Everything You Need to Know About the Kimberley Process

Written by: Benjamin Khordipour, Jewelry and Gemology Expert
May 10, 2017 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

Diamond jewelry is one of the most fabulous and luxurious items you can own. If you’ve ever bought one, you probably know about its physical features. But do you know the origin of your diamonds? Their journey from beneath the Earth’s surface to a notable retailer’s shop is more complicated than you might think. 

Maybe you didn’t know that there are people around the world who mine diamonds to start wars. As this was an ongoing problem, governments around the world decided to put an end to it. That’s when the Kimberley Process (KP) saw the light of day. 

And in this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it. 

What Is the Kimberley Process? 

Raw Diamond with Reflection

This process is an international initiative whose main goal is to control the raw diamond trade. It all started in the year 2000 in Kimberley, South Africa. Countries that produce diamonds in southern Africa gathered to debate about the “conflict diamond” trade. 

Soon after, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to help form an international certification scheme to control the raw diamond trade. 

Two years later, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was born. In short, this document explains how to control the production and trade of raw diamonds. 

Finally, in 2003, all country members started following these rules. 

What Are Conflict Diamonds? 

No Conflict Diamonds

Conflict diamonds are the main reason behind the KP’s creation. These diamonds also go by the name of “blood” diamonds. So how does a raw diamond become a conflict one? In short, when rebel groups start getting involved. These violent groups use force to take control of diamond production. Then, they sell these gems and use the money to finance wars. Most often, these wars are against governments. 

To make things worse, rival groups fight with each other, which causes even more violence and bloodshed. 

Many blood diamond-related wars have ended, but they’re still a big issue today. Not that long ago, there was a civil war in the Central African Republic for control over diamond production. 

As a result of the violence these groups have caused, more than 3,7 million people have lost their lives. Millions lost their homes, and their human rights suffered enormously. 

What adds to the problem is that some official governments have a big part in mining conflict diamonds. This is why countries affected by these attacks have decided to start a call for action. 

Who Takes Part in the Kimberly Process? 

UN Building with Flags

Officially, the Kimberly Process has 56 members. These are countries around the world that can trade raw diamonds. Most of them are from Africa since this is where more than half of the world’s diamonds originate from. However, there are many Asian member countries as well. Also, all European countries that participate in the raw diamond trade count as a single member (European Union). Basically, all countries that make, export, and import diamonds must take part in the process. For example, if you’re a businessman looking to import diamonds from Canada, you’d have to follow the KPCS guidelines. 

There are other KP members, such as the World Diamond Council and civil society groups. They were a part of the process from day one and made a significant contribution to the program’s workflow. 

How Does the Kimberley Process Work? 

Kimberly Process Documents

Here are some of the basic rules all country members should follow: 

  • Meet the minimum requirements and follow national legislation. 
  • Create new institutions that will control diamond import and export. 
  • Exchange data and information with other country members. The exchange should be transparent. 
  • Only trade with other KP members. That is unless that member doesn’t satisfy the initiative’s minimum requirements. 
  • Mark all shipments as “conflict-free.” Member countries also need to provide a certification proving their products are conflict-free. 

One member country chairs the KP on a rotating basis. Around 16 country members have chaired it so far, Russia being the last one. Also, all members attend plenary sessions twice a year. They review the whole process through annual reports, but also by exchanging and analyzing data. 

Which Parts of the World Have a Conflict Diamonds Issue? 

Map of World

Today, the only country with active cases of conflict diamonds is Côte d’Ivoire. Rebels from this African country work together to control the areas of diamond production. However, conflict diamonds that originate from this area are only responsible for 0.1% of the global diamond production. The Kimberley Process, along with the United Nations, aims to stop these diamonds from entering the market. 

While there are still issues in Côte d’Ivoire, many other countries are now conflict diamond free: Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Has the Illegal Diamond Trade Stopped? 

No. Unfortunately, the illegal diamond trade has not stopped. Charmian Gooch explained why that is. He talked with a diamond trader determined to buy blood diamonds because “if he doesn’t, someone else will.” This conversation dates back to 1997, but it is still relevant today. The reason for this is the lack of effort by other countries to stop the illegal trade. 

This is why the KP suffers a lot of criticism today. Another reason is the relatively narrow definition of what a conflict diamond is. For the most part, this initiative’s goal is to cut the rebel’s revenue. But the definition says nothing about the corrupted governments or the treatment of people who participate in the mining process. 

All this is to say that KP’s initial idea had some positive results, but they haven’t covered everything. 

Are Conflict Diamonds Only Meant to Fund Wars? 

The name “conflict diamond” means that these diamonds originate in areas with ongoing military conflict. However, we also consider a diamond to come from a conflict zone in cases other than war funding. In fall 2019, there was an issue in Marange, Zimbabwe. The US banned the import of diamonds from this area because their production included forced labor. 

Africa is the Earth’s most underdeveloped and poor continent yet is responsible for 65% of the world’s diamond production. This means that the African miners work in miserable conditions. They earn just a couple of dollars per day. 

Back in 2015, there were a couple of mining companies in Marange. However, the following year, Zimbabwe’s president allowed only one company to operate: Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company. And it goes without saying that it’s the government that funds this company. It declared the mining area as protected, and you would need a special document to enter. Otherwise, you could end up going to jail. 

To make this project work, the government moved more than 1,000 families to a new farm. The president promised to give them a new home, healthcare, and education. However, most of those families are still waiting for their president to deliver on his promises. 

Note that this story comes from a conflict-free area. That’s why the KP doesn’t even try to solve the issue. It means that up until 2019, all diamonds that originate from the area had no problems entering the market. It’s yet another reason why this global initiative is so widely criticized today. 

What Is the Clean Diamond Trade Act? 

The US president at the time, George W. Bush, signed the Clean Diamond Trade Act (CDTA) in April 2003. According to this act, all diamonds that enter or leave the US need to have a Kimberley Process Certificate.

This act states that its primary motivation is human rights issues around the raw diamond trade. 

How Can I Know I Have a Conflict Diamond? 

Fake Diamond on Black Background

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to check whether the diamond you have comes from a conflict zone. Especially if it’s a diamond you received as a gift. 

However, you can be on the watch the next time you make a diamond purchase. We recommend only buying diamonds that have a written policy stating they’re conflict-free. You can ask the retailer about the diamond’s origin. This should be no problem if they have nothing to hide. 

You can also look for diamonds that have a Gemological Institute of America (GIA) certificate. You’ll be able to find information about your diamond’s 4C’s here. Just make sure the description matches the diamond you bought. 

If your diamond comes from Zimbabwe, Angola, Liberia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, there’s a chance it might be a conflict one. Instead, look for diamonds from Canada, Namibia, and Botswana. They have been doing a great job when it comes to ethical diamond mining. 

In saying this, thanks to the Clean Diamond Trade Act, conflict diamonds are extremely rare in the US today. 

Another consideration, and as a Vintage Jewelry Boutique we strongly promote this, is to try and buy a vintage diamond. Vintage diamonds have been circulating the market for a long time and are therefore not helping continue the issue of conflict diamonds. Vintage and antique diamonds also have the benefit of being environmentally friendly.

What to Remember About the Kimberly Process

Solitaire Diamond Ring on Small Fingers

As you can see, the production of diamonds is quite a burning issue today. Ideally, these gems are supposed to be the symbol of love, commitment, and happiness. But that’s not the case everywhere. 

You’ve learned that there’s more to the story than mining and featuring diamonds in the jewelry shops. There are dozens of military groups that mine diamonds to fund wars. Consequently, the Kimberley Process has made huge efforts to prevent conflict diamonds from showing up in our jewelry stores. However, due to its members’ lack of motivation, the whole idea now suffers a lot of criticism. 

We’ve told you everything you need to know about the KP and what lead to its creation. You should now be more aware of the global problem that surrounds the diamond industry. Next time you shop for a diamond, demand that it be conflict-free