For diamond jewelers in today’s market, knowing the source of their diamonds is an invaluable sales tool. Knowing where diamonds originate influences socially conscious consumers in their decision of what to buy and where to buy. No one wants to declare love with a blood diamond.
The rise of consumer awareness
Diamond jewelry customers are growing more conscious of global issues and are demanding that diamond manufacturers and jewelry retailers act responsibly in the production of their goods and services. Socially responsible companies see higher sales while boycotts and protests may hinder the non-socially responsible. In fact, on average, customers will pay 10% more for goods with conscientious social or environmental values.
The 2006 blockbuster movie Blood Diamond made consumers aware of conflict diamonds internationally. Humanitarian groups joined the clamor, railing against the diamond industry and its “unethical policies,” claiming that diamond miners, cutters, polishers, and retailers were all getting rich off the suffering of others. The World Diamond Council quickly countered with its own campaign, including full-page newspaper ads and a website, DiamondFacts.org, to assure consumers of the industry’s zero tolerance policy for blood diamonds. They were also quick to demonstrate the positive effects of the diamond industry on the countries where they are sourced (employment, education, healthcare, etc.). Martin Rapaport explains that “diamonds provide an important lifeline for the people of West Africa because their economy revolves around the diamond trade. Despite the civil rights violations in Sierra Leone, for example, the country depends on its diamonds, and a boycott would have severe ramifications on the local innocents.“
What are conflict (or “blood”) diamonds?
Conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, are diamonds that are used to finance conflict, civil wars, and human rights violations in war-torn areas, particularly in Central and Western Africa. Since 1998, the United Nations has recognized African blood diamonds as a source of funding for African civil wars. Profits from the illicit trade are often used by warlords and rebels to buy arms, particularly in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Diamond jewelry retailers must be at least as knowledgeable and concerned about blood diamonds as their customers. Customers want confirmation that their jewelry was manufactured ethically, from the mine to the finished piece. Retailers must therefore also establish and adhere to a written company policy regarding conflict diamonds, and provide certification to that effect with each purchase.