Imagine this. You go into the store to buy the perfect ring. You know your credit card won’t decline. You ask to see the diamond rings because you won’t settle for less. The jeweler lays out the choices in front of you and you marvel at the beauty of the ring parts. The craftsmanship is impeccable. There are bands of all metal tones in one line. The diamond shapes are in another line, raw but gorgeous nonetheless. Once you pick the stone you want, next comes the decision of how you want it set into the band. Once you have made all your selections, you check out and leave, knowing you have to wait for the jeweler to do their magic.
During this waiting process, many things happen in the workshop to create that exquisite ring. The first step is to create a wax model and pour plaster into it to make a mold of the ring. From there, molten metal is poured into the different parts and sent to get polished. While this is all happening, the delicate art of cutting and polishing the diamond is taking place. The cut of the diamond determines its worth so most cutters will use 3D imaging to map out the best way to produce the most value. The diamond is sawed and rounded out before being sent for the extensive polishing process. The specificity of the cuts means that the jewelers have to be masters of the trade. The stone is first polished into 18 facets that create the baseline for the second round. At the end of the second round, the diamond rests with 57 facets. Before it can be set into the band, it is checked one last time to make sure nothing went wrong. The stone is mounted and buffed once more before it is considered sellable.
You pick up this ring that was carefully crafted for many hours, excited to give it to that special someone. It looks perfect. The jewelers did a fantastic job. Unfortunately, you didn’t know the other side of this action. The diamond mining business is filled with unethical and criminal aspects.
On a smaller scale, the mines are unethical to their workers. More often than not, the miners are not paid property for the hard labor that they do. Staying with the theme of being cheap, the companies regularly hire children. In one area of Angola, it was “found that 46% of miners were between the ages of 5 and 16”. These children do not go to school, ultimately forcing them to work in the mines for the rest of their lives. That is if they make it to adulthood. The conditions of the mines are dangerous and backbreaking and their age makes their chances of survival low. These mines take lives by any means necessary.
On a larger scale, the criminal ties to diamonds get scarier. In many countries in Africa, the phrase “conflict diamonds” is thrown around more than it should be. Conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, are ones that have come out of areas that the trade is controlled by illegitimate groups other than the recognized government. These groups use the money from the diamonds to buy weapons and the like to fuel their aggression towards the legitimate government. The money from this rich source of almost instantaneous profit allows the civil wars to go on for longer than they ever could without this resource. Once the diamond is sold into the black market, it is extremely hard to trace and could be sold into the real market without being traced. If the stone cannot be traced back to where it came from, it cannot be said to be a conflict diamond. Notice how the perfect pipeline of money exists for criminals to profit off of? Even with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) in place to certify that only conflict-free diamonds make it to the market, the ability to infiltrate remains relatively easy.
As you walk out of the jewelry store with your diamond ring in tow, there is always the chance that below the craftsmanship of the diamond’s cut and polish, a load of weapons was bought or a child was forced to mine in unethical conditions.
Not so perfect now, huh?