I don't know about you but I barely made it through Blood Diamond. The 2006 Leo-helmed torture-porn about diamond runners during the Sierra Leone Civil War really fucked me up. After sobbing through most of the movie, I cursed my greedy western brethren, and vowed to never, ever wear a conflict diamond. However, in the back of my head I thought, "Of course, when I finally trick someone into marrying me, he better get me that good conflict-free rock!" Hey, I'm a child of 90s rom-coms, how else am I to supposed to know someone truly l-u-vs me?
Lucky for me, the film ends with an introduction of the Kimberley Process, a certification scheme that aims to curb the blood diamond trade by providing certificates for all diamonds. "How wonderful!" I remember thinking. "Now I can get that rock, post a million photos to Myspace to prove someone loves me IN YOUR FACE, and then let myself go — pass the Ben & Jerry's and let's burn all my razors!"
Well, life isn't that good, and as we now know, rom-coms are (delightful) horse shit, and so is the Kimberley Process.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme — which basically provides a sort-of passport for your diamond, letting the purchaser know the diamond's country of origin, the country of import, value, and total carats of each diamond shipment, and serial number — is rife with seemingly insurmountable flaws. Unfortunately, according to a new recent piece in Foreign Policy, they're about as easy to fake as an old driver's license, rendering the process relatively useless — or at least, woefully lacking in credibility. Which sucks, because it's become nearly impossible to tell the origins of any new diamonds on the market. In an email to me, author Jason Miklian said that "about 25% of all diamonds now in the stores are blood diamonds, and nobody can tell the difference." Not good.
According to Miklian, more than 90 percent of the world's unpolished diamonds are now processed and polished in the Indian city of Surat, where grossly underpaid workers and nearly nonexistent regulations ensure a "dream environment for the global diamond industry," and where "deciphering clean [diamonds] from dirty [ones] becomes nearly impossible."
In old diamond capitals like Antwerp, strict regulation of the industry is the name of the game. However, Surat is the new guard, a place where "gems are flown, freighted, and trucked in from Africa, Central Asia, and other mining hot spots to take advantage of India's cheap labor and no-questions-asked atmosphere."
So, not only are we quite possibly funding conflict with every diamond we purchase, we're also bankrolling an industry where workers are consistently abused and discarded.
After two decades of constant squinting and 100-hour workweeks, most boys who come here to make their fortunes in the polishing trade no longer have the eyesight to do the work. By 35, if they haven't been lucky enough to become dealers, those polishers already suffering from early-onset vision loss are shown the door and left to fend for themselves. And decades of continuously inhaling microscopic diamond grains often leads to tuberculosis and respiratory diseases ("diamond lung," as it's called locally), which afflict tens of thousands of workers. Most go back to their villages to try to farm the land they abandoned years earlier — literally sent out to pasture.
But don't diamond dealers give a shit about all of this? Especially after all the crack downs after they world was exposed to the atrocities of the Sierra Leone Civil War?
Nope. As one major diamond dealer told Miklian, buyers don't ask about working conditions in Surat because they don't care; they don't ask about the Kimberley Process in Mumbai because they know it's useless.
I guess it's a good thing that vintage and non-diamond rings are on the rise, because until Leo signs on for Blood Diamond 2: India Calling, I'm thinking we all need to put the stops on the solitaires. And for those of us who need the ice, these man made diamonds are looking pretty dope. Plus, what's more romantic than science?