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28 Dec, 2006 11:41

Hollywood thriller to affect diamond sales?

Hollywood thriller to affect diamond sales?

Recent Hollywood forays into the history of the diamond trade may be increasingly putting some people off. With “Blood Diamond’s” release coinciding with the Christmas sales, some retailers were worried sale figures would drop.

“Blood Diamond”, a Hollywood story of the 1990s civil war in Sierra Leone shows the conflict and its funding by the diamond trade in a tragic and emotional way. The movie starring LA's A-listers like Leonardo di Caprio is a box office hit. In its opening weekend, it gathered almost $ US 9 MLN in the United States.

But its controversial message is even more popular than its cast. Similar to “Hotel Rwanda” – another fiction of the same flavour – the film seems to hold the world responsible for turning a blind eye to the problem of conflict diamonds.

Conflict diamonds, also knows as war or blood diamonds, are stones “originating from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments.” That is the official definition. Put more simply, its diamonds that finance civil wars.

Some of the world's big-time diamond industry players seem to be alarmed at the message the film sent out. They are worried that without the proper knowledge, people would think the problem is as relevant today as it was up to the 1990s.

“There is an issue of conflict diamonds,” admits Sergey Ulin, Alrosa diamond company Vice President. “And there is the film. Like everything in this word it has two sides. The good side is – we have to tackle the issue. On the other hand I would not overestimate the film’s effect on the world diamond trade. The industry is not as bloody as the creators of the film wanted us to believe. World business reacted on this issue by creating the World Diamond Council, which is assigned exactly with tackling this issue.”

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is a collaborative effort between the global diamond industry, the United Nations, and various governments and NGOs to eradicate illegal diamond trade. Finalised in 2003, it monitors and controls the diamond supply chain from beginning to end making sure no illegal stones enter the chain. With over 70 countries voluntarily taking part in the scheme, 99% of the world's diamonds are from conflict free sources.

The global diamond industry has come a long way to ensure transparency and legitimacy of its business. And they are convinced a diamond, big or small, is still the best Christmas present.

And with the guarantees offered by retailers and the details of each diamond, from forming and mining to cutting the stone, available to each customer, the industry looks even more confident in the end-of-year trade.