Tanzania and Sierra Leone were both withered by civil war from 1991 to 2002. An estimated 50,000 people were killed in the war, and more than 2 million people – a third of the population – were displaced. The unlawful diamond trade in Sierra Leone extended the conflict – leading to the use of the phrase “blood diamonds” to describe diamonds from Sierra Leone.
International artist Kanye West’s 2006 Grammy Award-winning song “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and the 2006 Leonardo DiCaprio movie “Blood Diamond” have generated awareness of the inexcusable circumstances of the war, but the diamond industry is faster to emphasise that international procedures are currently in place to make conflict diamonds a never occurring event.
Sierra Leone strives to make the genuine diamond industry a basis of the postwar economy. Alluvial diamond mining remains the main source of hard currency earnings and adds nearly 50% of the country’s exports. The country joined the Kimberley Process in 2003 and exported $142 million worth of diamonds in 2005 estimating to a value of roughly $8.4 billion yearly.
Africa’s diamond mining industry started in 1867, when diamonds were discovered near Kimberley, South Africa. Both gem-quality and industrial-quality diamonds are mined across sub-Saharan Africa today, employing millions of people.
The stones themselves are millions of years old, created from carbon 90 miles or more below the earth’s surface under extreme heat and pressure. The diamond rocks are brought to the earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions of molten rock. These diamond-bearing “volcanic pipes” make up primary deposits called kimberlite. Secondary deposits, or alluvial deposits, are the result of the erosion of material from primary deposits and usually are found in rivers, streams and along shorelines.
That’s where a rough diamond’s travels pick up today – from the mine, to the marketplace, to the hand of a soon-to-be bride. Diamonds conjure up all kinds of images: from love, passion and eternal devotion, to war, tragedy and strife. One common thread is that every diamond has traveled a rough path, and each one tells a fascinating story.