The Diamond Trade

"Now who gives a damn
About the ice on your hand
If it's not too complex
Tell me how many Africans died
For the baguettes on your Rolex"

Ms Dynamite 'It Takes More' (Lyrics: N Mclain-Daley)

This is a teaching resource about the diamond industry. It is suitable for most age groups. In the UK, geography teachers could use or adapt the suggested ideas for lessons on development or economic activity. There is a QCA scheme of work called Mining on the Internet (which is rarely taught I bet!) and the OCR GCSE geography pilot course has a section called People as Consumers. The topic has a strong Citizenship element as well. Comments are welcomed.

Important note

Many of the ideas presented on this page are remarkably similar to the recent (Spring 06 edition) of Global Eye, which also focusses on diamonds, and predates this page. I hadn't seen the Global Eye web pages prior to writing this material, so the similarity is a rather spooky coincidence. Nevertheless, readers are strongly advised to check the excellent diamond resources at Global Eye and ponder on the validity of my theory that Global Eye author Simon Scoones and I were seperated at birth.

About the Google Earth File

screenshot of GE file
The teaching resource is based around the Diamond Trade Google Earth file

The file uses images from the series 'Diamond Matters' by the photojournalist Kadir Van Lohuizen. A selection of the images have been incorporated into placemarks, categorized into different types of employment and geo-located as accurately as possible. By clicking through the placemarks in turn, the journey of diamonds from source to final point of sale can be traced. Some of these images appeared in an article published in the Telegraph Magazine 27 May 2006, and they appear in the file with permission from the photographer.

Tips for using the file:

The Google Earth file must be unzipped before it works. If you subsequently move the unzipped folder to another location on your PC, the file will no longer work properly as the links to images will be broken.
The title overlay and legend can be turned on or off.
One possible starter- type activity would be to play the placemarks as a tour accompanied by appropriate music, for example 'Diamonds From Sierra Leone' by Kanye West. Then go through the placemarks again to reveal the photographs.
Click on the link under the photograph in the pop-up windows for a better quality image.
Slow down the fly-to and tour speeds under the Options tab in Google Earth

file downloadDownload Google Earth File

Teaching ideas

The teaching ideas are presented without detailed worksheets or lesson plans. I'd welcome the submission of teaching materials for inclusion on this page!

Using Google Earth

If students have access to the Google Earth file, there are a number of simple tasks that could be completed to ensure that they have looked carefully at all the relevant placemarks.
1) Identify all the countries mentioned in the Google Earth file.
2) Use the measuring tools in Google Earth to estimate the distance that a typical diamond from Africa could have traveled.


Look at the images of diamond processing from Surat in India and Antwerp, Belgium. The industry has shifted from Antwerp and most of the world's diamonds are now polished in India. This video from the BBC makes a good stimulus for a lesson that looks at the reasons why diamond polishing has shifted continents.

Mystery: Why doesn't Kanye want to wear his Bling?

Sally Sumner has kindly offered a Mystery featuring Kanye West which is highly recommended. If you haven't tried this style of activity before it's very simple. Get students in groups. Give them a copy of the resource - cut into separate cards. Students consider each piece of information, deciding whether or not it relates to the title question. Students then attempt to answer the question, via classroom discussion, although a written assignment could be very effective as a follow-up. Although there is no "right answer", the activity requires that students process a lot of information and then present an argument that is consistent with the evidence.

Child Labour

BBC News article about child labour in the diamond industry in Sierra Leone. The issue could be explored in several ways. Setting a creative writing task is one way in, as this example of student work shows:

" I ask my mother
I say momma
where's my brother?
she say listen
to all the crying
n'people dying
for the jewels
that mean everlasting love
she say 'your brother
works for da soldiers
an is never coming back..."

By a pupil from year 9 at Bury Church of England High School.

Conflict Diamonds and the Kimberly Process

This video from the BBC could be used to introduce the issue of conflict or blood diamonds. The video explains what conflict diamonds are, and how the Kimberly Process aims to remove illegally traded gems from the marketplace. Before diamonds can be exported, a Kimberly Certificate is required, without which they cannot be traded.

Students could be directed to the image of the director of the Government Gold and Diamonds Office, Sierra Leone. After checking the diamonds, he grants a Kimberly Certificate, guaranteeing that the diamonds have not been traded illegally. More able students could be asked to design the wording of a Kimberly Certificate. How would they ensure that the diamonds have been traded legally, that the mine is not under the control of armed groups andthat the workers have been treated fairly? Older students could read a critique of the Kimberly process. Another related activity could involve a discussion over the corporate image used on the official Kimberly Process web site. To what extent can legally traded diamonds be described as "Prosperity Diamonds" based on what students know about diamond production in much of Africa? These links may help.

The One Sky campaign site offers lots of great resources, and explains the limitations of the Kimberly Process.

A BBC News article in 2004 highlighted a report that claimed that conflict diamonds were still on sale. There is a terrific audio interview with the Jewellers of America here

Hip Hop lyrics - social responsibility?

Get students to compare lyrics from these two pieces of music. They are fairly clean and some teachers may judge them suitable for playing in the classroom. What do students feel about the two songs from a critical perspective, now they know a little more about the diamond trade?

Lyrics for Diamonds from Sierra Leone (remix): Kanye West
(Make sure to use the remix version)

Lyrics for Grillz by Nelly (if you don't know what Grillz are - see this photograph!)

Some students may wish to write their own versions of the lyrics! Alternatively it could be possible to use the lyrics from the Kanye West track (especially the part before Jay-Z gets involved) as the soundtrack, while students assemble their own images and thoughts to make a music video using a program like Windows Movie Maker. Thanks to Tony Cassidy for locating this video on You Tube that might offer some inspiration.

Also check out Lupe Fiasco's music - especially his track Conflict Diamonds from Farenheit 1/15 Part II Revenge of the Nerds. There's a great video of this as well.

Creative manipulation of images

Browse the evocative images by Kadir Van Lohuizen or try searching for copyright free images of diamonds (lots on Flickr) Get students to use Flagrant Disregard's Motivator tool on their choice of image. The aim is to produce a thought-provoking slogan.

example image

This can be an extremely rewarding end of lesson activity, however there are copyright implications to be aware of. An alternative, but related activity is to design a magazine cover.

Diamond Matters - the Movie?

Get pupils into groups. Their task is to come up with an outline for a movie about the diamond industry. After a period of time they have to pitch their ideas to the rest of the class, and the best one is chosen (peer assessment opportunity?) Students could browse Kadir Van Lohuizen's photographs and select one that could be used as the movie poster. They need to come up with a suitable title and tag line as well. The activity could be extended with investigations into possible filming locations - could movie scouts use Google Earth?

The Blood Diamond is a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio to be released in January 2007. This article (.pdf) from The Independent describes a heated argument between the films' producers and the diamond industry. A great resource to use as a basis for examining the diamond industry claim that countries such as Sierra Leone have made great progress in removing illicit gems from sale. A BBC News article describing Congo's suspension from the Kimberly Process could also be used. (Thanks to Alan Parkinson for the link.)

Critical analysis of web sites:

Get students to read the FAQ from the Diamond World web site. Do the students feel that the Diamond World site is lacking some essential information? A good assessment could inv love them writing some more FAQ's. How about sending their work to Diamond World? I'm sure they'd be grateful!

Environmental impact of diamond mining

Google Earth could be used to create a placemark to identify evidence of alluvial diamond mining. The Google Earth file includes one example - can the students find others?
alluvial diamond mining
Alluvial diamond mining near Koidu, Sierra Leone.

Here is an article about the environmental devastation of this type of mining in Sierra Leone. It might require a bit of selective editing for students, but is extremely usefulfor GCSE and A level.

The world's largest open cast diamond mine mine is likely to be the now abandoned pit at Mirny, Eastern Siberia. There is a short description and picture from the BBC here. The image below is from Google Earth

Diamond mine, Russia
The world's largest diamond mine, Mirny, eastern Siberia.

file download placemark link for mine at Mirny

The wonderful BLDBLOG has some very impressive images, and related information, as well as an interesting comments thread. Essential reading! The image below is from another BLDBLOG posting.

mine at Mirny

Click the picture for the original post that links to an extraordinary high resolution version of the image - note the comment about the colouring! This would make a brilliant classroom resource.

canadian diamondsDiamonds from the Canadian Arctic
Advanced level students could investigate the environmental impact of diamond mining in high altitude regions.
An excellent resource for Advanced level students is this case study from the LEAD site that looks at issues of sustainability in Arctic mining. The Ekati mine is located in Canada, in a region of pristine tundra and produces $1.7 million worth of diamonds per day. There is an informative web site produced by the mines' owners BHP Billiton Diamonds. The Natural Resources Canada site has a variety of useful images of the mine. There has been a long running strike by Ekati workers, which seems to have ended recently. This article explains how BHP have addressed some of the obstacles to diamond extraction at Ekati, and despite the general consensus that the mine is a model for sustainable development, an essay by Angela Padilla sounds a cautionary note about the Canadian diamond industry.


There is a superb set of teaching resources at Global Eye, covering several different aspects of the topic, together with excellent visuals. Thanks to Pog for recommending this!
The De Beers site is informative on all aspects of the industry
The Wikipedia entry for diamonds is also very useful
A good educational poster about the Kimberly Process is available to download here
Wikipedia article about the Kimberly Process
BBC News article describing Congo's suspension from the Kimberly Process
The De Beers social responsibility policy Note the reference to child labour.
Thanks to Alan Parkinson for sending me a link to the BBC News item From Our Own Correspondent looking at diamond mining in Sierra Leone.
BBC News article about child labour in the diamond industry in Sierra Leone
Article about diamond mining in Angola from Corp Watch
One Sky a very useful campaign site
This site offers a tutorial in buying a diamond!
Alan Parkinson discovered some more useful photo resources
Samara James Thinking of getting one?

Beyond 4Cs Consumer education site


Kadir Van Lohuizen for permission to use the images and for his support for this resource.
Tony Cassidy for checking the Google Earth file and suggesting this video
Mike Jones for sending me a copy of the Telegraph article, following a desperate forum request after I recycled mine by accident!
Sally Hindley for the Mystery and the pupil poem.
Simon Renshaw sent me this image from Amnesty, great as a starter
Alan Parkinson kindly provided the Independent article about the forthcoming film, The Blood Diamond, and provided useful feedback.

Buy the book Diamond Matters by Kadir Van Lohuizen at Amazon Books