Gemological Institute of America President William Boyajian testified yesterday about determining the country of origin of diamonds to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. The hearing focused on options available to effectively curtail the conflict diamond trade without impacting the legitimate diamond trade.
In his speech, Boyajian told lawmakers he does not believe it's possible to determine the country of origin of rough and polished diamonds based on their physical and chemical characteristics. "Based upon all of our current knowledge and that which we have been able to glean from the literature and other noted experts, there is no known scientific and practical means for determining the country of origin of rough and polished gem diamonds," he said. "And, while some have suggested that visual means alone will distinguish rough diamond origin, we would view this as highly problematic and overly subjective, at best"
He explained that even if diamonds from one country had unique recognizable characteristics, diamond deposits are often weathered out of their original host rock, transported by rivers and eventually become concentrated in a secondary deposit within another country's borders. He also pointed out many of the distinctive physical characteristics of diamonds are lost during the manufacturing process.
Instead of trying to test diamonds to determine if they come from a conflict country, Boyajian suggested tracing each diamond from the mine to the retailer. He said steps taken to curtail the flow of conflict diamonds must entail "the tracking of diamonds in the rough, from mine through manufacturer, in order to assure the retail community and ultimately the consumer, that diamonds entering the marketplace are conflict free."
Copies of Boyajian's oral and written testimony can be found online at GIA's Web site, http://www.gia.edu.
- by Julia M. Duncan