An analysis of the conflict-free diamond industry

Diamonds are a staple in the jewelry industry and they are a consistent favorite among consumers, but purchasing these rare and precious stones come with a high level of risk. Blood diamonds, or diamonds that are unethically mined and produced to fund conflicts in war-torn areas, make up as much as 20 percent of the stones that are on the market today. This multi-million-dollar illicit business contributes to a human rights and public health crisis that is predominantly affecting poor areas in central and western Africa. However, there are ways to ensure that you’re buying a stone that was legally, ethically, and responsibly sourced.

Some of the most heavily affected countries are Botswana, Liberia, Angola, and the Central African Republic – among many others. Individuals from local, impoverished areas are commonly targeted and recruited by violent groups for their labor efforts. These workers often trade their freedom, health, and livelihood just to keep themselves and their families afloat – even though their revenue depends entirely on whether or not they’re able to find diamonds at all. For a diamond that’s about one carat in weight, a worker in Democratic Republic of Congo could make $100 USD. The amount of work that’s required to mine these diamonds by hand is grueling and debilitating, but it’s fueled by a worldwide demand for the precious stones. The generated revenue goes into the pockets of violent rebel groups who continue to exploit and indenture people from vulnerable communities.

In response to the damage caused by this underground trade, leaders in the diamond industry created a verification system called the Kimberley Process to evaluate diamonds for their origin and integrity. This certification process has reduced the purchase of blood diamonds since its inception more than a decade ago, but it’s not foolproof. Due to illegal smuggling and falsified reports regarding the origin of exported diamonds, many illegitimate stones still make their way onto the market. For this reason, it is imperative for buyers to conduct thorough research before purchasing a diamond from anywhere.

In order to ensure that the diamond you want to purchase was mined and processed legally and ethically, look for stones that have an extensive trail of recorded information. Traceability is key when it comes to purchasing diamonds, and there are a few reasons for that. One method to ensure that you’re buying a conflict-free diamond is to look for specific certifications, such as an endorsement from GIA diamonds. This authority uses a rigorous, multi-step verification process to determine the origin of each stone they accept. Certified stones come with an engraved inscription, or a printed and sealed certificate.

Another thing to consider when purchasing diamonds is environmental impact. While diamond mining is inevitably going to have an impact on surrounding ecosystems, buying a legally sourced stone that was mined from a responsible company is one way to refrain from supporting destructive labor mills. Reputable miners operate within the requirements of law, while also choosing sites that will have cause the least amount of damage to the environment. By default, you can also rest assured that illegal, inhumane labor wasn’t used for production in a heavily regulated mine.

To be completely sure that your diamond is conflict-free, opting for a lab-grown stone is an easy way to keep your peace of mind. While they are man made, lab-created diamonds have the same makeup and appearance of natural stones. Since they are created from start-to-finish, there is no risk that they were mined, sold, traded, or obtained from conflict-affected areas. Of course this isn’t required if you take the necessary precautions, but it’s an additional option for those who would like a real diamond without any chance of it being a blood diamond.

The process behind checking imported diamonds isn’t watertight, but many retailers can guarantee that their diamonds are conflict and guilt free. Regardless of a diamond’s place of origin, purchasing from reputable producers will prevent consumers from buying stones that were either mined by force, detrimental to the environment, smuggled to hide traceability, or all of the above. Even though the amount of blood diamonds on the market has lowered dramatically since 2003, it’s still a huge and influential business that has its hands in some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable regions.

The United States is the largest consumer of diamonds in the world, contributing to nearly half of the diamonds industry’s annual revenue. Since about 80 percent of the world’s gem-quality diamonds come from Africa, there is a high probability that – without proper research and information – you could be purchasing a blood diamond and inadvertently helping to fund this violent and devastating underground industry. By remaining vigilant and confirming the identity and origin of every diamond we buy, we can help to quash a powerful business that has damaged the lives of millions and millions of people.

Blockchain Developments to Watch in 2019

While 2018 has been The Year of Patience for cryptocurrency investors, the developers behind the world’s leading cryptocurrencies haven’t been sitting idle. The developers behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Ethereum aren’t waiting for prices to recapture their late-2017 glory. They’re working on new technology that will make cryptocurrency better, faster, more accessible, and more valuable to all.

There are plenty of good reasons to stay excited about cryptocurrency and new developments in blockchain technology. From what the leading cryptocurrencies have told us already, there appear to be 3 main themes emerging for 2019: scalability, usability, and speed, all while institutional investors hover just around the corner.

#1 Scalability

The biggest hurdle facing the mainstream use of cryptocurrency right now is scalability. Scalability is hampered by transaction speeds, transaction fees, database architecture, and tech literacy.

Ethereum is taking a proactive approach to scalability with its Constantinople hard fork, a move that’s driven ETH’s price recovery. Constantinople was designed to introduce off chain transactions such as BTC’s Lightning Network, reducing block reward and delays. The hard fork is being supported by major cryptocurrency exchanges.

#2 Usability

Bitcoin Cash has laid out a pretty clear road map that outlines what usability means in 2019:

  • Instant security for merchants through pre-consensus
  • Low fees for fractional satoshis
  • Using CashAddr to differentiate Bitcoin Cash addresses from those used for Bitcoin

These are just some of the steps Bitcoin Cash is taking to become more user-friendly, and they’re not the only cryptocurrency taking usability seriously in 2019.

#3 Transaction Speed

Improving transaction speeds without resulting in higher transaction fees is crucial to making the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies more widespread. That’s why Bitcoin developers are rolling out an update called The Lightning Network, a solution to Bitcoin’s ongoing struggle with scaling and transaction speed. The Lightning Network will prove to be a big step forward for mass adoption – just in time to meet institutional investment dollars.

2019 will be another important year for cryptocurrency. Be sure to read about the latest cryptocurrency news to see where cryptocurrencies are headed. As they improve on these three cornerstones: scalability, usability, and transaction speed, you can expect usage to increase. With Bitcoin ETFs still on the horizon, there’s also the promise of a new wave of speculation and investment money.

Today, it’s easier than ever to buy cryptocurrencies for everyday use or investment on cryptocurrency exchanges like Bitbuy, one of the few exchanges that let you buy Bitcoin with Canadian funds directly from your bank account. Cryptocurrency exchanges are also evolving in an effort to make cryptocurrency more widely available.

In the long-run, skyrocketing prices may not be the best thing for cryptocurrencies. Finding more widespread use as everyday payment methods and in smart contracts, cryptocurrencies promise to become a permanent fixture in the everyday economy. Cryptocurrencies are maturing and developing the blockchain technologies needed to meet a broader audience.

Common web design mistakes to avoid in 2019

As your business grows, you know you’ll need to expand and engage in the online market. Of course, with that being said, you’re going to need a functioning website. Perhaps you’re thinking of building your site or hiring a web developer to do the front-end and back-end work. Regardless of what you choose, you need to be aware of the five most common web design mistakes people make when creating a website. Whether you have experience with web design or not, these tips will either help refresh your memory or teach you something new.

Not mobile-friendly

Though it’s highly avoidable, if you make this mistake, it’ll drastically change the outcome of your site. You need to have your website mobile-friendly. In reality, 57% of web traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets. Which means if you snooze on this, you lose. Make sure your site is functional via smartphone and that it’s interactive for users.

Low-quality site

Your website is the face of your business which means you need to spend the money on making your website look good. If it’s not visually appealing, modern, functional, and interactive users are going to leave within seconds. Your goal is to keep them on your website for as long as possible. Invest in your site, and you’ll see the difference.

No analytics

A lack of analytics is a major problem with newly developed websites. If you’re uneducated in web design or hire a sloppy designer, you’re probably going to miss this crucial tool for your business. Using an analytic tool will help you measure your page views, users, demographics and more. This tells you who is going on your website and what they’re looking for. Shockingly, only 75% of small business websites are not using an analytic tool. Having analytic tool for your business is a game changer.

Lack of security and support

Building a website is one thing, but you do have the tools to support it? Are your devices adequately protected from external threats such as hackers? Do you back-up your business’s information? Do you have a tool which monitors your computers and servers? These are essential questions you should be asking yourself. Building a website is one thing but making sure it’s supported and protected is another. For example, server monitoring tools can check for issues with your server, memory usage, disk space, and more.

“We don’t do social media.”

What do you mean you “don’t do” social media? You’re running a business now; whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to jump on the bandwagon. Depending on your industry, you may need to open multiple accounts on various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and, Facebook. Also, you need to have social media icons visible on your website and connected to all accounts.

Now that you know these mistakes avoid them at all costs. By following these tips, your website will automatically look more inviting and modern.