I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the trade in diamonds, a
worldwide business worth billions of dollars.
(MUSIC: "Diamonds Are Forever")
use of valuable stones like diamonds goes back thousands of years. Rulers of many ancient cultures used
gemstones to show wealth and importance.
Diamonds still represent power and fame.
Rich and famous people around the world wear diamonds. And, most women in the United States receive
a diamond ring when they agree to a marriage proposal.
are mined from the Earth. They are cut,
made to shine and then sold at high prices.
The nation of South Africa is famous for its supply of diamonds. For generations, men have gone deep down into
the Earth to bring out the rough stones.
It is very difficult and dangerous work.
But recently, technology has helped.
Diamonds were formed millions of years ago from carbon
under extreme heat and pressure more than one hundred kilometers below the
Earth's surface. They are found in
volcanic "pipes" called kimberlite.
The name comes from Kimberley, the place in South Africa were diamonds
were found in the nineteenth century.
The DeBeers company bought the Kimberley mine and soon
became the biggest mining company in South Africa. DeBeers employed thousands of workers
there. In the late twentieth century, it
improved working conditions and offered miners a share of the company's
over the world, valuable stones are mined from deep in the ground, from areas
near rivers or coasts and in open gravel pits.
Botswana is now the largest diamond producer in Africa. The stones are also mined in Angola, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and Sierra Leone. Other major diamond-producing nations include
Australia, Canada and Russia.
still controls half of the world's diamond production. Most of their rough stones are sent to the
company's headquarters in London to be sold to a few dealers. But independent buyers are also part of the
One million people work in the diamond industry in
India. Shrenuj and Company
is one of the main diamond factories in the city of Mumbai. Workers cut and shine, or polish, gemstones
Most of the world's diamonds, mostly small stones, are
polished in India. The diamonds are
examined and sorted by color. The most
valued color has really no color.
Experts make the rough diamonds appear larger with the help of
computers, so they can see how best to cut them.
are the hardest natural material. Only a
diamond can cut another diamond. So
diamond cutters use diamond dust on a device called a polisher's wheel. It is difficult work. One wrong move and a stone can break. Sanjay Kambne has been
performing this work for years. He says
he has to be very careful while working with the stones.
history of valuable gems in India goes back many centuries. Sanjay Kothari heads
India's Gem and Jewelry Export Promotion Council. He says India has valued diamonds, jewelry
and gold since the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
became big business in India in the nineteen fifties and sixties. Mister Kothari says diamond exports from
India last year were worth twenty billion dollars.
across the world, Antwerp, Belgium is the world's largest diamond trading
center. Philip Claes is
secretary-general of the Antwerp World Diamond Center.
PHILIP CLAES: "Eighty percent of all the rough diamonds are traded
in Antwerp and fifty percent of all polished diamonds worldwide are traded in
Antwerp. In figures, it means that we have a turnover here in Antwerp of more
than forty billion dollars each year."
Antwerp has more than one thousand eight hundred
diamond companies. That is why George
Read comes to the city. He is a
senior vice present with Shoregold, a diamond mining company in Canada. He goes to Antwerp to have his diamonds
Diamonds are weighed and valued in carats. One carat equals two hundred milligrams. In addition to carat weight and color, a
gemstone's value is based on its clearness and cut -- the shape of the polished
once had about twenty-five thousand people working as diamond cutters and
polishers. Now only a few hundred
remain. Belgian cutters lost their jobs
to workers in India because they are paid less.
international trade in diamonds is worth an estimated eighty billion dollars a
year. This has helped some countries
develop economically. It has provided
jobs for workers in some of the world's poorest countries. However, the diamond trade has also been used
to support wars, frighten civilians and keep dictators in power.
diamond mines in South Africa are clean.
Machines are used to help the workers.
But this is not true in other parts of Africa. More than one million people search for
diamonds in Africa. They dig in pits and
near rivers by hand. They earn less than
one dollar a day.
recent years, armed militias and rebels in some countries used diamonds to pay
for civil wars. Thousands of civilians
were killed and injured in conflicts in places like Angola, the Democratic
Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. So
these gems are called "conflict diamonds" or "blood
Global Witness was one of the first non-governmental
organizations to call attention to the issue.
Annie Dunnebacke says the group's goal was to show the
tragedy of conflict diamonds. She says
Sierra Leone was one of the worst cases.
Hundreds of thousands of people died as a result of the country's civil
war in the nineteen nineties. Rebels cut
off the arms and legs of innocent people and forced children to fight. The Revolutionary United Front controlled the
eastern part of Sierra Leone. This is
where the diamond fields are.
diamonds were an economic reason for the war to continue. Efforts to report the link between the war
and the diamonds were successful.
years ago, the movie "Blood Diamond" helped bring more attention to
the situation. The movie takes place during the civil war in
Sierra Leone. Leonardo di Caprio plays a man who sells arms to the
rebels in exchange for diamonds. He is
involved in a chase for a rare and valuable pink diamond. But in the end, he gives up the diamond,
fights off the rebels and helps others learn about the illegal trade.
Witness was an adviser on the film.
Annie Dunnebacke says it influenced public opinion.
ANNIE DUNNEBACKE: "I think that bringing the message in sort of Hollywood
terms to a much wider audience than possibly our reports get to -- it does have
International pressure made the diamond industry take
action in an effort to prevent the trade in blood diamonds. In two thousand three, the Kimberley Process
was established. It requires member
governments to prove that exports and imports do not include blood
Tweedy is a spokesman for DeBeers, the world's largest producer of rough
diamonds. He says the Kimberley Process
is a good step forward.
TOM TWEEDY: "We have a system and however imperfect it may be it
is probably the only comprehensive system of its type in the world."
Claes of the World Diamond Center says conflict diamonds represented
four to fifteen percent of rough diamonds traded worldwide before the Kimberley
Today, he says conflict diamonds represent only
two-tenths of one percent of rough diamonds traded worldwide. However, Annie Dunnebacke says some diamonds
are being moved illegally between African countries.
say diamonds are not the only valuable gems that are linked to trouble in the
world. For example, more than ninety
percent of the world's rubies come from Burma.
The military government controls the sale of the country's gems. This trade helps keep the government in
rights activists are working to increase restrictions against Burmese
rubies. Activists are hoping that people
will start to ask more questions about the jewelry they buy.
This program was written by Sonja Pace and adapted by
Shelley Gollust. Our producer was Mario
Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. You can download audio and read scripts on
our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.