Conscientious customers nowadays typically inquire about the source of the diamonds they are intending or considering to purchase. “Blood diamonds” have been so named because armed factions in a number of politically unstable African states routinely coerce local populations to work the diamond mines under extreme working conditions and for very little pay.
Concerned consumers generally have three options when it comes to avoiding blood diamonds. These are: (1) buying from retailers that deal solely in diamonds mined from Canada or Australia; (2) buying a synthetic diamond; or (3) buying diamonds that have been certified by the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).
Diamond mining operations in Canada and Australia comply with all relevant regulations and best-practices recommendations and are certainly conflict-free. The provincial government of the Northwest Territories of Canada, for example, issues its own certificates of authenticity for diamonds that have been mined within its territory and are then processed into gems at centers and labs within the province. These diamonds basically never leave the Canadian Northwest and so do not run the risk of being mixed with diamonds from other sources prior to cutting, faceting, and polishing.
Another way to ensure that a customer is not buying a blood diamond is by choosing a man-made diamond. Synthetic diamonds are an alternative for those who are looking for value at a lower price. But most synthetics are limited to shades of yellow, and many of the big gem labs have refused to grade them. Without a reliable grade certificate from an established gem lab, the price of an individual synthetic might not correspond well with its actual 4Cs. The biggest drawback of synthetics is, of course, their lack of uniqueness. They come in batches, and individual gems in every batch are practically identical microscopically. The ownership of expensive synthetics can be difficult to establish, and some companies have thus resorted to techniques such as laser etching to "individualize" each gem.
Kimberly Process Certificates
Other than buying natural diamonds that had been mined and processed in Canada or Australia, the third and least reliable way for potential buyers to ensure that they purchase a non-conflict diamond is to look for a Kimberly Process Certificate. The Kimberly Process, however, is a voluntary system and has been criticized by some of its own originators. Partnership Africa Canada's 2009 Diamonds and Human Security Annual Review states that the KPCS doesn't have the teeth to enforce its prescription since legislation in participating countries is inadequate or poorly enforced, monitoring and statistical information on trades are spotty, and smuggling and non-compliance are not being effectively sanctioned. Although the Kimberly Process has received much criticism as of late, it is still the only existing system for screening rough diamonds that have not been sourced from either Canada or Australia. And since Africa is the source of approximately 65% of the world's supply of rough diamonds, the Kimberly Process Certificate is still better than no certificate at all.