See All Nirali Weddings Here!

F

orty years ago, a woman would shyly offer her left hand for that diamond engagement ring. Today, DeBeers, the corporation that until the late 1990s controlled 80 percent of the world’s diamond supply, urges women to “raise their right hand”—and buy themselves diamond rings to demonstrate their empowerment.

But if Nadia Samadani gets her way, women won’t be entrusting DeBeers—or the diamond industry—with any hand. Samadani, who has researched, written and presented on conflict diamonds for several years, is passionate about her subject. She recalls putting together a presentation on children from Sierra Leone who were used by revolutionaries to mine diamonds—children whose hands had been amputated—and crying while she compiled the photos. “I couldn’t believe the irony—one person loses a hand for a shiny stone that eventually ends up safely tucked onto another, more fortunate hand.”

Conflict diamonds are stones that are mined and used to fund wars and terrorism—by rebels and state governments both. While in the past Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia were the biggest sources of conflict diamonds, these days diamonds “finance armed conflict in Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as global terrorism.” Brides-to-be unwittingly fund these wars when they go out in search for the perfect engagement ring.

If Nadia Samadani gets her way, women won’t be entrusting DeBeers—or the diamond industry—with any hand.

So what is a bride to do? While diamonds are certified as “conflict-free” under the Kimberley Process—a procedure by which diamonds entering the U.S. must be compliant with standards to ensure that the stones are conflict-free—the problem is that Kimberley is strictly voluntary. And that means that consumers can’t be sure that the diamond at their local jeweler is genuinely conflict-free. (To find a list of jewelers that do participate in the Kimberley Process, visit Amnesty International.)

Here are Samadani’s recommendations for buying guilt-free bling:

Buy heirloom diamonds
. Use an older stone from your parents or grandparents. That way, you won’t be funding violence, and the stone will have more meaning.

Buy synthetic. Technology is improving the quality every day—and when you buy synthetic, you get color, cut, clarity, and carat along with a clear conscience.

Buy your birthstone, or “a stone that has more meaning to you. For example, my husband found a Kashmiri sapphire for me because his family is from Kashmir,” says Samadani. She also notes that the “tradition” of buying a diamond engagement ring actually started from a DeBeers marketing campaign in the 1950s, so don’t feel like you’re bucking centuries of tradition—you’re really just bucking decades of marketing.

Buy up north. If you absolutely positively have to get a diamond—a real live mined diamond—then buy Canadian. “The Canadian Voluntary Code of Conduct sets a standard and puts into place a paper trail that follows a diamond from mine to retailer to ensure that a diamond is conflict-free.” And while this is a better option, Samadani warns that “there is still no way to absolutely guarantee that the diamond at the retailer correlates with its paper trail.”

“I couldn’t believe the irony—one person loses a hand for a shiny stone that eventually ends up safely tucked onto another, more fortunate hand.”

But let’s say that you’ve already gone and bought yourself a diamond—is there anything else you can do? Samadani urges women to “Advocate. Talk about it. When I was planning my wedding and using The Knot message boards, I raised the issue. Many brides were interested and wanted to make sure that their diamond was conflict-free.” She also encourages women to ask retailers about where their diamonds come from.

Finally, Samadani advises, “Be aware. Conflicts in disparate parts of the world affect all of us. We don’t function in an isolated bubble. Our actions, what we consume, have a direct effect on suppliers, governments and businesses worldwide.”n

Nakasha Ahmad—like Anne of Green Gables—has never been quite satisfied with diamonds. She prefers emeralds.
Published on June 18, 2007.
Photography: Henry Chaplin/iStock Photo.
Comments are closed.
  1. July 20, 2007, 11:58 pm Luvena

    I think this is a great write-up. I have watched the movie Blood Diamond and its great that it has reached mainstream audiences the message and awareness of conflict diamonds.
    Although, it is said that you can ask the origins of the diamonds, it’s not easy in other countries, especially in S.E.A, where I’m from. Many of the jewellers purchase from other agents and they won’t probably know the diamond origins themselves.
    Otherwise, the advise of buying synthetic is good too as the technology is so advanced, you can’t tell the difference between the real thing and the synthetic!