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Zhayne Tanyag

English 111-59

Prof. Jutta Schamp

17 April 2017

The Romanticism of Diamonds: Why Mined-Diamonds are Not Forever

Diamonds are forever. Diamonds are a girls best friend. In capitalist America, there is a

positive cultural association to diamonds, as diamonds seemingly exude glamour and romance.

The allure in diamonds due to its steep prices make diamonds a commodity fetish as people get

enticed and purchase them. According to Karl Marxs ideology of commodity fetishism,

capitalist societies are obsessed with expensive superfluous items. However, the workers who

produced these exorbitant goods do not get rewarded with prerogatives; in other words, laborers

are extricated from the fruits of their labor (Marx 1). With diamonds as a commodity fetish, the

diamond-consumers unquestionably buy diamonds without paying heed to the laborers who

toiled for them.

Generally, there are two types of diamonds on the market today: conflict-free diamonds

and blood diamonds. Blood diamonds are acquired with the use of slavery and child labor

(Orogun 251). In the present day, there is an international illicit diamond trade that is propelled

by slavery and the funds that are acquired from these blood diamonds finance the corruption,

amputations, civil wars, and terrorism (Ndumbe 55). The controversy that arises is due to the

dilemma of purchasing diamonds for their positive associations, such as elegance and wealth,

while there are conflict diamonds in the market that help sustain the slavery, dismemberment,

and wars. The simple solution is to refrain from purchasing conflict diamonds altogether, and to

only purchase clean diamonds. In theory, it appears to be simple, but, in reality, it is not easy to
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differentiate between the diamonds and their respective origins once they are mixed together and

polished in Antwerp, Belgium. Thus, American diamond-buyers should stop buying diamonds in

general due to conflict-diamonds prompting amputations, utilizing child labor and slavery, and

propelling terrorism. Since it is implausible to prevent people from purchasing diamonds

entirely, it could be worthwhile for diamond-purchasers to purchase only conflict-free gems.

Blood diamonds prompt amputations; hence, conflict-diamonds should not be purchased.

For instance, starting in 1991, Sierra Leone had a civil war in an attempt to overthrow President

Momohs government. The rebels or the Revolutionary United Front (R.U.F.) is an organization

that has fought a ten-year civil war to seize control of the lucrative diamond-producing regions

of the country (Rodgers 268). In the R.U.F.s attempts to seize control, they forcefully enlisted

townspeople to further their agenda on digging diamonds for the cause. In other cases, the rebels

demanded money or family members. If the civilians did not acquiesce, they were then

threatened with the possibility of severed limbs. More often than not, the rebels cut off the hands,

fingers, limbs, and legs of the citizens (National Geographic). The amputees are an appalling

symbol of the rebellion that turns boys into militia, girls into sex slaves, and noncomplying

adults left for dead. Since the primary sustenance of the R.U.F. is the profitable diamond-

business, their diamonds must not be procured.

Conflict diamonds are excavated with the use of slavery and child labor. Child workers

are exploited as slave labor in order to maximize the diamond industrys profits. Amnesty

International and the Human Rights Watch have recorded the hazardous working conditions that

the children and adults are subject to (Smillie 1). In turn, it makes consumers reprehensible when

they purchase them and encourage the lost cause. Due to the trafficking of blood diamonds,

heinous human rights violations, including abductions, mutilations, amputations, decapitations,

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sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, child sex slavery, ethnic cleansing, refugee

displacement, and internally-displaced persons (IDPs), have been perpetrated with impunity by

revenue-seeking warlords and renegade-armed militias (Orogun 155). Orogun demonstrates

how the natural resource is exploited and how that leads to the mistreatment in human rights. As

seen in Kanye Wests Diamonds from Sierra Leone, West makes a statement on exploitation and

child labor. For instance, in (3:21-3:26) an African childs face is not shown, and only her hand

passing on the diamond can be seen (Williams). In addition to Kanye West shedding light on the

child labor that is being used within the vignette, he also comments on the consumerist ideals

that are inherent in the blood diamond trade. With this, he shifts the responsibility of destroying

the market for conflict diamonds to the diamond-buyer.

Blood diamonds should not be purchased, as their profits sponsor terrorist groups. For

instance, Many countries noted that they have reported very few suspicious transactions to their

[Financial Intelligence Unit] FIUs involving the trade of diamonds and other precious stones

Many countries noted funds transfers to high-risk countries, including those where a significant

diamond trade does not exist. Multiple cross-border transfers enable layering of transactions to

take place (FATF 1). Since purchasers acquire diamonds for the romance and beauty that they

are associated with, rebel groups exploit the market for diamonds. For example, these civil wars

and brutal armed conflicts usually are instigated by intransigent warlords, renegade militias, and

rebel groups that depend on the illegal sale of blood diamonds in exchange for military weapons,

guns, fuel, and assorted war materials such as land mines (Orogun 151). Orogun presents the

severe repercussions of purchasing the seemingly innocuous diamond trade. These rebels abuse

the market for diamonds and it makes the customers lose confidence in the business. In turn,
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diamond-buyers should refrain from unquestioningly buying their gems, for they indirectly assist

the corrupt cause.

On the other hand, it is not feasible to halt consumers from consuming diamonds

altogether. In the United States, diamonds have a positive cultural association that would be

difficult to rattle. Diamonds are commonly used in engagement ceremonies as a means of

lavishing ones love upon another. With age-old sayings and trite associations, a future where a

diamond is not identified by the elegance that it exudes is bleak. As observed in the National

Geographic documentary Diamonds of War- Africas Blood Diamond, when [diamonds] arrive

in Antwerp, gems from Canada, Australia, Russia, and Africa are all mixed together. Once they

are polished, it is virtually impossible to know their true origin or to tell a blood diamond from a

legal one (National Geographic). Most are not even aware of the notion of conflict diamonds,

and they blindly purchase them without being informed about the severity of their actions as

clients. Others might attempt to justify their purchases with the Kimberley Process certification

scheme. The Kimberley Process is an agreement within the diamond-industry to prevent conflict

diamonds from entering the global market. The Kimberley Process obliges diamond-producers to

certify that their rough diamonds were not mined in war zones. However, it has its loopholes: it

is self-regulated, inefficient, and lacks sanctions for violators (Ndumbe 63). The Kimberley

Process is present for consumers to regain their trust in the trade. All in all, it would be difficult

to suspend the spending on diamonds.

Diamond-buyers should be proactive and seek out only conflict-free gems. Conflict-free

gems are gems that are neither mined in war zones and nor do they utilize slave labor. Rather

than simply purchasing diamonds, U.S. diamond-purchasers should be wary of the perils of

purchasing blood diamonds. Due to the various loopholes in the Kimberley Process certification
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scheme, purchasing naturally mined diamonds is not a viable option for buyers. Shoppers could

purchase colored stones if they are simply seeking the elegance that diamonds exude. For

example, colored stones such as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are much scarcer than diamonds.

If the consumer is truly inclined to specifically purchase diamonds, laboratory-produced gems

are another feasible alternative. All things considered, there are various alternatives to mindlessly

getting hold of valuable gems.

The first step that can be taken in ensuring that one does not purchase conflict-ridden

diamonds is to inquire jewelers as to where the diamonds were mined. Consumers are urged to

avoid from purchasing from countries like Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Angola, for those are a

few of the countries that are confirmed to be steeped in troublesome human rights abuses within

and outside of their diamond mines (Baker 1). For example, Canadian diamonds are more

expensive, but one can be confident of their strict labor and environmental standards. With that

said, purchasing from Canada does not aid the smaller-scale economies of African industries.

Buyers are not to be discouraged from purchasing from the African diamonds, for their diamond

industry has proven to be beneficial to their economy and not all of their diamonds are blood

diamonds. Other options with regards to countries with rigorously enforced standards are

Namibia and Botswana in Africa. Specifically, buyers are encouraged to research their suppliers

and jewelers as some guarantee that their diamonds are sourced responsibly. The option given by

the Aryn Baker of Time Magazine is the De Beers Forevermark diamonds, for the company

invests substantially in local communities by building schools and hospitals near its mines in

Botswana and South Africa (Baker 1). Similarly, there are some jewelers who are making a

commitment to ethical sourcing and are actively pushing for certification changes in the

diamond industries (Baker 1).

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Another measure that may be pursued is to simply recycle diamonds. Jewelers can recut

diamonds to update a ring for a more contemporary look. Even if the diamond was previously a

blood diamond, at least it is over. The current owner is being proactive in not furthering the

issues at hand.

There is an emerging market for synthetic diamonds in order to suppress the market for

conflict diamonds. The key difference between lab-produced diamonds and natural diamonds is

in the production process. Diamonds are ordinarily formed over billions of years under high

temperatures and pressures deep in the earth. Lab-produced diamonds artificially recreate this

setting of high pressures and temperatures in order to forge diamonds in a shorter amount of

time. Like mined diamonds, man-made diamonds have the same refractive density, index,

dispersion, hardness, and crystalline structure similarly found in those diamonds mined from the

Earth (Morlin-Yron 1). The difference is imperceptible with the naked eye and with a loop for

even experienced diamond jewelers. With synthetic diamonds, the given origins and processes of

obtaining diamonds are distinct and noncontroversial for they laser etch a stamp to certify that

the given diamond is not natural. Ordinarily, man-made diamonds are difficult to implement

since they require high pressure and high temperatures that take a toll on the environment. As a

result, profits are typically difficult to muster. Rather, the company that was featured in the Time

article, Diamond Foundry, utilizes solar and hydropower [which] results in a zero carbon

footprint (Morlin-Yron 1).

Colored gemstones are another alternative to conflict diamonds. There is nothing like

the Kimberley Process in place to certify colored gemstones as they go from the mine to the

market (Smillie 1), but there are other naturally occurring safeguards that are set in place that

make colored stones less likely to be used to fund conflicts. Colored gems like rubies, emeralds,
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sapphires, alexandrites, and garnets- are much scarcer than diamonds and there is rarely enough

material available to finance a war (Smillie 1). In the diamond trade, key players like De Beers

keep the diamond prices exorbitantly high (Baker 1). Unlike the diamond industry that is self-

regulated, colored gems follow the economists law of supply and demand and prices fall when

supply rises.

In a greater sense, purchasers are advised to be proactive and socially responsible in their

all of their investments, because the diamond is not the only conduit where these cases manifest.

Gold buyers are prompted to check the origin of their gold as well, for not only does it fuel wars

and corruption, but it also leaves toxic wastes like mercury and cyanide that is damaging for the

environment and [the inhabitants] (Baker 1). Fair trade gold and recycled gold are viable


There is predominant propaganda where diamonds have a positive cultural connotation.

They are supposed to exude wealth and glamour. The paradox lies in the inconvenient reality that

diamonds are quite the opposite of glamorous. Specifically, as Marx would apply, diamonds are

not mined with proper consideration for the workers who produce them. It is more deplorable

that these diamonds are availed as the primary means to finance money laundering and

trafficking. As a result, buyers are implored to seek other means to purchase their luxurious

goods which in the form of lab-produced diamonds and colored gems. It can be concluded that

the irony is that diamonds are not romantic, but that they are romanticized.
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Works Cited

Baker, Aryn. "How to Buy an Ethical Diamond." Time Magazine, 27 Aug. 2015. Web.

22 Apr. 2017.

Marx, Karl, and David McLellan. Capital: an abridged edition. Vol. 1, Oxford, Oxford

University Press, 2008.

Morlin-Yron, Sophie. "Why Leonardo DiCaprio is backing man-made diamonds." CNN Wire, 30

Aug. 2016. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 25

Apr. 2017.

National Geographic. Diamonds of War- Africas Blood Diamond. Online video clip. Youtube.

Youtube, 31 Dec. 1997. Web. 10 April 2017

Ndumbe, J. A. The Illicit Diamond Trade, Civil Conflicts, and Terrorism in Africa.

Mediterranean Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 2, Jan. 2005, pp. 5265., doi:10.1215/10474552-


Orogun, Paul. Blood Diamonds and Africa's Armed Conflicts in the Post-Cold War Era.

World Affairs, vol. 166, no. 3, Jan. 2004, pp. 151161., doi:10.3200/wafs.166.3.151-161.

Rodgers, Elizabeth J.a. Conflict Diamonds. Journal of Financial Crime, vol. 13, no. 3, 2006,

pp. 267276., doi:10.1108/13590790610678350.

Smillie, Ian. Blood on the Stone: Greed, Corruption, and War in the Global Diamond

Trade.ProQuest Ebrary, Anthem Press, 31 July 2015,


Williams, Hype, director. Diamonds from Sierra Leone. Youtube, 16 June 2009, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.