The commercials on tv are filled with the message: “Valentine’s Day is coming up! Men be warned. You’ll be expected to give her a thoughtful gift, a gift that speaks to the kind of woman you think she is, a gift that shows how much you value her. And since you’re likely to forget up until the very last minute, there’s only one gift that will do on such short notice. Bust out that credit card, good sir. You’re buying your lady some diamonds!”
There’s a host of things wrong with the message those ads put out. But I have a couple very particular problems with Valentine’s Day: diamonds and chocolate. And while I like shiney things and chocolatey goodness as much as the next girl, I have to ask, “At what cost?”
With so many commercials advertizing diamonds and jewelry right now, I keep asking myself why so few jewellers advertize their stones as conflict-free. On a holiday that is to celebrate love, it breaks my heart to think that the gifts given could be causing pain to others around the world. Those diamonds are costing the lives of men, women, and children uprooted from their homes and forced into hard labor. Largely this is to fund the wars in particular African countries.
If you’ve seen the film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio, you’ve been given a glimpse into the world of conflict diamond mining. The film is disturbing, heart-rending, and all too real. It’s only a taste of the truth and tells the stories of a few people who were wrapped up in the Sierra Leone diamond mines, while there are thousands of others still enslaved.
Over the past few years the U.S. has started to enact some legislation on the purchase of diamonds from conflict regions but the rabbit hole goes deep and those countries known for their blood diamonds are now trafficking them through to countries that haven’t been blacklisted so they can sell to the U.S. To really confirm if a diamond is traffick-free, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme that has created a program for full tracking of diamonds to their origin and has called for increased government transparency with diamond records. The KPCS was started up largely at the behest of African countries that are known to have issues with conflict-diamonds. The work has been started, but we can play a part in this too.
Right now it’s up to us as buyers in a country that is the largest consumer of diamonds. Our dollars show our priorities and there are plenty of jewellers that can certify their diamonds as conflict-free. It takes asking some pointed questions, maybe a little online research, but it is worth supporting justice. The practice of using blood diamonds to fund wars, of using children to work in mines, and ripping families apart to gain slaves can be hampered by our choices. Everything can be assigned value, every precious stone, every carat of gold. But human life is priceless.
Blood diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend.
I wrote this post about chocolate before Halloween so I won’t go into it here, but please, please, check it out to learn more about the need for buying fair trade chocolate.
Massive changes in our world begin with little actions, small choices – and we all have a part to play.