A blood diamond, also referred to as a conflict or war diamond, is a diamond sold to finance terrorism or other violent acts including civil war. Trading in these diamonds has been recognized as a global problem, with terrorist organizations in a wide range of nations benefiting from the trade of these diamonds. The problem is most severe in Africa, where several nations including Liberia, Angola, and Sierra Leone have been affected, leading organizations such as the United Nations to enact resolutions to combat the sale of blood diamonds.
For terrorist organizations, diamonds are viewed as an ideal currency, due to the traditional closed nature of the diamond industry. The difficulty in tracking and monitoring diamonds makes it very easy to slip a blood diamond into a lot of legitimate diamonds, and by the time the situation has been realized, the diamonds have already vanished. Several trade associations have begun to respond to consumer pressure regarding blood diamonds, implementing better tracking and control.
Although access to diamond mines is restricted, determined individuals can smuggle diamonds out for sale. These individuals commonly deal the rough diamonds to violent organizations, who pay a small sum for the smuggled diamonds and then resell them to other organizations or groups who can successfully move the diamonds out of the country. The resulting stone is known as a blood diamond because the funds acquired from the sale usually go to the purchase of weapons.
Sometimes a blood diamond may be traded directly for weapons, to reduce the traceability of the transaction. In other cases, the diamonds may be exchanged for currency of various nations, often deposited into bank accounts outside the nation of origin. Because of the immense coordination involved, it has been suspected that several national governments, including the government of Liberia, are involved in the trade of these diamonds.
The blood diamond market is a serious political and social problem. Many people are killed in the pursuit of these diamonds, including mine workers who are forced to smuggle diamonds out to support growing families or pay off individuals who have threatened them. The weapons that the diamonds purchase fuel violent civil wars in which innocent individuals are stricken down. Billions of dollars have been gained from the sale of these war diamonds, leading to death tolls which are estimated to be in the millions.
Recognizing the blood diamond problem, professional organizations have teamed up with human rights groups to find a way to end the trade. Many diamonds now come with certificates indicating that the diamonds were carefully tracked at every step of the manufacturing process from mining to setting in jewelry, to assure consumers that they are not supporting the trade. Other nations with diamond deposits such as Canada have promoted a trade in their clean “Arctic Diamonds” which are not allowed to mix with rough stones from other locales.