In this first of three posts on the traditional diamond industry, we look at how raw diamonds are found and processed.
When we think about purchasing diamond jewellery, it's natural to focus on the end result: how will this piece suit me? Does it fulfil my desires? Is it within my budget?
Not so common is to think about where our jewellery has come from. Not just from which store we bought it, but how all the individual components came to be. For centuries, we placed our trust in jewellers to deliver us quality goods that meet our highest standards. However, as the information age makes us more knowledgeable, we are redefining the word quality.
So, what quality are we talking about when it comes to diamonds?
At AïANA, of course we consider the long-accepted standards of Clarity, Cut, Colour and Carat - the 4Cs.
But our definition of a quality diamond goes beyond that. For us, a diamond's quality includes the entire process, from rough diamond stones, all the way through to finished jewellery pieces. We look at the impact of our products from an environmental and sociological perspective, so that we can be sure our jewellery is beautiful, inside and out.
How do standard jewellers operate? Let’s talk about the Kimberley Process
Unlike AïANA, the vast majority of jewellery manufacturers cannot be 100% sure of where their diamonds have come from. They may state ‘conflict free diamonds’ but the truth is the industry certification scheme to prevent conflict diamonds, the Kimberley Process, isn’t fool-proof (we will look in-depth into this in our upcoming post).
For a decade now, International non-profit organisations like Amnesty International and Global Witness have been raising serious concerns about the validity of the process itself. Moreover, the Kimberley Process is not a legally binding agreement and only applies to rough diamonds, so once stones are cut and polished, they are no longer covered by the scheme. This lack of enforcement means there’s no guarantee the diamond you buy isn’t funding violent war efforts.
This isn’t a ‘what if’ scenario. Conflict diamonds from Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic are the latest examples of conflict diamonds reaching international markets under the guise of the Kimberley Process scheme.
It’s enough to take the sparkle out of any prospective diamond purchase.
But that’s only half the story…
Let’s go back further to the mining of the diamond itself, one of the most resource and time consuming processes that mining companies invest in. Mining for diamonds involve building walls and diverting rivers to prevent water flowing to an area believed to hold Kimberlite Ore (in which diamonds are commonly found). Huge amounts of soil are then extracted by bulldozers to depths of at least 15 metres, which is then transported to special plants and processed to find rough diamonds.
A few hundred tonnes of ore may produce just a single carat of gem quality diamonds.
These mines, the biggest man-made holes on earth, can be seen from space. Soil erosion and land degradation can affect farming suitability, create flood conditions and lead to deforestation. Polluted bodies of water can destroy ecosystems relying on aquatic plants and fish. Mining pits left behind create dust pollution and stagnant water, leading to higher instances of disease for the surrounding inhabitants.
What can we do?
Ask questions. Research into the products to ensure you are purchasing quality diamond jewellery pieces, in all sense of the word. At AïANA, we pride ourselves on the ability to offer a transparent alternative, so you can be proud to support a truly sustainable diamond jewellery company.