Finding Diamonds that Don’t Fund War

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BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The 2006 film Blood Diamond brought attention to "conflict diamonds," gems mined in war-torn African countries whose proceeds have been used to fund military action. While the problem has been mitigated in recent years, it hasn't disappeared.

To that end, here's how ethical Casanovas can avoid getting blood on their hands while putting a ring on her finger.

What is the Kimberley Process? Based on a United Nations resolution, the Kimberley Process is an international certification system meant to regulate the diamond trade and prevent conflict diamonds from hitting jewelry store shelves. Seventy five countries have agreed to adhere to the process, which requires exporters to transport diamonds in tamper-proof containers and certify that they aren't blood diamonds to the exporter's knowledge. Diamond giant De Beers boasts about its Kimberley Process compliance on its Web site.

Most countries that comply with the Kimberley Process also adhere to the World Diamond Council's System of Warranties. This safeguard requires sellers and suppliers to provide written guarantees that say their diamonds aren't tied to war efforts based on their "personal knowledge."

While the aim is true, the Kimberley Process isn't without flaws. For one thing, the system relies on participants' good faith. It isn't legally binding.

"The Kimberley Process is pretty limited because it only guarantees a diamond from the last point of export," says George Mimar, co-owner of MDL Diamonds, a diamond producer and brokerage in Toronto. He recommends that consumers look for retailers that sell diamonds mined from Canada and comply with the Canadian Code of Conduct.

What's the Canadian Code of Conduct? This is a standard guaranteeing that each individual diamond has been traced from a Canadian diamond mine all the way to the diamond retailer. There are three major mines in Canada, the world's third-largest diamond producer. Harry Winston Diamond is among the companies that adhere to the code.

Canadian diamond consumers also should ask the jeweler for the diamond's identification number, which is laser-etched onto the girdle of the gem and can only be seen through a special microscope. Armed with the number and basic information about the retailer, the consumer can procure an authentication guarantee for $25.

What if I have an ethical conflict with mines? The Canadian Arctic Resources Committee has voiced concern that diamond mining has a negative impact on Canadian wildlife. Concerned consumers should consider lab-grown diamonds, such as those created by Gemesis or Apollo Diamond . There's also the less conventional option offered by LifeGem , an Elk Grove Village, Ill., company that creates diamonds from carbon extracted from a lock of hair or from cremated remains.

There's also the option of recycled jewelry from a company like GreenKarat , which creates new rings out of old ones. The motto on the Web site: "Effecting change through recycled gold."

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