By Meghan Dunn
And five things you need to know to avoid buying one yourself
It’s an unusual cast of characters. Supermodel Naomi Campbell, Liberian warlord Charles Taylor and actress and activist Mia Farrow. Throw in Nelson Mandela and you have the making of one very odd story.
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who is currently on trial in the Hague for war crimes, is accused of traveling to South Africa in 1997 to obtain weapons for Sierra Leone rebels — in exchange for diamonds.
Prosecutors say that, following a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela, and attended by Campbell and Farrow, Taylor gave one such diamond — called a “blood diamond” because of its alleged use to fund a military conflict — to Campbell.
Now, Sierra Leone prosecutors have asked Campbell to testify about the alleged jewel. Both Campbell and Taylor, who faces charges of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers, refute the claim.
Farrow has said that Campbell told her the morning after the dinner that Taylor’s men brought the large, rough-cut diamond to her room in the middle of the night. Campbell said she intended to donate the diamond to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Farrow says. The organization says it never received a diamond from Campbell but that she did make cash donations in 1997 and 1998.
Prosecutors say they have unsuccessfully tried to interview Campbell, who they believe could help prove that Taylor was in South Africa, with blood diamonds, with the intent of exchanging the diamonds for weapons.
“I don’t want to be involved in this man’s case,” Campbell told Oprah Winfrey, “he has done some terrible things and I don’t want to put my family in danger.” It is not yet clear whether the judges will order Campbell to testify.
Farrow, who prosecutors want subpoenaed as a witness, insists that her account is accurate. She told ABC, “You don’t forget when a girlfriend tells you she was given a huge diamond in the middle of the night.”
Asked about the diamond in the same ABC piece, Campbell threw one of her infamous tantrums, punching a camera on her way out.
5 things you need to know to avoid buying a blood diamond:
While purchasing a diamond may not be an everyday occurrence, when you do make that big purchase, you’re advised to check for the 4 Cs: cut, color, carat and clarity. Now you can add conflict to that list. Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance a warlord’s activities, insurgency or terrorist activity. While there can be no guarantee that a diamond is not a blood diamond, there are steps you can take to help avoid purchasing one:
1. Know where the diamond came from. Conflict diamonds mostly come from African countries like Sierra Leona, Liberia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other areas involved in civil war. Ask the jeweler where the diamond originated, and if he mentions any of these countries, be cautious. If he claims they came in labeled as “conflict-free diamonds,” maintain your skepticism. These labels are often incorrect.
2. Know about the Kimberley Process (or KPCS). The goal of the Kimberley Process is to document the origins of diamonds and ship them in tamperproof casing to show their legitimacy. Although this campaign isn’t fully implemented in all countries, it is a move in the right direction. Ask whether your chosen diamond came through the Kimberley Process before buying.
3. Ask to see the System of Warranties statement. Under this system, which has been endorsed by all Kimberley Process participants, all retailers are responsible for ensuring that the diamonds they stock and sell carry a warranty that they are conflict free by providing a Systems of Warranties statement on their invoices. The System of Warranties does not require the warranty to appear on the consumer’s receipt, so be sure to ask to see an invoice with the statement on it.
4. Buy antique, used or vintage diamonds. If there’s proof that the diamond was purchased before 1990 — before the civil war in Sierra Leone — it holds a better chance of being “clean.”
5. Buy local. Another way to avoid buying a conflict diamond is to choose diamonds mined in North America and Australia. Canada has a voluntary code of conduct that helps prove that a diamond is Canadian (and therefore conflict free). Under this code, a diamond must come with a paper trail detailing its movement from the mine all the way to the jewelry store.