Conflict Diamonds Issue Lacks Sparkling Debate

blood diamonds

Agent 007 has been a key weapon in the cause of conflict-free diamonds, although it was Global Witness, a non-governmental organisation, that first exposed the trade in “blood diamonds” or gems illegally smuggled from conflict areas.

“I think James Bond did more for consumer awareness of conflict diamonds than anything else,” says Michael Einhorn, chief executive of CoolDiamonds.com, an online retailer. He points to the scene in Die Another Day with actor Pierce Brosnan featuring conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone.

Mr Einhorn says: “Some customers just want to make sure they are not buying a diamond that is tainted.” But evidence of consumer concern over provenance is mixed. Luke Marriott is also a James Bond fan – he has named his trendy jewellery shop in Notting Hill, London, “Wint & Kidd” after the rogues in Diamonds Are Forever. Yet he says customers seldom ask whether the diamonds on sale derive from conflict countries.

“It is less of an issue than a few years ago,” he says, adding that all his efforts to raise his customers’ awareness have been brushed aside. “We contribute to a small school in Angola, but we don’t tell our customers because they are not interested,” says Mr Marriott, who spent 15 years working in that war-ravaged country.

“The problems of Africa are a million miles away from consumers, who think more of the images of Jennifer Lopez or the Beckhams wearing diamonds than of the images of conflict in Africa.”

Even in Africa itself, the issue is often a million miles away from consumers’ minds. “Customers are not really aware of the conflict diamonds issue,” says Ernie Blom, chairman of the Jewellery Council of South Africa.

“Their awareness has actually diminished in the last few years.” The end of many conflicts in Africa has worked against the clean diamonds campaign, dulling consumers’ interest.

As civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia have officially ended, even informed and socially aware consumers could be forgiven for thinking the problem has largely gone away. The very success of the Kimberley Process, the UN-backed initiative to curb the trade, has also fed the optimism.

The alliance of industry, NGOs and governments has succeeded in even persuading diamond-producing countries where strife continues, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, to accept inspections.

This is the brighter side of the coin: consumers are not disinterested in the conflict diamonds issue, but rather believe it has largely been solved