What is a Blood Diamond?

If you’ve seen the movie ‘Blood Diamond, the question above must’ve piqued your interest. But if you’re a diamond enthusiast or interested in entering the trade, it’s more than just a curiosity quest. Blood diamonds are a significant topic of discussion in the diamond market, and if you’re going to become part of it, you’ll need to know what it is and why it’s so important.

Here, we’ll explore the factors that make a blood diamond termed so and highlight how mining negatively affects governments and people. We’ll also share how you can tell if you’re about to purchase a blood diamond and ways to help discourage its mining and trade.

Blood Diamond vs. Conflict Diamond

The first thing to understand is what qualifies a gemstone as a blood diamond. And the answer lies in the conditions that surround its mining. By world definition, a blood diamond is when mining and trade directly or indirectly cause infringements in social and human rights. To put it simply, if a person was enslaved, raped, physically abused, tortured, mutilated, or killed to produce it, such a gem is termed a blood diamond. And in the worst cases, all these offenses are committed on the same persons!

But if you’ve come across the term, you must’ve noticed it’s also strongly similar to another- conflict diamonds. And many times, these terms are interchangeably used. The reason is that both conditions are similar, though not always the same. Like in the case of conflict diamonds, it’s termed so because such gems are used to fund rebellious wars or are the cause of such wars.

But if you look closely, you’d notice that they’re the same thing. Most rebel wars lead to the enslavement of affected citizens, and these people are mostly forced to work the mines where the diamonds are extracted. And in such conditions, age or gender are rarely considered, as women, children, and the elderly are forced into labor. There’s also genocide spun from such conflicts, rape, children forced to become soldiers, civilians tortured for political or tribalistic reasons, and numerous other inhumane crimes committed around mining these gems. Plus, many of these crimes are committed by groups funded by diamonds mined in certain regions.

War may not be the only way diamonds can relegate to blood title. The shipment steals these gems in some cases, with the crew and staff on board being killed. They may also spin from the violent usurping of legitimate mining operations, after which they’re sold through a long streak of bribery, blackmail, threats, and smuggling.

A clear expression of this situation spun up during the 20th to 21st century and is from where the term for these diamonds came. At the time, the African regions of Angola, SierraLeone, Liberia, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Guinea-Bissau were marred by conflicts and wars between rebels and government forces. In these places, civilians were forced to mine these diamonds, and rebels used the gems to purchase weapons, equipment, and intelligence, to gain an advantage. And throughout the period, the civil and human rights of the people in those regions were severely trampled.

Government Policies on Blood Diamonds

Governments have taken numerous actions to tackle blood diamond mining and trade. And these policies were enacted based on in-depth study and revelation of staggering evidence from affected countries. Below are the most influential;

  • In a 1998 report by Global Witness, the connection between conflicts in Africa and diamonds mined in the region was established. This resulted in the United Nations passing a resolution that concluded that such gems were used to fund wars in these states.
  • In 2000, the Fowler Report exposed how the UNITA trampled human and civil rights to mine diamonds in Angola. The UNITA was the major political party in Angola and heavily depended on blood diamonds to finance its war effort. The report caused the UN to pass a resolution in the same year to eliminate the trade of blood diamonds.

The UN and trade partners in the legal diamond mining industry joined forces, establishing the World Diamond Council and the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.

The World Diamond Council

From January 17 to 18, 2001, the World Diamond Council was established to support the eradication effort for the blood diamond trade. The council comprises diamond industry figures and implemented a new process that helps certify rough diamonds. Through the World Diamond Council, a gem can be marked as ‘conflict-free’ or ‘conflict-sourced,’ deciding whether or not it’s permitted for sale in the international market. From this council, the idea of the Kimberly Process will develop.

The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme

On July 19, 2000, in Antwerp, Belgium, the World Diamond Congress agreed on a tactical solution to halt the conflict diamond trade. The solution was an international certification scheme that monitors the diamonds’ movement and legislation. The plan instructed regions to accept only diamonds exported in officially sealed packages and slam criminal charges on individuals and parties trading blood diamonds. And it gives them the power to issue a ban from the bourses of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses on nations that export or import these gems. This tactical resolution resulted in what we know today as the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

The Kimberly Process was introduced by South Africa and elected two countries yearly to function as chair and vice, thus supervising their activities worldwide. And the process it uses is simple; it tracks all diamond trade activities from start to finish in every country. The scheme monitors the legitimacy of diamonds from the mine to the market and polices its exports, imports, manufacture, and sale. It also monitors these activities in tourist countries like the U.K and Dubai.

As part of the regulation rules, all members of the Kimberly Scheme are prohibited from trading with non-members. And in countries under the scheme’s supervision, all diamond owners must present a Kimberly Certification before being allowed to pass through borders and airports. The certificate must also be derived from a renowned and certified attorney and displayed to any interested customer upon the chance of a trade.

Though the World Diamond Congress introduced the KPCS in 2000, it wasn’t approved until March 2002 and was finally created in November. And through the scheme, all revenue derived from the legal trade of diamonds was allocated correctly, and the government of the mining countries could gain access to the funds, enabling them to develop their regions. It also continuously destabilizes the network of conflict diamond trade established by criminals and warmongers, allowing regions that suffered from such situations to recover and enjoy legitimate mining procedures. A good example is Sierra Leone, where its government never got any returns from its diamond mining. But as of 2006, it recorded a whopping $125 million worth of legally exported diamonds from its mining regions!

Other Policies

Though the Kimberly Process has excelled at restricting the trade of conflict diamonds, many argue that it isn’t as effective in quelling the blood diamond trade. The scheme comes in a design built to kill two birds with one stone since most blood diamonds come from the need to fund wars or finance rebellious conflicts. And if the conflict can be stifled, then the need to force people to mine these gems or the possibility of a genocidal war sponsored by diamonds will be reduced.

But not everyone is sold on this belief, leading to numerous regions establishing specific policies to directly tackle the blood diamond trade. Some of the most prominent ones include;

United States

The United States government has executed numerous policies to express its distaste for blood diamonds. In 2001, President Bill Clinton issued an order to ban the importation of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone. Newly-elected President George W. Bush banned rough diamonds from Liberia four months later. And these moves were strong evidence that both countries were still heavily involved in the production and movement of blood diamonds.

In 2003, the Clean Diamond Trade Act (CTDA) was enacted and implemented, which initiated the implementation of the Kimberly Process in the U.S. This move combined the power of the U.S. government with the resources of the KPCS, increasing its success in quelling the blood diamond market.


The Canadian government has always displayed its full support for controlling and eliminating the blood diamond trade. After discovering diamond-rich areas in the 90s, Canada became a crucial player in the diamond industry. In 1986, Canada showed support for the diamond crisis in Africa by establishing the Partnership Arica Canada, a partner of the Diamond Development Initiative. And together, the organizations have continuously helped supervise the legal trade of diamonds.

Canada was a significant supporter of the KCPS, having been the vice-chair country during its initiation in 2000. And after that, it has established numerous laws to restrict and eliminate the trade of conflict diamonds. Canada enacted the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act in 2002, which aims to control the flow of rough diamonds through its regions. It also combines the Kimberly Process Certificate with the Canadian certificate, giving any law enforcer the right to impound any diamond shipment that doesn’t meet the standards set by the Act.

In Canada’s Northwest Territories, a Government certificate is issued to all diamonds from the region. The certificate covers all diamonds mined, carved, and polished in the territory and is tracked through a unique process at the refining stage. While the diamonds are processed, a diamond identification number (DIN) is inscribed onto the girdle using a laser shot. And through this DIN, you can track all diamonds that originate from the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Blood Diamonds?

While stating what blood diamonds are and how the world has tried to stop their trade, it also helps to know why you should avoid purchasing them. Spelling things like these on a large scale can take the message out of context. But if you realize how your little contribution can encourage its market, you’ll be best informed on supporting its elimination. So, if you wonder why you should avoid buying blood diamonds, note that it trade supports;

Child abuse in Sierra Leone, the Revolutionary United Front, a rebel group, was heavily funded by diamonds in their operations. And the group was notorious for its inhumane activities on the locals in towns they captured and was exempted for children and infants. Their soldiers kidnap and torture children and teenagers, subjecting them to violent brainwashing and turning them into child soldiers. And in Liberia, a report was exposed that revealed that child labor was still employed to mine diamonds as of 2014.

1. Mutilation and Rape

Rebel forces funded by the blood diamond trade are notorious for sexual crimes. In Sierra Leone alone, the number of women and young girls subjected to sexual assaults, rape, and mutilation by rebel soldiers are staggering. 

2. Corrupt Governments

Though the trade of blood diamonds is being strongly arm-wrestled today, a few governments still permit its trade. Such leaderships thrive on blood diamonds to make extra untraceable revenue and may also use them to fund terrorist groups. A classic example can be noted in Liberia, wherein in 2000, president Charles G. Taylor was accused of supporting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) with weapons and military training. And the UN established that the insurgency group paid for these services with diamonds mined through forced labor. The country is also tied to having alleged diamond trades with Al Qaeda around 1998, as the terrorist group was reported to have their assets frozen.

3. Slavery and Human Rights Abuse

Blood diamonds are mainly mined using forced labor, and the gender and age of the workers are never considered. Older adults, women, mothers carrying babies, and even children are forced to dig for diamonds in such regions. In regions like Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, these captured locals are forced to use their bare hands instead of tools during the mining process. And those who refused are detained in deplorable conditions, beaten, raped, and sometimes the soldiers cut their limbs off.  

How to Avoid Purchasing a Blood Diamond?

Government and non-governmental bodies alone aren’t obligated to eradicate the blood diamond trade scourge. Consumers like you can also play a role in this quest. And while you may feel your efforts are inconsequential, it contributes immensely in encouraging these organizations in their fight against such an inhumane market structure. So, to support the task of stopping the trade in blood diamonds, these are steps you can take;

Buy Only Certified Diamonds

Always ask for the legal certification of a diamond before you buy it. All legally traded diamonds carry legal documents to ascertain that they are truly conflict-free. One such example is the Kimberly Process certificate. And to date, it’s considered strong proof that a diamond has been appropriately scrutinized before being allowed into the legal market. Today, the process has ensured that 99% of diamonds sold in the trade are conflict-free.

Some regions also carry unique certificates and serial keys to indicate that they aren’t blood diamonds. Most diamonds from Canada are marked with a unique DIN, so you can check for this before paying.

Purchase New Diamonds

The chance of purchasing a blood diamond is higher when you trade on antique or vintage gems. Most of these diamonds had entered the market before the Kimberly Process was established in 2000. And since there wasn’t a universal certification procedure for such stone, the origins of these diamonds aren’t adequately monitored thus can’t be accurately indicated. The best option is only to buy new diamonds and stones that entered the region after 2000.

Buy from a Certified Jeweler

Most approved diamond traders display a written policy that indicates their support for eliminating the conflict-diamond trade. They don’t sell diamonds whose mining and manufacturing origin cannot be accurately traced. Such jewelers will also possess certification from the supervision bodies that monitor the diamond trade and only offer you jewels with a Kimberly Process certificate and other legal documents from their countries. And most retailers also include a certified report from approved gemological labs like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and a warranty so you can return them if you find out they indeed are from a conflict zone (which rarely happens).

Ask about the Origin

It’s essential to inquire where the stone comes from before purchasing it. Most countries flagged as sources of blood diamonds still experience its trade to date. The World Diamond Council notes these nations, including countries like Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and DR Congo. And the chances of a gem being a blood diamond is exceptionally high if it comes from any of these regions. 

Purchase Lab-Grown Diamonds                      

It’s noted that even a robust monitoring scheme like the Kimberly Process has its few loopholes. And there’s also the possibility of documents forgery, especially on diamonds from regions like Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Zimbabwe. You can ease your conscience by opting for a lab-grown diamond instead. And not only do they cost less, but they also use fewer resources to be created, and the gems are primarily of excellent quality.


Trading blood diamonds is a scourge in human civilization and a blemish on everything we stand for as a people. You must deepen your knowledge of the topic and do all you can to prevent its growth. Here, you’ve got detailed information regarding what blood diamonds are and how you can prevent buying one. So, we hope you can put this knowledge to good use and intensify your support as the world strives to end this disaster to humanity.