How does one begin to find and purchase an ethically-sourced diamond?
The first step is finding a guide to navigate you through the ethical waters. This can be as easy as choosing a jewelry professional who shares your concerns, has researched the complexities, and whose inventory and services reflect that combined concern and research. A jewelers willingness to educate you through the buying process is a good sign that they care about these issues.
Here I offer my introduction to the ethical sourcing of natural diamonds.
In January 2003, forty nations signed ‘The Kimberley Process’ – an effort to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. The Kimberley Process has been continually refined and improved since then. So, your first line of defense in your quest for a conflict-free diamond is a diamond grading report asserting such.
The Kimberley Process, like any commercial regulation, can have loopholes and minor failures. If you want absolute assurances that the diamond you are purchasing was not part of a scheme that funded terrorism or “blood diamonds,” unfortunately no recently-mined diamond qualifies. Every diamond-producing and diamond-cutting country has measurable issues with diamond smuggling, money-laundering, or Kimberley Process fraud. [FATF Report, “Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing through Trade in Diamonds,” October 2013.]
According to that same report, the nations most likely to be a source of conflict-free diamonds are South Africa and Canada. Again, these sources are “most likely” conflict-free.
So how can you buy a diamond today and be 100% assured of its conflict-free status? Luckily, there are multiple options: antique, upcycled, and some estate diamonds all qualify as conflict-free. As a bonus… no additional mining need occur to acquire them!
The easiest option to acquire are antique diamonds. They are old enough that they pre-date the recent conflicts... and their style of cut has an Old World charm that you just can’t find today! Since these diamonds are antique and have been worn with love over the years, a skilled, artisan diamond-cutter can polish out all the nicks, chips, and scratches one might have. For example, we at Alara Jewelry are partnered with American Diamond Cutter, Maarten de Witte. Maarten has over forty years experience in the gem trade and is a GIA Graduate Gemologist and Master Diamond Cutter who holds two patented diamond cuts of his own. You can trust your antique diamonds will be in good hands with Maarten. Below, you can see the magic Maarten preforms!
No family antiques? Jewelers with the right connections can help you source and buy an antique diamond. We at Alara have several and invite you to stop by to learn about your options.
Regarding estate diamonds: while they are not old enough to qualify as antique, some are old enough to predate conflicts. However, depending upon when they were cut, many diamond-cuts during this time period are found to be unattractive to jewelers and consumers alike. As a consequence, certain estate diamonds are devalued on the market. This makes them a great option for the price, but how do you get around the unattractive cut? Enter diamond upcycling!
With diamond upcycling, you have the lower-priced diamond re-cut into a modern cut, or maybe even a different shape. As we mentioned earlier, you will want a jeweler with a strong relationship with an artisanal diamond cutter who can expertly re-work and beautify your diamond.
Upcycling is an interesting process, and a diamond, once re-cut, can be certified through a third-party organization. If you are interested in an upcycled diamond, you can either purchase one from an independent jeweler who sells certified upcycled diamonds, or you can have a jeweler who works directly with a third-party certification company to upcycle a stone purchased on your behalf.
All of this is just scratching the surface, but jewelry professionals that take ethical sourcing seriously are ready to help you learn as much as you want to know. I welcome any and all follow-up questions, as do most of the independent jewelers in our area.