We all love admiring the sparkle of a beautifully cut diamond, but have you ever wondered where that diamond originated? Whose two hands mined it, unearthing it from the depths of rock—and where in the world they did so?
And as for the people those hands belonged to—were they treated humanely? Did they earn a fair, living wage for their work? These are the questions we jewelers concern ourselves with, especially those of us deeply invested in responsibly sourced materials.
That’s because for years, diamonds mined in war zones had been the center of controversy—depicted most famously in the 2006 film Blood Diamond. That dark and conflict-ridden era culminated in a 2000 meeting in Kimberley, South Africa, that would later set the groundwork for the “certification” we now know as the Kimberley Process.
The Problem with the Kimberley Process
Originally crafted to restrict the trade of “conflict diamonds,” the Kimberley Process had good intentions—but it, unfortunately, has failed on many points, according to many in the industry and those of us who are concerned with the integrity of our supply chain.
In a Feb. 8 exposé, titled “The Cost of Jewelry,” Human Rights Watch called into question several areas of the process. For starters, they said, the parameters of the Kimberley Process are just too narrow. As a result, many Kimberley-certified diamonds have slipped through the cracks of a well-intentioned steel door, turning away from human decency—enabling forced labor and torture like that seen in Zimbabwe and Angola.
Human Rights Watch’s objections with the Kimberley Process included these points:
The scope is too limited, focusing only on rough diamonds, leaving questions about the origins of cut diamonds mixed together from different sources;
The Kimberley Process is slow to impose restrictions as new allegations of human rights abuses surface;
The Kimberley Process relies on the word of diamond suppliers to verify supply chains, rather than monitoring them directly.
At Christopher Taylor Timberlake Fine Art Jewelry, we agree. The truth is, when huge amounts of money are at stake, the altruism of a private business is not reliable. There’s just too much incentive to skirt the rules—too much opportunity for unethical activity behind the scenes. Such are the shortcomings of the Kimberley Process.
So when we started our business, we mostly used heirloom diamonds, resetting stones that our customers already owned or inherited. But as our need for newly cut stones grew, we turned our inquiries to ethical suppliers.
We couldn’t in good conscience predominantly use diamonds sourced from the Kimberley Process, despite its good intentions. But what was our alternative?
Enter Canadian diamonds.
Really? Diamonds from Canada?
You might be surprised to learn that Canadian diamond mines exist—but lo and behold, they’re the third biggest diamond producer in the world (behind Russia and Botswana; South Africa is now fifth).
Born from a 1990s boom, the Canadian diamond industry has become the darling of gem enthusiasts because of its commitment to human rights and clean mining.
It’s easy to see why:
Dubbed the “Conflict-Free Mining Frontier” by The New York Times, Canada requires its stones to follow the Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct, which governs the entire supply chain from mine to jeweler.
Plus, since they’re tucked in the cold, remote northwestern territories, Canada’s mines employ local (and sometimes indigenous) populations as workers, providing well-paying jobs and skills training in otherwise far-off, inhospitable lands.
Our Ethos for Every Ring
As jewelers, we love it when our customers ask about the sources of our diamonds—in fact, we’d prefer that everyone asked such questions of their jewelers. That’s why we enjoy talking about the benefits of certified Canadian diamonds compared to those mined elsewhere.
So if you’re considering a custom-crafted engagement ring or wedding band, ask us why a Canadian diamond is the best (and most ethical) choice to celebrate your love. We can’t wait to help you and yours and show you first-hand the true sparkle from our neighbors to the north.
When you place one of our Canada-sourced diamond rings on your hand, you can be confident that the first hands that pulled that stone from the earth were treated ethically. From their hands, to ours, to yours—we assure you that this symbol of your love has never been the incentive for inhumanity.