Just because the hype has died down, doesn't mean the blood diamond problem has magically disappeared.
Nevada City, CA (PRWEB) July 21, 2010
White sapphire is now being offered by jeweler TiRings.com as a diamond replacement, in an attempt at limiting the blood diamond trade. "Blood diamond" is short-hand for diamonds which support conflict and exploitation in third world countries, a problem that continues 10 years after "conflict-free" certification measures were installed to stop the problem.
Such alternatives allow jewelry buyers to vote with their money, now that UN and diamond industry efforts to curb violence relating to the diamond trade appear to be only partially effective. People in countries such as Angola are still facing murder, extortion, kidnapping and slavery as a result of the trade.
To avoid a public relations disaster, major diamond stakeholders convened in 2000 to set up the Kimberly Process, a voluntary system of certifying "conflict-free" diamonds. However, advocacy groups such as the International Jeweltree Foundation and critics say the system is flawed and has significant loopholes.
"Just because the hype has died down, doesn't mean the blood diamond problem has magically disappeared," says jeweler Eric Pless, of TiRings.com. His company is one of the first to proactively offer ethical alternatives, like white sapphire, to consumers.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article reporting from Angola, one of the world's largest suppliers, supporting claims that blood diamond issues continue. The article also identified the loophole in diamond certification, whereby diamonds can be misleadingly certified "conflict-free" by governments associated with the Kimberly Process. The problem, says the Wall Street Journal, is that some of those governments are corrupt and as violent as rebel groups.
Advocacy groups also add that diamond manufacture is a multi-step process, from rough mining through to cut and polishing. Illicit diamonds are often passed between countries for this process, to hide their origins and the destination of the proceeds.
Pless suggests that the blood diamond problem is akin to dumping oil waste in the Amazon, or supporting sweatshops in Vietnam. Because people in Western countries hold much of the world's wealth, their spending habits can contribute to - or solve - serious problems that affect people and the environment.
"Sadly, the tradition of buying a diamond ring for an engagement is so entrenched that no jeweler can afford to boycott diamonds. But the least we can do is persuade customers to buy alternatives that don't contribute to the misery of so many people, and hopefully shift consumer habits."
To the naked eye, white sapphire - if cut properly - is virtually identical to a diamond. It features a similar optical dispersion rate and is rated 9 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness (diamonds are rated 10). However, even for equivalent cut, carat weight and clarity, white sapphire is barely a tenth of the price of diamond, due to the inflated market demand for diamonds. Pless says that buyers who choose a white sapphire instead can have a large and spectacular gem for the cost of a small, low grade diamond.
"Personally, I don't wear diamonds because I don't want a constant reminder of atrocities like parents being macheted to death, while their children are stolen to become diamond miners for rebels and corrupt governments. Yet people are still happily sealing their vows of love with diamonds, unaware that the "conflict-free" label doesn't guarantee anything. If you want to feel great about your purchase, you should consider the alternatives and make choices that support human rights."