Conflict Free Engagement Rings January 24, 2018 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
Sadly, if you have a valuable resource in a region beset with conflict and armed struggle, that resource will be used as currency. For longer than anybody cares to remember, this has been the case with diamonds. Most of the diamond industry today is on the African continent. With a mix of 1st, 2nd and 3rd world countries, Africa has more than its share of conflict, and this means diamonds are routinely used to fund the buying of arms or other instruments of war.
What Is A Conflict Diamond?
According to the UN, the definition of conflict, or blood, diamonds is this –
“Diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”
It isn’t just rebels who trade in blood diamonds. Armies of several states are also involved in the trade. With no credit lines available from the world’s banks, they turn to diamonds to fund their own army.
It is usually rough diamonds that are traded, as these are much harder to trace once they hit the marketplace. Men, women and children alike are forced to work in appalling conditions to extract the diamonds. Death rates amongst workers in illegal mines are very high.
The Kimberley Process was introduced in the early 21st century in a bid to try and regulate the sources of diamonds traded on the open market. Some argue that the Kimberley process isn’t efficient as conflict diamonds are still bought and sold. The fact is, though, that any reputable jeweler will only purchase and sell ethical diamonds.
Ensuring An Ethical Purchase
Provenance – the documented history of any item – is vital to protecting this blight on the diamond trade. Without the right documentation, any dealer should refuse to consider buying the diamond offered. Similarly, unless a dealer can provide the documentation, any consumer should walk away.
There are exceptions, however. With vintage and antique diamonds, provenance can be difficult to establish. The age of the diamond, if known, is a reasonable way of verifying that it is not a blood diamond. Examples of ethical diamonds would be any genuine old mine or old European cuts.
The truth is, though, that the industry is heavily reliant on trust. Trust in whoever is selling the rough diamond, the polished diamond and/or the finished jewelry piece. Certificate from the GIA or other recognized grading authority will help, but it isn’t foolproof. Some enterprising dealers in blood diamonds have ingenious ways of avoiding detection, and these stones do sometimes make it to the general market.
If you get an ill feeling about buying a diamond, don’t buy it. You might be wrong, of course, but better that than buying a diamond with a questionable history.
Other Things To Look For
There are, of course, lots of countries producing ethical diamonds. Canada, Russia, South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana are some of those countries. Namibia and Botswana do sometimes suffer, though, from diamonds being smuggled across their borders. African countries which suffer from internal wars usually have very insecure borders, and many diamonds are taken out of the country for sale elsewhere. The governments of Namibia and Botswana do, though, go to extreme lengths to try and ensure their own trade isn’t compromised.
Avoid any diamonds from Zimbabwe, Angola and Ivory Coast. Similarly, avoid any dealer who buys and sells such diamonds. It is highly likely that diamonds from these countries are not ethically sourced and are, in fact, blood diamonds.
Blood diamonds don’t just come from war zones. Unfortunately, the Kimberley Process allows diamonds to be described as “conflict-free” if they do not come from one of a list of countries currently suspended from trading openly in diamonds. To be ethically sourced, diamonds should be from mines where children are not employed, and working conditions for employees are safe and decent.
Does Price Matter?
This is an excellent question. You might expect diamonds from a result of conflict to be cheaper, a little like buying a stolen TV in a bar. However, unscrupulous dealers know that selling diamonds under market rates is a massive red flag. To avoid suspicion, they sell as close to market price as possible, while maintaining a competitive advantage.
Ethical diamonds don’t cost more just because they are ethical. Diamond prices are what they are, and will be dependant on the quality of the stone.
Ethical Engagement Rings
As we’ve said, if you are looking at antique rings (or modern rings with an antique diamond), the age should indicate that the diamond is conflict-free. A little more care may be required for the more recent vintage diamond rings, as the period may overlap with one of the many conflicts in diamond producing areas in the last century.
You can only do so much before you are reliant on the dealer acting responsibly. Most do, of course, but not all. The price difference, as mentioned, will be minimal, so do put some effort into buying an ethical engagement ring. Lots of people will be grateful you do, if it means a reduction in blood diamonds becoming available.
Some Examples of Conflict-Free Diamond Rings
Handcrafted during the Edwardian Era, the Auckland Ring (circa 1905) features an ornate bow-motif that finishes off with fine engravings. Diamond and milgrain grace the loops of the bows. The center old European cut diamond weighs approximately 1.23 carats and is I color and VS2 clarity.
A unique Antique JE Caldwell Ring, featuring a stunning old European cut diamond and surrounded by a halo of diamonds. The sides of the gallery showcase filigree and diamonds. Diamonds on both sides of the split shoulders accent the center diamond. The center antique diamond is approximately 1.08ct, J color, and VS2 clarity.
A rare and impressive original Art Deco era engagement ring that features a 2.19-carat old European cut diamond, I color, and VS1 clarity. The four corners of the bezel portray old cut diamonds. Bordering the square are calibre’ sapphires. Along the platinum shank is beautiful floral engravings.
The delicate, triple-wire band of the ring and the delicate filigree along the lower gallery has been expertly handcrafted from platinum. The center old mine cut diamond is dated circa 1925 and is approximately J color and VS2 clarity.
A stunning 1.17ct Old European Diamond Engagement Ring adorned with leaf-shaped accents along the shoulder and finished with elegant milgrain. The center diamond is 1.17ct, I color and VS2 clarity. An additional 0.10 carats of diamonds line the shoulders.