DDS was launched in collaboration with the Madison Dialogue Diamonds Working Group (MDDWG). Special thanks to the following MDDWG members who constituted the initial management committee for the DDS project and also provided substantial input in the development of the draft standards document:

  • Scott Cardiff, International Campaign Coordinator
  • Steve D’Esposito, President of RESOLVE and the EARTH SOLUTIONS Center
  • Beth Gerstein, Co-founder – Brilliant Earth
  • Susan Posnock, Associate Director of Public Affairs at Jewelers of America
  • Dr. Fiona Solomon, Director - Standards Development, Responsible Jewellery Council
  • Amanda Stark, Steering Committee Member at Madison Dialogue
  • Alex Twersky, President of Finesse Diamonds

DDI’s ethical diamond certification project


Several members of the jewelry industry are already engaged in ethical/responsible sourcing. However, it is important to note that “ethically sourced” diamonds are not necessarily equivalent to “development diamonds”. In part, this is because not all diamond mining countries in Africa and/or South America are necessarily “artisanal” diamond mining countries. As such, potential benefits from ethical certification are more likely to leave out artisanal miners and less likely to address associated social and environmental issues in artisanal mining countries, which account for an estimated 15% of total gem diamond supply. In some countries, artisanal and small-scale mining accounts for up to 100% of all diamond exports. Nevertheless, the concept of “development diamonds” is a key part of ethical sourcing, which suppliers and retailers interested in ethical sourcing can eventually become involved in, as part of their overall efforts to promote responsible sourcing.

DDI’s Development Diamonds Standards™ (DDS) certification scheme is a unique effort to help ensure that the most vulnerable group of diamond miners, i.e., Artisanal Diamond Miners and their communities, are not overlooked in the broader process of promoting ethical certification and responsible supply chains. The reality is that artisanal miners and operators can simply not access various ethical/responsible sourcing initiatives, which are generally more suited to companies or other entities operating in the formal sector. The bottom line is that without a dedicated endeavour to cover the ADM sector, ongoing initiatives to promote responsible jewelry supply chains will be undermined by their inapplicability to diamonds originating from artisanal mining areas.

The DDS system aims to actualize DDI’s “development diamonds” concept through which ADM labourers and operators working in a vastly informal context, will be enabled to adapt and apply socially/environmentally sound practices in a manner that is realistic for the ADM sector; feasible in the context of socio-political dynamics on the ground as well as global diamond trading realities; independently verifiable; and maintains integrity with traceability throughout the jewelry supply chain to consumers interested in “ethical jewellery”. With support and buy-in from artisanal diamond miners and communities, civil society organizations, governments of artisanal alluvial diamond producing countries as well as members of the global diamond industry, the DDS system is now being field tested to achieve Proof of Concept, in order to demonstrate its feasibility throughout the diamond pipeline—from mine to market. Although it will also contribute towards overall formalization of ADM, the DDS system is not intended as a panacea for the development issues related to ADM. Rather, DDS focuses on adapting an enterprise approach to the development priorities of ADM communities by establishing an ethical certification system that is credible and realistic for artisanal miners as well as downstream actors in the jewelry industry.

Quick notes on the DDS system:

1.DDS does not seek to reinvent the wheel...

... however, it distinctively focuses on the ADM context and is especially designed for to be applied by ADM operators on the ground, e.g. by integrating the nuanced role of middlemen and the power relationships within Sierra Leone’s “tributor-supporter” system.

2.Core components of DDS...

...(like most assurance systems) include Standards that set specific and measurable social/environmental provisions; a realistic operating model for their Application with independent third-party verification; and a traceable Chain of Custody that maintains the integrity of “development diamonds” from the digger to the consumer.

3.DDI will not handle any diamonds...

... As a non-profit organization and registered charity, DDI does not invest in ADM operations or any other business endeavours. All rough stones from the DDS pilot sites will flow through existing supply chains in the local and global diamond pipeline(s).

4.DDS goes beyond “Small-scale mining” and focuses on the most vulnerable... of diamond miners [artisanal diamond miners] who mostly operate on their own in informal settings and not necessarily on or near the concessions of large mining companies.

5.DDS is being established in collaboration with other initiatives... promote ethical jewelry supply chains and complements concerted efforts by covering the ADM sector in a manner that is not currently feasible for others to do. In addition, DDS is being field-tested with direct input from miners, community-based organisations, local operators and intermediaries, government authorities, community and traditional authorities.