Faceting the Future: The Need for and Proposal of the Adoption of a Kimberley Process-Styled Legitimacy Certification System for the Global Gemstone Market

Journal of Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Forthcoming

84 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2008 Last revised: 18 Nov 2008


Diamonds, so the song goes, are a girl's best friend. According to various advertisement campaigns, diamonds are also a unique symbol of emotion because they are forever. It is certainly difficult to challenge these assertions as to the beauty of a diamond. However, these societal perceptions often overshadow the importance and history of other gemstones. The Bible refers several times to the value of rubies. Throughout history, gemstones of all varieties have captivated leaders and societies across the world, resulting in the creation of incredible works of art involving these stones and also in bloody fights to control them. Although a typical gemstone will not be as heavily faceted as a diamond, these facets have historically framed the laws, societal beliefs, and economic prowess of nations.

And so it is perhaps not surprising that, when the world became concerned over sources of funding for the debilitating conflicts that have prominently engulfed several African states, it focused on diamonds. Out of this campaign emerged the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for Rough Diamonds (Kimberley Process), a system which controls the diamond markets in participant states and which offers a measure of confidence for states and consumers alike in regards to the source of diamonds on the legitimate market. Still, the public was so enthralled and repulsed at the idea of conflict diamonds that movies on the subject were highly successful. And yet, the correlation between all other gemstones and illicit activities such as funding brutal rebel or governmental forces, financing terrorism, and inducing human trafficking has largely been left out of the legal and popular discourse.

The goal of this article is to address the need for a Kimberly Process-styled system in the gemstone industry and to propose a framework for such a system, using the strengths and weaknesses of the Kimberley Process and the unique issues facing the gemstone trade. Part II of this article provides a basic history of the Kimberley Process and discuses the legal implications of the Kimberley Process for participant states. Part III discusses the current state of the gemstone industry. It provides background on the industry as a whole and sets out a number of gemstones that, in the author's view, are gemstones that should be subject to a Kimberley Process-styled system. These gemstones range from extremely rare and valuable to common stones with low prices because the author believes that the issues raised in this article are of vital importance to both the high-end and low-end consumer. Part III further provides a short discussion of the producer states of these gemstones, including documented incidences of illicit trade in these stones, ties to illegitimate entities, and domestic legal considerations. Part IV then proposes a Kimberley Process-styled system, generally referred to as the International Gemstone Certification System, to combat the issues raised in Part III, thereby bringing benefits to all portions of the gemstone and jewelry industry, as well as producer states and their citizens. Finally, Part V concludes the article with a summary of the reasons that an International Gemstone Certification System is needed, the proposed terms of such a system, and the benefits it would bring.

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Harrington, Alexandra R., Faceting the Future: The Need for and Proposal of the Adoption of a Kimberley Process-Styled Legitimacy Certification System for the Global Gemstone Market. Journal of Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1299986

Alexandra R. Harrington (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

CISDL ( email )

Montreal, Quebec

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