The impact of the jewellery industry

  • Actions and sanctions taken
  • Fairtrade schemes
  • How ethical diamonds are changing the future of the diamond industry

The impact of the jewellery industry

There’s been significant action taken both in and outside of the jewellery industry to try and stop unethical production. Let’s explore some of the steps which have been taken.

Actions and sanctions taken

There have been steps taken to try and stem the tide of unethical jewellery manufacturing. These have largely laid out ways in which those working in the mines are given more of a fair and equal treatment.

kimberley process

The Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process (KP) was set up in 2000, and is a United Nations-backed organisation who strive to ensure the production of conflict diamonds is eradicated.

Since their creation, they claim to have stopped 99.8% of global production on these kinds of diamonds. They ensure strict standards are met via the use of a certification process. Any product with the KP stamp of approval has been rigorously checked, and manufacturers must provide information such as:

  • Transparency on the transport of the diamonds
  • An exchange of statistical data
  • Obvious adherence to national legislation on export, import and internal controls

As of writing, there are 54 participants who adhere to the strict sanctions laid out by the KP. Leadership is decided by an annual vote, with a vice chair appointed (ready to step in and take the reigns for the following year). In 2019 India are chairing the organisation, with Russia sitting as the vice.

global witness

Global Witness

Global Witness (GW) are not solely focused on the diamond industry, but do their bit to expose the use of unethical and harmful practices. Rather than enforcing legislation themselves, GW work to hound out bad practices and bring them to the public knowledge.

It’s for this reason they serve to work as more of an unofficial partner to the KP, working alongside them to point out mining companies which aren’t maintaining ethical practices.

In fact, it was GW who broke the news of how a rough trade of diamonds was funding the civil war in Angola in 1998. This in turn led to the first meeting of the KP organisation a couple of years later.

They use a number of methods to bring these problems to the forefront, including:

  • Secret undercover filming, catching people in the act
  • Satellite imagery and drone footage
  • Data analysis to spot any anomalies and investigate further
  • Anonymous sources from within the middle of the situation

As the organisation continues to grow, more and more examples of unethical diamond production will be brought to light.

Fairtrade schemes

Running alongside these larger initiatives are smaller schemes which have been created with the goal of providing fair payment to workers. They focus primarily on artisanal mining – an area which is harder to monitor owing to relatively little jurisdiction placed on it.


Diamond Developing Initiative

The Diamond Developing Initiative (DDI) employ a number of techniques to guarantee local mining communities benefit from the hard work they’re putting in.

The DDI utilise a number of methods to make the lives of local african villagers that little bit better. They:

  • Adhere to the rules and regulations set out by the KP.
  • Work with local governments to register all miners (including diggers, auxiliary workers and traders). Thisidentity adds legitimacy to every miner, and helps to keep them better protected.
  • Organise minors into associations. This provides workers with the chance to learn how to improve both mining methods and labour conditions. This gives them the chance to market what they own.
  • Provide everyone with a clear means of improving their quality of living. This includes giving them better access to clean water and an education.
  • Certify diamonds are being sourced ethically through the Maendeleo Diamond Standard certification.

Recent projects have included helping with the spread of the Ebola crisis, as well as providing workers with more efficient machinery.

fair trade

Rapaport Fair Trade

Rapaport Fair Trade are a little different in the sense they dedicate a lot of their time to better educating the jewellery suppliers themselves, on top of helping mining communities.

They have a very clear mission statement:

  • To ensure diamonds and other precious gems are not responsible for any forms of human rights violations or environmental damage
  • To ensure diamonds and other precious gems are responsible for positive growth and empowerment in communities who mine the diamonds
  • To educate all people within the jewellery industry, such as consumers, activists and students

Founded in 1978, the RFT is one of the oldest establishments of its kind. They were again a hugely influential factor in the forming of the Kimberley Process. Like most organisations of their kind, they focus on making the exportation process as transparent as possible.

How ethical diamonds are changing the future of the diamond industry

The world is a very different place to what it was even a few decades ago. With growing awareness of how our actions affect the world and the people around us, the added impetus placed on being ethical practices has had an impact on the diamond industry already.

But how is the face of the sector going to change?


Wide scale blockchain usage

As alluded to earlier, blockchain technology has already been trialled by De Beers for tracking the transportation of diamonds. The early success could see a massive difference in how it’s approached heading forwards.

It might be the case that all suppliers start using blockchain to keep on top of where their shipments came from and if they were sourced ethically or not. It could even become the norm for consumers to use specialist ID to look up the exact journey themselves on an online database.


Pressure from consumers

People are taking more of an interest in where their products are sourced from. Environmental views in particular have changed drastically in recent decades.

It would have seemed unthinkable for a nation like the US to place a green lifestyle ahead of economic growth, but a recent study found 70% of Americans thought it was a more pressing issue.

With such a drastically different view of the world around us, it stands to reason that the cry for ethically produced diamonds is set to only grow stronger.


Promotion of ‘fake’ diamonds

A natural by-product of that has been greater value placed on the development of lab-grown diamonds. While some would argue they can’t compare to the real thing, by comparison they offer a very environmentally positive solution. There’s now a clear market for people who are willing to invest in something other than the natural product.

Regardless of where the future is headed, we can be sure that ethical products are going to have a huge impact on it.