Minerals:  Diamonds

What are conflict diamonds and where do I use them? | What is the impact? | How it works – A diamond’s journey in pictures | What you can doResources

A diamond is a precious stone, a crystalline form of pure carbon. It is the hardest naturally occurring substance. The UN defines conflict diamonds as diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments.

Diamonds are most commonly known for their use in jewellery, however being the hardest naturally occurring substance they also have many uses in industry, such as cutting devices and spacecraft.

Me2Mine – How the diamond gets to your finger…

The end point of this process is the ring on your finger which has been purchased most likely from a jewellery retailer (US is the number one retailer followed by Asia-Pacific. London is a major centre of diamond sales also).

The jewellery reaches the retailer from ‘third party’ cut and polishing sites. These manufacturing sites are typically India, Thailand and Israel as the source sites of the diamonds in east and central Africa do not possess the manufacturing capacity.

The rough diamonds which are extracted from mines in east and central Africa are sent to the few global diamond sorting  centres (Tel Aviv, Israel, Antwerp, Belgium and Surat, India). Some of these carry out sorting and cutting/polishing but there is now a push for more local sorting centres.

The complications emerge with regard to conflict diamond when (i) diamonds are mixed at the centres making traceability difficult, and (ii) diamonds move through unofficial sorting centres, bypassing Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

What impact does the extraction of diamonds have in central and eastern Africa

65% of the world’s diamonds, which equates to $8.4 billion a year, originate from Africa.

A map showing CAR's position in Africa

Central African Republic

Since the armed group Seleka seized control in a coup d’etat in March 2013, CAR has been temporarily suspended from exporting diamonds worldwide. However, it has been well documented how previous president Francois Bozize strangled control over the diamond industry to enrich and empower his own ethnic group, meanwhile failing to use the minerals to alleviate poverty. This, in turn, sparked armed groups to fight to alleviate poverty in their neighbourhoods. So the corrupt government actually created the very problems that the Kimberley process is trying to prevent in the first place.

Nature provided CAR with a wealth of liberally dispersed diamond resources. However, due to the deposits being alluvial and spread thinly across two large river systems, artisanal miners have taken responsibility for extraction. Middle men, mostly West Africans, buy at a cheap price and sell for profit to exporting companies. The government has long lacked the institutional capacity to govern the transient production chain and the will to utilise the resource profits for the long-term benefit of diamond mining communities.

Under Bozize, international mining companies left CAR due to the inflated export prices and high tax rates (12%). This in effect, increased the smuggling of diamonds and illicit diamond trading networks flourished, robbing the state of potential benefits from revenues. A lack of distribution of wealth led to disenfranchised groups seeking to take control of their own destiny. This has led to these groups taking up arms and led to Bozize’s eventual overthrow.

The Seleka alliance are now said to be solidifying their control over the diamond industry. Having already controlled diamond-producing areas, but now as a coalition government, have the opportunity to take complete control of the diamond industry which is a great threat to the efforts of the international community in stemming ‘blood diamonds’ from the region. The new government has agreed to the Kimberley Process officially but the Seleka alliance are known to have set up check points along the dirt paths leading to mining areas around Ndele. There is a deep concern with the knowledge that the Seleka armed group are cooperating with Sudanese armed fighters (Sudan is not part of the Kimberley Process). This could mean that diamonds are being illegally smuggled into Sudan.
A map showing DRC's position in Africa

Democratic Republic of Congo

Conflict diamonds were first associated with the Congo during the civil war in 1997. The Congo was admitted to the Kimberly Process but removed in 2004 and is now under surveillance and being investigated by both the UN and the Kimberley Process.


To read about what is being done to reduce the negative impact of minerals on central and eastern Africa visit our initiatives page.

How it works – A diamond’s journey in pictures


Conflict Diamonds 1A militia takes control of a mine in the Central African Republic. Staking out their territory around the mine, the militia now has a valuable source of income to fuel their campaign. But they need workers…







Local children and villagers are forcibly recruited by the militia to work in the mine. They spend their days hunched over in the stream within the mine, sifting through rock, dirt and other minerals looking for the diamonds. This can often have painful physical effects on the workers as they are forced to stand for prolonged periods of time.








One of the workers finds a diamond. It is taken from them by the militia.









The militia soldiers trade the diamond with traders in the cities. The rebels often trade their diamonds in return for arms such as AK-47’s, ammunition and even food.

Conflict Diamonds 2; CAR: central african republic





The trader smuggles the diamond across a border into a neighbouring country. He crawls past on his stomach concealed by a bush. It’s important that he crosses the border without encountering any officials.








The trafficker trades the diamond with a second trader. This time the trafficker hands over the diamond in exchange for a large amount of cash.







The trader then forges a Kimberly certificate for the diamond: a rough looking certificate with a forged name and certification stamp. The certificate contains details such as ‘date’, ‘location’, ‘name of mine’, ‘size of diamond’, ‘carat’ etc.






The diamond is then shipped to its next destination. Often, the conflict diamond has by now ended up in a crate full of diamonds that can be from both ethical and conflict settings.

Conflict Diamonds










The diamonds are shipped to major trading hubs such as Antwerp. Here the diamonds are sorted and sold on to further traders such as jewel specialists. In this image, business men are dealing with the diamond shipments, which will make then huge amounts of money.








A cabinet full of diamonds of different shapes and sizes, cleaned and sparkling. Next to each, a price tag. This photo aims to show the different diamonds available to be sold onto retailers.







The diamonds are then made into jewellery to be sold. This ring containing a diamond with a gold band shows that two types of conflict mineral from different places can meet in the same place.




A hand wearing the ring in the picture above. Perhaps this ring is someone’s engagement ring, a gift from a loved one, a symbol of wealth and status. Whatever the reason is for buying this ring, conflict diamonds can end up on the hands of unsuspecting consumers like us.

Drawings and text by Natasha Pearce




What you can do

Have a look at the many Simple Things we have suggested to ensure your jewellery is as ethically sourced as possible, plus lots of alternatives to jewellery containing diamonds and gold.



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