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Conflict Diamonds: Blood on Your Hands?
Looking at dark side of the trade, one thing is clear -- diamonds are dirty
David Wilson (bambo1)     Print Article 
Published 2006-02-12 10:45 (KST)   
Amputation is forever. That's the message from the lobby opposed to so-called blood diamonds. That name may make them sound like a pretty, tinted variation of the standard gem, but in fact (sorry to spoil your Valentine's Day) the term refers to diamonds associated with mutilation and murder. Mined in a war zone in a country such as Angola, Congo or Sierra Leone, blood diamonds are sold, usually secretly, to finance an insurgent or invading army's war campaign.

Hong Kong, the "Diamond Centre of Asia" has a certification scheme designed to regulate the trade of the contraband and is involved in the Kimberley Process, a U.N.-backed global scheme to stop the illegal trading of these gems. But how much impact the city's good behavior makes is questionable -- it appears impossible to stamp out smuggling because the monitors intended to block them are paid a pittance.

©2006 Keith Syvinski
Worse, there will always be unscrupulous jewelers. Even an outwardly ethical retailer may be suspect because one rarely knows where the dealer bought the diamond. Maybe, then, we should boycott the gems altogether.

Either way, the link between diamonds and violence is likely to make women -- and rappers -- think twice about what they attach to their fingers, thanks to the entertainment industry.

For starters, a Hollywood movie on conflict diamonds has begun filming in Port Edward, South Africa. "The Blood Diamond," a multimillion-dollar Edward Zwick project, pairs heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio and Danny Glover in the tale of an American gem smuggler who encounters a diamond syndicate directing Sierra Leone's trade.

Last year, hip-hop star Kanye West launched his online video called "Diamonds from Sierra Leone," which helped propel the single straight into the top 10 when it was released. Conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone also played a part in a scene in the 2002 Bond movie "Die Another Day." But there is nothing glamorous about them. The results of the conflict-diamond trade are sickening.

In another cultural critique, "Bling: Consequences and Repercussions," a documentary by online company WGH Films exposes the atrocities committed in the name of mining diamonds in Sierra Leone. On camera, children glumly gun down other children. A boy whose hands have been hacked off holds the bandaged stumps up to the lens. With luck, this footage will make conflict diamonds the new fur -- wear them at your peril.

Yet, our culture idolizes them; they are seen as the last word in glamour, regardless of the amazing array of alternatives. There is nothing trashy about rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Indeed they may well have more class. Diamonds are so common that they could be construed vulgar.

You may protest that diamonds are much more than a fashion accessory and marriage barter chip -- after all, they last forever.

Don't count on it. While they may be the hardest gems known to man, scoring a "10" on the Mohs scale invented by Austrian mineralogist Friedrich Moh, they can -- and do -- break if not properly set. Diamonds are neither forever, nor are they a girl's best friend.

If you still feel enthralled by their sparkle, consider a Washington Post report that al-Qaeda has used blood diamonds, particularly from Liberia and Sierra Leone, to launder money to finance its terrorist operations. The message is clear: diamonds are dirty.
This article was previously published in the South China Morning Post (Feb. 11.)

David Wilson is a roving U.K.-born reporter now based in the Asia-Pacific.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David Wilson

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