A Response to Brilliant Earth’s ‘Unethical Diamond Mining Infographic’

A few weeks ago we (EcoPost) posted a Brilliant Earth (BE) infographic about “conflict diamonds”, which Sean Clinton believes is grossly misleading.

He has written us the following article to explain why.

Discussions about diamond-funded human rights violations are hampered by the lack of a legal or widely agreed definition of a “blood diamond”. This is not accidental. In an effort to sanitise the issue and protect the diamond brand image, vested interests introduced the term “conflict diamonds”.  “Conflict diamonds” are defined by regulations under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP) as, “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.

By limiting the remit of the KP to “conflict diamonds” and by introducing a bogus System of Warranties to create the illusion that KP certified diamonds are conflict-free, the diamond industry insulated the high-value, cut and polished end of their industry from public scrutiny. As a result, the trade in cut and polished diamonds that fund war crimes continues unchecked below the media radar.

Most people would agree that any diamonds associated with serious human rights violations are blood diamonds. If rebel groups or government forces commit human rights violations to gain control of diamond mines, as alleged in the case of the Central African Republic (CAR) and Zimbabwe respectively, the public would rightly consider diamonds so acquired to be blood diamonds.

The KP recently suspended the export of diamonds from CAR but diamonds from Zimbabwe cannot be classed as “conflict diamonds” as the alleged human rights violations in Zimbabwe were carried out by government forces, not by rebels.

Similarly, if revenue from diamonds is funding a regime guilty of war crimes most people would consider such diamonds to be blood diamonds. But blood diamonds that fund war crimes by government forces are not “conflict diamonds” – they are KP compliant and are sold as conflict-free diamonds by jewellers worldwide.

The Kimberley Process system of self-regulation was introduced by the diamond industry in 2003 after years of pressure from civil society groups. Their main objectives in agreeing to adopt the KP system was to stem the trade in diamonds that fund rebel groups, restrict debate about blood diamonds to the mining sector and bolster the flagging diamond brand image in the wake of damaging revelations about diamond-funded human rights violations in certain African countries. The revelations gave rise to growing public concern about blood diamonds and spawned a Hollywood film, Blood Diamond, which further cemented the public association between diamonds and human rights violations.

The Brilliant Earth infographic is an example of how the diamond industry employs smoke and mirror tactics to convince the public of the ethical provenance of diamonds – even though they are funding a regime accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is a tactic which BE has consistently adopted as it tries to claim the high moral ground and gain competitive advantage in the diamond market.

The elephant in the room, which no one in the diamond industry will speak out about, is Israel.  Israel, one of the world’s leading diamond exporters, stands accused of war crimes the UN Human Rights Council (here), Amnesty International (here), Human Rights Watch (here), and Israeli human-rights organisation B’Tselem (here).

According to Greg Krauss from Brilliant Earth (here), some of their diamonds are cut and polished in Israel.  Revenue from the diamond industry in Israel is a major source of funding for the belligerent nuclear-armed apartheid regime in Israel which is accused of flagrant and repeated breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

In evidence to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Israeli political economist Shir Hever stated,Every time somebody buys a diamond that was exported from Israel some of that money ends up in the Israeli military, so the financial connection is quite clear.  Overall the Israeli diamond industry contributes about $1 billion annually to the Israeli military and security industries.”

The BE infographic tells us their “beyond conflict free” diamonds are “untouched by violence and human rights abuses”. That’s patently untrue for diamonds processed in Israel. The infographic highlights the fact that revenue from diamonds is funding jobs, education, the environment and health services in Africa. But it fails to mention that revenue from diamonds is also a major source of funding for the Israeli military. The Israeli military assault on the besieged residents of Gaza in the winter of 2008/2009 killed over 1400 Palestinians, mainly civilians, including over three hundred children.

As far as Brilliant Earth, and the rest of the jewellery industry, is concerned Palestinians are invisible, non-entities not worthy of consideration when it comes to deciding the ethical provenance of the diamonds they profit from.  For the so-called ethical jewellery sector it is fashionable to be concerned about human rights for black African children – their favourite poster image – but not for Palestinians who languish under the cosh of a brutal diamond-funded regime.

Palestinian children have been blown to bits by Israeli shells and missiles from land, sea and air. They have been terrorised, maimed and traumatised, imprisoned in gaols and in their homes, deprived of the basic rights we all take for granted; the right not to see their parents and siblings murdered, humiliated, tortured, starved, beaten, imprisoned without charge or trial, their lives restricted in every way, deprived of an education, denied freedom of movement, denied adequate medical facilities, their home bulldozed without notice, forced to live in tents and refugee camps with no means to defend themselves and no safe refuge from Israeli attack, no recourse to international law and denied the right to self-determination to mention just some of the human rights violations funded by revenue from Israeli diamonds.

Brilliant Earth has never denied that some of their diamonds are processed in Israel.  Scores of people have been blocked from the BE Facebook page when they questioned the ethical provenance of their diamonds. Unlike Nelson Mandela, which Greg Krauss in his latest missive unfairly accuses of failing to support the campaign against blood diamonds, BE can’t claim they haven’t “thought deeply about the role of diamonds in funding armed conflict”.   The claim by Brilliant Earth that their diamonds are “beyond conflict free” is nothing but a cynical marketing ploy.

Cover Photo: White phosphorous rains down on a UN School in Gaza on January 17th 2009, killing two brothers aged 4 and 5 and wounding 14 others – a war crime, documented by Human Rights Watch here. Credits: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2009/03/25/rain-fire


12 responses to “A Response to Brilliant Earth’s ‘Unethical Diamond Mining Infographic’

  1. Oh my, thank you so very much for this post! I am a fashion and activist blogger and Brilliant Earth actually just reached out to me asking if I can do an advertisement post for them! Before I ever agree to collaborate with a company I always have to make sure that they are not violating human rights in any way, for that would be against what me and my blog stand for. After doing some research on them I couldn’t find anything wrong with their company and was about to accept the collaboration before I ran into this post! Now I’m definitely going to ask their PR manager for details on their “conflict-free” diamonds being cut in Israel! They kept this so well hidden!

    <(") Hoda

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The contributions from Nuakhti are very telling and illustrate how defenders of the rogue regime try to deflect criticism of Israel’s criminal behaviour. This is similar to the tactic the diamond industry employs in an effort to limit public concerns about blood diamonds – restrict the debate to rough diamonds that fund of African rebels and ignore the cut and polished blood diamonds that flood the market.
    The antisemitism accusation is, as usual, the first weapon deployed. Nuakhti has evidence that revenue from diamonds is a significant source of funding for war crimes or crimes against humanity anywhere then he/she should publish that information and call for diamonds from those countries and Israel to be banned. However, Nuakhti is only concerned about protecting the diamond industry in Israel so I don’t expect that to happen any time soon.
    The apartheid regime in Israel is a funded to a very significant degree by revenue form diamonds which account for 30% of Israel’s manufacturing exports. No other county gains as much as Israel does from the diamond industry – $11 billion net in 2011.
    Exposing the double standard in the jewellery industry which facilitates the trade in diamonds that fund war crimes in Palestine can bring pressure to bear on jewellers and the regime in Israel and limit its ability to fund the occupation and brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Zimbabwe wants to export value added natural resources « www.newsafrica.co.uk·

  4. The campaign by Sean Clinton is entirely based on anti-Semitism.
    Why doesn’t his campaign include the Indian diamond trade that funds the conflict in Kashmir? Apparently one million diamond workers in Israel aren’t as relevant as 3,000 in Israel.
    And what about the Chechnyans, suffering from the consequences of diamonds from Russia? Don’t they count? Apparently not!
    And the Afghans and Iraqis who suffer at the hands of taxes paid by diamond companies in the US and UK – well, who cares about them?

    The only time that these ‘human rights’ campaigners give a damn about diamonds is when they can single out the Jewish state.
    And that is anti-semitism pure and simple.


    • This comment from “nuakhti” is quite a red herring. The Israeli state isn’t just guilty of human rights abuses and ongoing violations of international law – and accused of war crimes – but is also a major destabilising force in the region, and its diamond industry plays a major part in funding that disruptive, belligerent role. Zionist apologists will simply keep shouting “Anti-Zionism is the same as anti-semitism!” – because they don’t have a lot of other arguments, and despite the fact that many of the best and most consistent critics of Zionism are Jews, including many Israeli Jews. But Nuakhti is right that we should all fight against all abuses of human rights, and since Nuakhti seems to have detailed knowledge of human rights abuses elsewhere in the world, I look forward to seeing what activist efforts he / she will initiate, so that the rest of us can add our weight. Now that this has all been cleared up, I also look forward to seeing Nuakhti join the fight against Israeli blood diamonds.


      • No anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism. But when someone is obsessed with hating Israel and don’t give a damn about hundreds of situations that are far far far far far worse than Israel, then it doesn’t take a genius to guess that they have an ulterior motive.
        And what easier explanation to pretend one isn’t anti-Semitic than using the red herring ‘that anyone pointing out that someone is an extremist hypocrite is a Zionist apologist etc.’

        Over 100,000 civilians dead in Chechnyan conflict in under 3 decades. No problem with Russian diamonds!
        Over 100,000 civilians dead in Kashmir in under 3 decades. No problem with Indian diamonds!
        15,000 dead civilians in Israeli-Arab conflict in over 6 decades. Clearly, one has not possibly ever got an ulterior motive of Jew-hatred when they only care about the Israeli-Arab conflict!


  5. This seems like a pretty devastating indictment of Brilliant Earth; the author has clearly done his homework and makes a compelling case. I would be interested to see what sort of response Brilliant Earth might come up with, although this piece doesn’t seem to leave them much room to maneuver.
    Of course, the larger question is how the Kimberley Process is allowed to get away with what sounds like a blatant whitewashing exercise. It would be nice to see Ecopost dig into that a bit and provide a deeper analysis.


    • The author hasn’t done his homework! He didn’t mention the slavery in Sierra Leone due to the Lebanese slave master diamond dealers. He is apparently unaware of the link with the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah. Not to mention al-Qaeda. Global Witness estimated al-Qaeda laundered $20m through purchasing diamonds.


      • But this isn’t about all those other democracies we’re talking about the rogue state called Israel. You want to read about those other democracies Google them. If you want to read about Israel’s connection to the diamond industry read here.

        Liked by 1 person

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