Diamonds continue to capture the imaginations of people the world over, and the MENA in particular has a storied relationship with the precious stone. Indeed, OEC statistics show that Dubai ranks highest out of many MENA countries importing high levels of diamonds, with imports generating a net spend of US$10.2bn. Diamonds do, of course, have an ethically and morally dubious past. Whether due to the conflicts they have help to generate, or through their huge environmental impact, they remain a luxury both for their qualities and for their impacts. Whether they have a place in the modern socially and environmentally conscious world is a debate point for many modern nations.
The ethical question
The most important factor when considering whether or not diamonds have such a place is their ethical basis. Diamonds have long had a severe human impact, whether that’s from being sourced in countries using slave labour, or through their contribution to wars as blood diamonds. Today, however, diamonds are largely an ethical affair.
As established by the UK’s Guardian, pressure from international governments in the wake of the Sierra Leone conflict, and the pressure of synthetic diamonds, has caused most diamonds mined today to be ethical by design. This is largely achieved through the Kimberley Process, a certification that allows jewellers to guarantee conflict free diamonds through the detailed and extensive process. Less clear is whether diamond mining is inherently an environmentally damaging process.
Unfortunately, the true environmental cost of diamond extraction is not a clearly defined thing. According to Vogue Business, the most recent studies have found that extracted diamonds create 160kg of CO2 per finished diamond, compared to 511kg CO2 for lab-grown diamonds. However, critics suggest that this is not the full picture.
While lab-grown diamonds require a little more energy than you might think, the process of extracting diamonds requires the use of heavy machinery. Vogue highlight too the carbon costs established with diamond discovery, such as new road building. Simply put, there is not a solid study out there that establishes the environmental basis for diamonds – until that’s established, there are some steps that diamond resellers and buyers can take to make a difference.
The bottom line
Firstly, ensuring that all diamonds that are procured are ethically responsible ones should be a given. This is made much easier by the existence of the Kimberley Process, and virtually all diamond sellers will conform to this standard in the modern day. When it comes to the environmental standard, seek to source diamonds from countries with a track record of progressive environmental policy. That might mean looking to established mines in the likes of Botswana, or to northern hemisphere producers such as Canada.
Making these choices can have a profound impact on the supply chain as a whole. Consumers are, after all, powerful, especially in high-value luxury markets like precious stones. Ensuring that your views on ethical and environmental trading are heard will help to foster long-term change.