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  • Writer's picturePARLIAMENT NEWS

Child Labour: The Dark Facet of the Diamond Industry

Updated: Aug 16, 2023


Gemmologist Owner of Von Sivers Diamonds & Ambassador of the Parliamentary Society



In a decade adorned with the design of artistic jewelry, my hands have caressed the most exquisite stones that our Earth affords. An artisan's pursuit, indeed, yet interwoven with a profound ethos, a compassionate endeavour to fortify human rights and a ceaseless battle for the welfare of our children. An odyssey into the mine's very abyss revealed the grim tableau of child labour. It is a scenario against which I stand, with neither compromise nor clemency.


My recent elevation to the role of Ambassador for the Parliamentary Society not only resonates with honour but thrusts upon my shoulders the heavy mantle of duty. A once aesthetic role, now transmogrified into a global mission - a beacon lighting the path to safeguarding our children's futures.


We are all familiar with the refrain: "A diamond is forever." Yet, we seldom pause to ponder the origin of these scintillating emblems of affluence and affection. They hold within their cold sparkle a secret most foul - a tale of child labour, peril, and dire conditions in the African mines and Indian polishing factories.




The world of diamonds, resplendent and enticing, has long symbolised love and eternity. However, behind the dazzling façade lies a sombre reality that cuts deep into the soul of humanity. This hidden aspect, both cruel and intolerable, shadows the innocence of childhood, thrusting young lives into suffering. Child labour within the diamond industry is a dark truth that must be unearthed. It is a tale of desperation, danger, glamour, and sorrow—a relentless journey from the depths of the earth to the sparkle of exquisite jewellery.


I. The Global Scourge of Child Labour: A Somber Reflection


Child labour is a global menace that casts a shadow over countless industries. The International Labour Organisation's staggering statistic of 168 million child labourers worldwide in 2012 highlights the severity of the issue, with Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America bearing the brunt. Agriculture, mining, and manufacturing are marked by exploitation, but perhaps none is as striking as the suffering within the gleaming world of gemstones.


II. A Diamond's Journey: From Earth to Exquisite


A diamond's journey is fraught with complexity and peril. It begins deep within the Earth, extracted by relentless hands, and travels through stages of cutting, polishing, grading, and setting into magnificent jewellery. It’s a process marked by desperation, danger, and an often hidden, dark facet.


The African Mines: Children, some as young as 11, labour under brutal conditions in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Digging, washing, sieving, and transporting expose them to grave dangers.


Indian Polishing Factories: India's command of 85% of the world's diamond cutting and polishing industry brings with it child exploitation, particularly in Gujarat. Nimble young hands perform highly skilled tasks without proper protection, leading to toxic exposure.


III. The Kimberley Process: A Flawed System of Integrity


Though designed to prevent "blood diamonds," the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is riddled with loopholes. Countries like Zimbabwe evade the process, leaving children earning meagre sums as low as 0.15 to 0.6 U.S. dollars a day.


IV. Celebrities and Blood Diamonds: Glamour and Grim Reality


Even the glamorous world of celebrities is tainted, as evidenced by the infamous case involving supermodel Naomi Campbell and African dictator Charles Taylor in 2010. The connection between fame and this grim trade is undeniable.


V. The Failure of Law: A Global Perspective on Injustice


International treaties and domestic laws across many countries are thwarted by inadequate enforcement, corruption, and weak judicial systems. Whether in the U.S., with the Clean Diamond Trade Act or the EU's adherence to the Kimberley Process, the challenges remain consistent.


VI. The Historical and Modern Controversies: The Dark Side of Diamonds


From the historical employment of prisoners in diamond mining to present-day accusations against major companies, the diamond industry is marred by controversy and alleged human rights abuses, including the continuing tragedy of child miners.


VII. Blood Diamonds: An Unending Nightmare and a Call to Action


The term "blood diamonds" reflects a brutal reality that continues to stain the industry. An estimated 15,000 children work in Africa's diamond mines, and reports of abuse and slavery demand urgent attention.


A Plea for Awareness, Responsibility, and Hope


The global landscape of child labour within the diamond industry is distressing. It’s time to look beyond the glitter, to embrace the responsibility that falls upon consumers, governments, and the industry.


Transparency and Ethical Sourcing: A demand for ethical practices, transparency in sourcing, and robust certification.

Consumer Responsibility: A powerful stand through certified conflict-free diamonds.

Legislation and Enforcement: An urgent call for governments to enact, implement, and stringently enforce laws that protect children.

The sparkle of a diamond must no longer veil the tears of a child. Let us not merely wear our diamonds but wear them with conscience, awareness, and compassion. We have the power to transform a symbol of love into a beacon of hope, ensuring that the world's most coveted gemstone shines not only with material brilliance but also with ethical integrity.



The Ultimate Ethical Diamond and Gemstone Buying Guide

 

In an age where ethics and sustainability define the conscience of modern consumers, buying jewellery can no longer be a matter of mere aesthetics. Welcome to "A Sparkling Conscience," the ultimate guide for the conscientious shopper seeking to adorn themselves with ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones.

 

Part I: The Ethical Diamond Ring Buying Guide

Finding Ethical Diamonds:

a. Verify the Origin: Ensure traceability to specific mines.

b. Question 'Conflict-Free' Claims: Scrutinise the Kimberley Process.

c. Consider Alternatives: Lab-Grown, Recycled, or Imitation Diamonds.

 

Making Your Diamond Choice:

a. Ethically Mined: CanadaMark diamonds and other traceable sources.

b. Non-Mined Options: Lab-grown for minimal environmental impact.

c. Balance of Working Conditions: Fair treatment of miners.

 

Ethical Metal Sourcing:

a. Gold and Platinum Mining: Fairtrade options or recycled metals.

 

Advice for Buying Jewellery Metal:

a. Ask Questions: Look for transparent sourcing details.

b. Warnings: Non-specific answers are red flags.

 

Overall Guidelines:

Educate yourself, question marketing jargon, seek transparent brands, and embrace sustainability.

 

Part II: Top Tips On How To Buy And Source Ethical Gemstones

Understanding Ethical Gemstones:

Know what constitutes an ethical gemstone, from mining to fair wages.

 

Reasons to Buy Ethical Gemstones:

Responsibly sourced, reduces carbon footprint, supports small businesses, and upholds workers’ rights.

 

Asking the Right Questions:

Source, mining sites, cutting and polishing processes, and evidence.

 

Where to Buy in the UK:

Ethical Making, Nineteen48, and other trustworthy sources.

 

Jewelery Brands for Ethical Gemstones:

Ingle and Rhode, Monica Vinader, Missoma, Bluenile, and more.

 


Jewelery is not merely a reflection of vanity but a statement of values. This guide equips you to make informed choices, aligning your love for beauty with a commitment to ethical consumerism. May your diamonds sparkle with integrity, and your gemstones glow with responsibility.


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