Prior to the political war thriller Blood Diamond being released onto the silver screen in 2006, most of the world was blissfully unaware of the immense suffering often associated with the African diamond industry. While diamonds are inherently associated with love, joy, and commitment, many inhabitants of Africa’s diamond-producing countries believe that the shimmering stones are more of a curse than a blessing. Up to this day, diamond mining still fuels a number of evils including worker exploitation, environmental dilapidation, and brutal civil wars. In a mere twenty years, seven African countries namely Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all endured diamond-fueled civil conflicts. It is due to a greater awareness of these conflicts that lab-grown diamonds are becoming increasingly popular on the African continent.
Shouldn’t the Kimberley Process be controlling diamond trade?
The Kimberley Process, which was established more than a decade ago in 2003 by the United Nations General Assembly following recommendations in the Fowler Report, aims to prevent any conflict diamonds from entering the global mainstream rough diamond market. While the process has enjoyed significant success in the past 16 years it many key industry players believe that it is in desperate need of reform. As the KP now goes into the final stages of its 3-year review process it will be interesting to see to what extent the standards and minimum requirements are being adapted with regards to especially the systematic violence experienced in artisanal mining regions. Lab-grown diamonds negate the need for the KP completely which contributes to its increasing appeal.
Can lab-grown diamonds can be a saving grace?
When you purchase a lab-grown diamond you can be 100% sure of its origin. Not only are diamonds that are grown in the lab genuinely conflict-free but they are also significantly more environmentally-friendly as well as substantially more affordable. The African environment can benefit greatly by increased demand for grown diamonds as they do not result in erosion water and soil contamination, loss of biodiversity, and the creation of sinkholes whatsoever.
A diamond with a different origin is still a diamond
With the Federal Trade Commission having changed the definition of a diamond to no longer include the term ‘natural’ society’s relationship with diamonds will undoubtedly continue to change Lab-grown diamonds are skyrocketing in popularity as it is becoming increasingly more difficult to determine whether mined diamonds are 100% conflict-free. While lab-grown diamonds are often unfairly seen as a threat to the diamond mining industry, their benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
While lab-grown diamonds are unlikely to replace traditional diamond mining, the demand for them is likely to continue to increase, to the great advantage of the greater African continent. Although there will always be factions opposing it, lab-grown diamonds may very well be the saving grace of the global diamond trade.