierra Leone diamond miners are still eking out a precarious livelihood. Already at the very margins of the diamond industry, they are extremely vulnerable to market shifts. They are very afraid indeed of the backlash from this movie. For them, the furor generated by this movie cannot die down soon enough.


The Polar Bear Diamond Company

Diamond simulant


Looking for the 'big one'

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents seize over 11,000 carats of smuggled diamonds :

Diamonds seized :

Oscar-nominated film unearths curse of Sierra Leone's 'blood diamonds' by Mike Pflanz:

Conflict diamonds

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