Where Do Blood Diamonds Come From?


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Where do blood diamonds come from?

Or, how one fourth of rough diamond sales can buy over 4 million Ak-47’s [7][8]

What is a blood diamond?

A diamond mined in a war zone to finance:
An insurgency, an invading army’s effort, or a warlord’s activity.

What stops it? [9]
The Kimberly Process:
Pros: 99.8% of rough diamond producing countries have agreed to take measures to ensure they buy and sell clean diamonds.
Cons: The Kimberley Process does not take action when diamond miners are killed, tortured, raped or beaten. Or when kids of forced to mine for diamonds.[11]

But the Kimberley Process doesn’t always work.

Diamonds are Worth Too Much

90% of the world’s unpolished diamonds are processed in Surat, India.
(a) Underpaid workers
(b) almost non-existent regulations
Make it impossible to tell which diamonds are dirty.

Life of a Surat worker:
500,000 of Surat’s 5 million residents–deal, polish, and move stones.[6]
Teenage boys polish $10,000 in diamonds a day
100 hour workweeks
Eyesight strain
Deeply damaged eyesight
tuberculosis and respiratory disease from inhaled diamond grains.
With tens of thousands of boys being discarded by 35

For every $1 a polisher in Sarat makes, the retail stone value is $1,000[6]

Of the 35 tons of rough diamonds that pass through Surat yearly:
Less than 2/3 arrive through legal channels.[6]

Paperwork is frowned upon in Sarat

Post-it notes mark the date, participants, carats, and value of a sale.
If someone cheats someone, they’re kicked out of the marketplace forever.
And debt is shifted to family members.


(Still, mostly Sarat)
1/4 of rough diamonds are blood diamonds.

Total rough diamond sales: $15.2 billion[8]
Total rough blood diamond sales: $3.8 billion
–> Sold at 40% discount (because they’re illegal)
= $2.28 billion

equals–>4 million Ak-47’s
(Global average AK price is $534)
1/4th of diamonds in stores are blood diamonds.

Countries most affected:

Sierra Leone
Cote d’Ivoire
The Congo
–With over 3.7 million deaths occurring by blood diamond fueled conflicts.[10]

An illustrious history:

February 1867: 15 year old Stephanus Erasumus Jacobs finds a shiny white pebble[1]
–After playing with the stone, gives it to Shalk van Niekerk, a neighboring farmer who collects unusual stones.
–Niekerk gives to a peddler, John O’Reilly, who took it to nearby Colesberg to the magistrate.
–The magistrate, realizing the stone is a diamond, sends it to De. William Atherstone, a pharmacist in Grahamstown.
–The “Eureka Diamond” a 21.25 caret brownish-yellow stone is purchased by Cape Colony Governor, Sir Philip Wodehouse for 500 pounds sterling.
1869: a witch doctor named Swartbooi finds an 83.5 caret white diamond nicknamed “Star of Africa.” [1]
–Stone comes from two Afrikaners’ farm, Diederik De Beers and Joahannas De Beers.
–Niekerk trades nearly all of his possessions for the stone. Including 500 sheep, 10 oxen, and a horse.
–Niekerk sells the diamond to the Lilienfield brothers for 11,000 pounds sterling.
–The Lilienfeld brothers sell the diamond to the Earl of Dudley for 30,000 pounds sterling.
1871: De Beers sell their land, Cecil Rhodes takes over to form De Beers Consolidated Mines.
1870’s: The mineral revolution transitions South Africa from a series of smaller agrarian states to an industrial nation.
Policies seeking to provide armies of miners for the mines create the basis for apartheid conditions.
1930’s: De Beers begins to limit quantity of diamonds on the market, inflating prices.
De Beers coins the slogan “A Diamond is Forever.” By convincing women that diamonds must be untouched by other women to be valuable, quashes secondary market.
The De Beers cartel comes to dominate the diamond, diamond mining, diamond hops, trading, and industrial diamond manufacturing sectors.
1990’s: As diamonds become more precious, efforts to extract them become more violent.
Currently: De Beers has been parceled out and sold to even bigger conglomerates.
Hong Kong and Mumbai are the largest diamond markets. Mumbai is home to the largest diamond bourse.

And blood diamonds continue to shine.



  1. http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/2007/02/brief-history-of-blood-diamonds.html
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eureka_Diamond
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineral_Revolution
  5. http://jezebel.com/5973648/a-quarter-of-all-diamonds-in-stores-are-blood-diamonds-and-nobody-can-tell-which-ones-they-are
  6. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/02/rough_cut
  7. Phillip Killicoat, “Weaponomics: The Global Market For Assault Rifles,” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4202, April 2007.
  8. http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/global-diamond-report-2013.aspx
  9. http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/en/about
  10. http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/business-and-human-rights/oil-gas-and-mining-industries/conflict-diamonds
  11. http://www.brilliantearth.com/conflict-diamond-trade/