Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

UMass Gemstone Expert Helping To Stamp Out "Dirty" Diamonds

Date:
March 14, 2001
Source:
University Of Massachusetts At Amherst
Summary:
A University of Massachusetts geologist is among researchers hoping that science can help bring peace to war-torn Africa. Stephen Haggerty, an expert in the geology of diamonds, is part of a group of scientists who met at the White House earlier this year to begin discussing how to "fingerprint" diamonds. The effort is aimed at stamping out a lucrative - and bloody - guns-for-gems trade that is reportedly financing brutal civil wars in Africa.

Amherst, MA - A University of Massachusetts geologist is among researchers hoping that science can help bring peace to war-torn Africa. Stephen Haggerty, an expert in the geology of diamonds, is part of a group of scientists who met at the White House earlier this year to begin discussing how to "fingerprint" diamonds. The effort is aimed at stamping out a lucrative - and bloody - guns-for-gems trade that is reportedly financing brutal civil wars in Africa.

Related Articles


At the heart of the matter are the gemstones known as "conflict diamonds" - an estimated 4 percent of the diamonds sold annually. Human rights groups have reported that rebel groups in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Angola are financing civil wars by trading diamonds for artillery and other military hardware. The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research estimates that more than a billion dollars in such diamonds have been sold in the past decade.

The international community, including the United Nations, is searching for a way to identify the source of rough diamonds and track the import and export of gemstones. Legislation supporting such a system may soon be introduced to the U.S. Congress as well. "In absence of fingerprinting, a conscientious consumer can't be certain that the diamond he or she is buying didn't contribute to people's suffering," said Haggerty, of the wars that have resulted in the deaths or maiming of thousands of people. "The onus is on the diamond industry to ensure the stones have a clean history."

The origins of a small percentage of diamonds can be determined by their appearance. Certain eight-sided clear diamonds are known to come from Siberia. Those with a green cast are from central Africa; those that are pink are Australian. However, the vast majority are untraceable. "Science has traditionally searched for the circumstances of a stone's birth within the Earth - geologically rather than geographically," noted Haggerty. "There's never been an incentive to find a stone's geographical home, so very little work has been done on this."

The fingerprinting effort faces several obstacles, according to Haggerty. One is the sheer numbers of stones: "No one is going to be able to fingerprint 300,000 items per year. It's just not economically viable." Also, the diamond industry is steeped in tradition, he said, and part of that tradition means putting very little information on paper. "A deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars may be sealed with just a look, or a nod of the head. The diamond industry is very insular. It will not accept having business negotiations available and known to the public." Little is available in terms of current technology, Haggerty explained. Making some sort of "bar code" in a jewel's interior would mar its prized interior reflections. The surface adhesion of grease to diamond may allow for a DNA-type analysis in which dietary habits or perspiration characteristics particular to a region are preserved. Other experts have offered the idea of examining the isotopic signatures of dirt and clay trapped in cracks and in imperfectly formed stones. But in all of these, the tracer would be removed when the stone was polished, and the identification of the stone's source would be lost. "Nondestructive spectroscopic techniques need to be explored," Haggerty said.

"We as scientists really have an opportunity to put a stop to the selling of conflict diamonds. The scientific work we've done all these years has tremendous potential to make a difference," Haggerty said. "There are political, societal, and humanitarian implications, and we have an obligation."

A measure of his commitment to the issue, Haggerty said, is that his Fulbright Fellowship and field work in India were interrupted to give an invited talk at the White House Diamond Conference, held earlier this year. "Following this unprecedented experience, I returned to India, and while in Rajasthan, felt the initial jolt and the rolling shock waves from the devastating earthquake in Gurakarat on January 26," he noted. "Geology is indeed an extraordinary profession, but the human link is rarely appreciated."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. "UMass Gemstone Expert Helping To Stamp Out "Dirty" Diamonds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010313073810.htm>.
University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. (2001, March 14). UMass Gemstone Expert Helping To Stamp Out "Dirty" Diamonds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010313073810.htm
University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. "UMass Gemstone Expert Helping To Stamp Out "Dirty" Diamonds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010313073810.htm (accessed April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

AFP (Apr. 18, 2015) In the Himalayan town of Lukla, excitement mingles with fear as mountaineers make their way up to Everest a year after an avalanche killed 16 guides and triggered an unprecedented shut-down of the world&apos;s highest peak. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2015) "Water cops" in Los Angeles remind the public about water conservation methods amid California&apos;s prolonged drought. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

AFP (Apr. 17, 2015) Scientists gathered at a European Space Agency (ESA) facility outside Rome this week for the Planetary Defence Conference 2015 to discuss how to tackle the potential threat from asteroids hitting Earth. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Five years after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, splotches of oil still dot the seafloor and wads of tarry petroleum-smelling material hide in pockets in the marshes of Barataria Bay. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins