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 November 22, 2014 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 November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
5 Hot Months, 1 Warm Year And All The Arguments To Follow

5 Hot Months, 1 Warm Year And All The Arguments To Follow

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) The NOAA released statistics Thursday showing October was the fifth month this year with record temps and 2014 will likely be the hottest on record. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nations Pledge $9.3 Bn for Green Climate Fund

Nations Pledge $9.3 Bn for Green Climate Fund

AFP (Nov. 20, 2014) Nations meeting in Berlin pledge $9.3 billion (7.4 bn euros) for a climate fund to help poor countries cut emissions and prepare for global warming, just shy of a $10bn target. Duration: 00:46 Video provided by AFP
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