Over the last few decades, technological development has aided diamond exploration and extraction expediency. However, the uptake of technological innovation to verify diamond origin and value claims to stamp out the trade of conflict diamonds has been comparatively stagnant.

Most modern companies involved in the diamond supply chain are overtly opposed to the unethical and unsustainable practices directly associated with the conflict diamond trade, and the industry sentiment is that this issue must be stopped.

Existing methods have not proven successful, as conflict diamonds are still infiltrating regulated and ‘clean’ supply chains of reputable companies all over the world. This is evident through the continued unethical operation of numerous diamond mines.

Why isn’t the Kimberley Process making a difference?

Through the advocacy of sustainable business practices, global jewellery committees and councils have attempted to stop the flow of conflict diamonds by aligning their members with certification schemes like the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), established in 2003. However, the KP is not delivering on its objectives, which puts into question sustainable sourcing claims that depend on the integrity of the system

It is well documented by several NGOs that while the KP had the best intentions, it is not the silver bullet the industry was looking for for several reasons:

  1. It relies on written or oral assurances of the integrity and origin of diamonds. There is no independent or transparent monitoring of this information.
  2. It only applies to rough diamonds, leaving cut or polished stones to fall through the gaps.
  3. The process requirements are easy to bypass by mixing stones, cutting them or smuggling them across borders to gain passable paperwork.
  4. The Kimberley Process does not recognise other forms of conflict funded by the trade of conflict diamonds like sexual violence, torture, inhumane treatment and environmental crimes.
  5. There are no serious consequences for countries that are non-compliant with the KP.

Sustainability and lab-grown diamonds

Initially created in the mid-century, lab-grown diamonds have been commercially available since the 1980s. Diamond buyers, particularly young buyers, are drawn to them due to their lower price point and increased transparency measures, with this market segment increasing its competitiveness with the natural diamond market. While the lab-grown industry does not face the same pressures as natural diamonds, specifically on the trade of conflict or ‘blood diamonds’, it has come under scrutiny due to its intensive processing activities that put sustainability claims under scrutiny. Lab-grown diamond producers will have varying sustainability commitments between regions and countries, making these stones susceptible to substitution and false claims.

Key issues facing diamond supply chains

Conflict diamonds
Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance armed conflicts. These diamonds are often mined using forced labour and are traded illegally to fund violent conflicts and human rights abuses.

False claims
False origin claims are a key risk in the diamond supply chain. Investigators are finding diamonds originating from sanctioned countries or sanctioned regions making their way to market. The complexity of this supply chain and the large number of diamond handlers means conflict diamonds or diamonds from sanctioned regions are disguised in with “certified” diamonds. This typically happens when the diamonds are still digitally untraceable and ‘rough’ as opposed to polished, at which point they may bear an identifying code.

The energy needed to produce a lab diamond is significant. Producers have been warned by regulators, like the Federal Trade Commission in the US, to not make “eco-friendly” claims without proper evidence. The environmental footprint of natural diamond mining is also significant, with an increasing focus on sustainability initiatives, including the use of renewable energy sources and better land rehabilitation practices.

Origin verification for the diamond industry
Source Certain is a long-term contracted service provider to SCS Global Services, an international leader in third-party certification, validation and verification. Source Certain provides the company’s provenance verification technology for SCS’s Global Services Certification Standard for Sustainable Diamonds (SCS-007).

Our scientific provenance verification technology verifies the kimberlite pipe of origin for natural diamonds and the production site for lab-grown diamonds. Our scientific service delivers an evidence-based verification that underpins traceability systems, certifications and claims. Source Certain’s robust and trusted science offers assurance to producers and stakeholders by adding a layer of credibility to diamond claims that consumers can trust.

Explore our Provenance Verification Program

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