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The United Nations first identified the conflict diamond issue in 1998 as a source of funding for war. In May 2000, the diamond industry convened a meeting in Kimberley, South Africa, to plan a process by which diamond origin could be certified, and plan a method by which the trade in conflict diamonds could be halted, and diamond buyers be assured that their diamonds have not contributed to violence.
In July 2000, the World Diamond Congress adopted a resolution to strengthen the industry’s ability to block sales of conflict diamonds. This called for an international certification system on the export and import of diamonds, legislation in all countries to accept only officially sealed packages of diamonds, for countries to impose criminal charges on anyone trafficking conflict diamonds and a ban on any individual found trading in conflict diamonds, from the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.
The World Diamond Council was formed in January 2001 and set out to draft a new process whereby all diamond rough could be certified as coming from a non-conflict source.
In 2002, after two years of negotiation between governments, diamond producers and non-government organisations, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was created.
The Kimberley Process has succeeded in cutting the flow of conflict diamonds from as much as 15% in the 1990s, to less than 1% worldwide today – none of which, it is thought, now reaching the main western markets of America and Europe.
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In 1998, the UN placed Angola under sanctions forbidding countries from buying diamonds from them. At that stage, Angola was in civil war which was partly being funded by diamond trading. This was the first time that diamonds were identified as being a source of war funding. Angola’s civil war has now ended and the country is again a legitimate part of the diamond trade.
In July 1999, following over eight years of civil conflict, negotiations between the Government and the Revolutionary United Front led to the signing of a peace agreement. In 2000, a ban was imposed on the import of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone, other than those which were Government controlled.
2003 saw the end of nearly 25 years of civil war. Liberia today is at peace and is attempting to construct a legitimate diamond mining industry. However, UN sanctions have not yet been lifted.
The Ivory Coast began to develop a fledgling diamond mining industry in the 1990s. A coup overthrew the government in 1999, starting a civil war. The country became a route for exporting diamonds from Liberia and Sierra Leone and foreign investment began to withdraw. To curtail the illicit trade, the nation stopped all diamond mining, and in December 2005, the UN banned all exports of diamonds from the Ivory Coast.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
Suffered numerous civil wars in the 1990s, but has become a member of the Kimberley Process and now exports about 8% of the world’s diamonds. De Beer’s most celebrated and priceless diamond, the flawless D-colour 200-carat ‘Millennium Star’ was discovered in the DRC.
Republic of Congo
Faced UN sanctions in 2004 because, despite having no official diamond mining industry, the country was exporting large quantities of diamonds, the origin of which it could not detail.
Read more about the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which has succeeded in cutting the flow of conflict diamonds detailed above and increased consumer confidence in buying ethical diamonds for diamond replacement.
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© Copyright British Jewellery, May 2020