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The short answer to this question, unfortunately, is that you cannot be sure that you are not buying a blood diamond, but you can take steps to greatly reduce the probability. If you strongly feel that you need a diamond rather than another type of precious stone, use a retailer who sources diamonds from nations like Canada or Australia exclusively, or one who abides by the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, a system which is designed to eradicate the blood diamond from the global gem trade. By using an ethical retailer, you can indicate your support for cruelty-free diamonds.
A blood or conflict diamond is a diamond that was smuggled out of an alluvial deposit or mined in an unsafe way and used to support a civil war, act of terror, or any other type of violence. Many revolutionary movements and terrorist organizations finance their activities with diamonds because they are small, valuable, and difficult to trace once they have entered the supply chain. A diamond may have been smuggled out of a mine and sold to finance terrorism, or unsafely mined, sold, and smuggled back into a mine so that it enters the supply chain of regular diamond rough, there to disappear entirely until it reemerges in cut form on someone's finger, ear, or throat.
Rising consumer concerns about the trade in blood diamonds and unwitting support of violence, especially in Africa, have led to several measures that are supposed to eliminate the trade in these stones. Many activists argue that consumers should boycott diamonds altogether, so there is no market for stones with a questionable provenance. The diamond industry has also responded to consumer concerns, and it has enacted several self-regulating measures.
The best way to ensure that a diamond is not an area of conflict is to purchase a cultured diamond. Cultured diamonds are extremely high quality, and while they are not as valuable as natural diamonds, they are equally attractive and have the same chemical composition. By purchasing a cultured or synthetic diamond, you can also indicate your support for cleaner manufacturing processes and help to fight the exploitation of diamond workers. A lab-grown diamond should not be confused with cubic zirconia or other types of “fake” diamond; it is a real diamond, but one that happens to be completely cruelty-free.
If the thought of wearing or gifting a cultured diamond is distasteful to you, think about purchasing a genuine Arctic diamond or a diamond from Australia. Both the Canadian and Australian governments have entered into certification schemes with their local diamond producers to create a supply of cruelty free diamonds that come with certificates to assure consumers. In addition, many Canadian Arctic Diamonds are micro-engraved, meaning that each diamond can be matched with a certificate of authenticity to ensure that it is not a blood diamond. These stones are mined and handled in facilities entirely independent of African rough, meaning that no conflict diamonds can be mixed with their supply.
You can also purchase African diamonds that have been certified under the Kimberly Process, but be aware that control over supplies from Africa is imperfect, and that you may inadvertently purchase a conflict diamond. The Kimberly Process is a voluntary certification scheme that involves diamond retailers, distributors, and mines, along with national governments. Under the scheme, individual diamonds are supposed to be carefully traced from the moment they are taken from the ground, and transported in sealed, meticulously labeled containers to minimize the risk of conflict diamonds being smuggled into the supply. This method requires a large coordinated effort by people from all over the world, however, and is highly subject to infiltration.
Some scientists have also proposed a chemical tracing process for diamonds. Depending on where a diamond is mined, trace minerals will remain on the stone, providing a clue as to where it came from. By inspecting the stones for this classic chemical signature, a scientist can determine whether the diamond was mined in Australia, Canada, or Africa, and may be able to further narrow the source of the diamond to a particular region. This method could be used to independently verify certified Australian and Canadian diamonds for concerned consumers.
When you are purchasing diamonds, do not be afraid to ask probing questions. Ask the dealer where the diamonds you are looking at came from, what the company's policy on conflict diamonds is, and if the company can verify the origins of the diamonds you are looking at with certifications. By getting as much information as possible about the source of the diamonds you are purchasing, you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to buy them.