A blood diamond is, in general terms, a perfectly ordinary diamond, distinguished only by the fact that it was mined in a conflict zone (typically in Africa) and sold, often in contravention of a trade embargo, to assist in the financing of that conflict. The term, whilst widely recognised, is somewhat arbitrary as it tends to be applied mainly to diamonds produced by non-state and failed-state actors … those exported by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, for example, are not generally labelled as such.
That said, there are legitimate reasons for discriminating against blood diamonds - besides their inherent role in financing some disproportionately vicious conflicts, they are also frequently produced by forced labour and the process of exporting them via the international black market tends to have additional effects in increasing crime and corruption worldwide.
Although the primary focus is on diamonds, other, less valuably gemstones also serve similar functions, albeit with less publicity. South East Asian emeralds and rubies, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and sapphires from some parts of South America have all fuelled conflict in their time (and some still continue to do so) … and even without the conflict aspect, many stones are still mined using unethical labour and/or support other inappropriate activities.
Game and Story Use
- PCs may find themselves holding unethical gemstones captured as treasure from defeated opponents - international controls may make liquidating these assets somewhat tricky.
- Where spirits are a thing, unpleasant origins may attract unpleasant passengers.
- Sabotaging a gemstone mine may be a useful mission for a covert ops team.
- More cerebral PCs may find themselves tracing and closing a gem smuggling route.