by Alex Francis
Photo by FancyDiamonds.net | Flickr.com.
Despite the world’s publicized efforts to clean up the diamond trade, millions of dollars worth of the precious stones—more than 90% of those sold throughout the world—continue to pass undocumented through the city of Surat, India.
The city’s lax regulations and cheap wages make it an ideal location for an illicit marketplace to thrive, and an estimated 10% of Surat’s inhabitants are involved in the polishing, trading, and dealing of the world’s diamond supply. Kimberley-certified and conflict diamonds alike arrive in the quickly growing city from mining hotspots around the world, but upon departure, it becomes virtually impossible to trace the origin of any stone.
Ineffective Certifications and Disregarded Regulations
Kimberley Process certificates, which are intended to guarantee that a shipment of rough diamonds was legally mined and conflict-free, are routinely reused, faked, and forged. The certificates only name the countries of origin and import, value, and total carats of the shipment—and since polishing can remove up to 50% of a stone’s rough carats, it is as easy to add extra stones to a shipment as it is to recreate the document. And once the rough diamonds have been polished, it becomes virtually impossible to trace their origins, so the Kimberley Process certification becomes irrelevant.
After the rough stones have been polished in Surat, they are discreetly transported via red-eye train to Mumbai, where more than $40 billion of purportedly certified merchandise is sold every year. At the India International Jewellery Show alone, an estimated $1 billion dollars of diamond sales are made every August with no regard for the Kimberley Process. The diamonds then pass through the diamond division of the customs office at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and are shipped to markets around the world. While it may be nearly impossible to determine the origin of any given diamond, it’s a safe bet that, conflict-free or not, it has passed through Surat.
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