PRETORIA (Reuters) – The diamond trade must confront its tarnished image and revamp its certification scheme or risk seeing increasingly demanding consumers spurn natural stones in favor of cheaper synthetic diamonds, a senior U.S. official said.
Bloody African civil wars in the 1990s prompted diamond companies, governments and rights groups to come together to set up the Kimberley Process to prevent the sale of so-called “blood diamonds” from funding conflicts.
But the body only considers conflict stones to be those whose sales fund armed groups seeking to overthrow legitimate governments, a definition that does not cover a wide range of human rights and labor abuses.
Efforts to broaden the scope of the scheme have been stymied for a decade, civil society groups say, by member states including China, Russia and a number of African nations.
“(Consumers) probably think they’re getting anything from a green standard to a human rights standard to a high labor standard, and in fact none of that is really conveyed by the Kimberley Process,” Pamela Fierst-Walsh told Reuters on Monday.