The new movie "Blood Diamond" hasn't even hit theaters (it opens on Friday) but already it's stirring up quite a bit of controversy--over the use of so-called "conflict diamonds" to fund some of Africa's bloodiest civil wars.
Given the sensitive subject matter, the diamond industry--which logs about half of all sales this time of year--has launched a massive PR campaign to offset any potential consumer backlash.
On “Power Lunch” Sue Herera moderated a debate on this topic. On the panel were Antoinette Matlins, one of the world's foremost experts on the subject and a Gem & Jewelry Expert from National Jeweler Magazine. Also on the panel - Cecila Gardner, General Counsel for the World Diamond Council and Alex Yearsley--with Global Witness - a non profit working to prevent these types of abuses.
Before you read any further here are a couple of FYI's: 1) conflict diamonds are rough diamonds that are used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments and 2) The Kimberley Process is an international certification scheme that regulates the trade in rough diamonds.
Okay – here’s what the guests had to say..
Antoinette Matlins maintains chances are less than 1% that consumers are buying conflict diamonds. She says that has to do in large part with the success of the Kimberly process.
She says there's no value to making people feel guilty about buying diamonds before Christmas. There’s a 99.8% chance that won’t happen.
She also argues, if people don’t buy diamonds, citizens of the other 14 diamond producing nations, such as Botswana and South Africa would suffer.
Alex Yearsley says he agrees that The Kimberly process is working but a lot more needs to be done. He wants to see governments working with the diamond industry.
He’s frustrated because, he says for 6 years the diamond industry has promised to audit their suppliers and their purchases and they’ve failed to do this.
Cecilia Garder says The Kimberly process is clearly working to reduce the number of these kinds of diamonds in the trade. When asked what should a consumer ask for so they can buy with an easy conscience – she said make sure you’re buying from a reputable retailer and ask the retailer if they have a warranty--that shows the diamonds are covered by the Kimberly process.