Diamonds from Sierra Leone.

Diamonds from Sierra Leone are well-known amongst those in the jewelry industry as some of the best quality diamonds available today.  However, this prized natural resource has also been wreaking havoc in Sierra Leone today and the diamond trade there is extremely perilous.  Diamonds from Sierra Leone have been synonymous with brutality, violence, and conflict.  This problem escalated in 1968 when Siaka Stevens became prime minister of Sierra Leone and recognized how lucrative the diamond trade industry was.  Stevens made a very large profit out of illegal diamond mining and trading, and in the following years most diamond trade in Sierra Leone was illegal.

 In 1991, Sierra Leone became an extremely volatile region as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) started attacking the governments.  While their “official” goal was to end crime and corruption, it became apparent that their interests lay in controlling the diamond mines.  With RUF controlling all the diamond mines, labor conditions were extremely poor with very harsh punishment for slight mistakes.  These diamonds from Sierra Leone as well as certain other African countries became known as blood diamonds or conflict diamonds.  In the 1990s, approximately $125 million worth of rough diamonds were bought by just Europe.  This means that this staggering amount of money went to fund the RUF who killed thousands of people during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

After almost a decade of fighting and the issue of conflict diamonds becoming an increasing problem, the United Nations sent a mission to Sierra Leone in 1999.  Since 1999, the United Nations has implemented programs to curb illegal diamond trading activities in Sierra Leone.  One program put into place was the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme which “requires a paper trail that certifies the origin of rough diamonds.”  This will ultimately reduce the flow of blood or conflict diamonds from countries such as Sierra Leone.  However, an industry as lucrative as the diamond trade industry still has a place for corruption and illegal trade activities.  There will always be a market for this and it is quite simple to forge a certificate, and blood diamond can still be smuggled into a “clean” country.

While the problem has definitely been curtailed, it is still a problem as corruption still exists and in an industry this lucrative people will always try to find a way around any legal processes.  There are certain retailers that claim to sell only “clean” diamonds, as far as we know it may or may not be true but if you are in the market for a diamond do some research to see which retailers do not carry conflict diamonds.  It is a starting point, and many diamond retailers take the UN definition of conflict free one step further and ensure there are also no human rights abuses involved.  This situation has improved greatly over the past decade and soon more and more diamonds will have legitimate certificates and corruption will hopefully be on the decrease.



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