Spring is the season of new beginnings. The weather is warmer; flowers are in bloom and couples are getting engaged. Congratulations to all those newly engaged people, I suppose. You have much to think about before you sign that marriage certificate. However, if you’re one of the millions who prefer to have a ring be a symbol of your love, you should be asking yourself where the diamond in your ring is coming from, because, more often than not, it’s a conflict diamond, also known as a blood diamond.
Conflict diamonds are uncut diamonds mined in an area of armed conflict and traded illicitly to finance the conflict. These diamonds are often mined by child workers in developing parts of Asia and Africa, particularly in India and the Sub-Saharan region of Africa. According to the International Labor Organization, there over 168 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 years that either need or are forced to work. Thus far, there are two main areas within the diamond industry that profit off of the forced labor of these children: diamond mines in Africa and polishing factories in India. Within both areas, children are forced to perform strenuous tasks; for example, carrying 50-60 kg of gravel in chemically hazardous conditions for more than 12 hours straight on $30 or less per month.
Unfortunately, these conflict diamonds will continue to negatively impact the lives of thousands beyond extraction. Once they’re sorted and valued, they’re sold, mixed in with conflict-free diamonds and smuggled into other countries. The funds produced are immediately given to the local rebel movements. These conflict diamonds are then transported to the polishing factories, where laborers risk severe respiratory illness from diamond particle dust. The conflict diamonds are crafted into jewelry by manufacturers and retailers before finally ending up in the display case of a jewelry store.
What does this have to do with first-world consumers? Well, as long as we continue to be buyers of diamond jewelry, there will always be suppliers. We as consumers need to start questioning where, how and by whom our goods are produced. We have been unknowingly funding rebel militia that thrive on child soldiers and tactics like rape and slavery for too long. Honestly, this confirmed to me that a sparkling engagement ring isn’t worth it. A ring is supposed to symbolise love and new beginnings, but love shouldn’t be based on how much money can be spent on a significant other. It definitely shouldn’t involve snuffing out another’s chances of a future while building up your own.
I must put aside my iciness towards everything romantic to admit that there are conflict-free alternatives to conflict diamonds. Synthetic diamonds and diamonds from antique rings and jewelry are wonderful options. Synthetic diamonds have an equally impressive shine without the mining process and human suffering. Diamonds from vintage jewelry can easily be reset into another piece of jewelry. Conflict-free diamonds, which are mined under strict standards, are a possibility. According to Time Magazine, you should consider purchasing diamonds from countries, like Canada, Botswana and Namibia. The magazine also suggests jewelers, like Hume Atelier and Brilliant Earth, that are apparently dedicated to selling diamonds that are ethically mined. I’d still be wary of any diamond, however, as there is no way of knowing exactly where it came from or whether labor and environmental standards were followed during the mining process. If possible, Time Magazine suggests buyers question the jeweler about where it came from. The jeweler should be able to describe in great detail where the diamond was sourced if it was ethically mined.
Keep in mind that what I’ve written is not a reflection of the cultures or the people that reside in these areas. I am merely bringing light to the issue of modern slave labor as a call to action to my fellow human beings. To quote Lily Tomlin, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then, I realized I was somebody.” I am not saying this is an easy issue to solve, but I believe we are all capable of making a difference. There is no special look, profession or personality trait that makes one capable of impacting lives. You just have to care enough to act and encourage others to act alongside you.
By Nikki Wertz, Layout Designer