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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK
Diamond origin 'can be determined'
The largest uncut diamond in history
Diamonds will be tracked from source to sale
Belgian scientists have found a way of determining the origin of individual diamonds, according to the Diamond High Council of Antwerp.

The body which controls trade in diamonds says the discovery could help the worldwide campaign to stop the illegal sale of stones from war zones, a trade that has helped finance several African civil wars.

The researchers found they could gain a unique chemical image of each diamond, by drilling a tiny hole in it with a laser beam.

This allowed them to identify the source from which it came because each precious stone has a chemical composition specific to an individual mine.

But the diamond body said the scientists would first have to build up a global picture of all existing mines - a process that could take years.

Early stages

Corinna Gilfillen from the campaign group Global Witness said the new process could prove an important tool in stopping the trade in conflict diamonds.

"We're encouraged to see this kind of research, and though there's nothing solid yet, it could have positive implications and could be a useful tool in tracking the origin of conflict stones," she said.

"However, our priority remains the active implementation of the Kimberley Process system of certification, which will happen on 31 July. It is the best possible programme monitoring the import and export of diamonds," she added.

Chris Welbourn, Head of Physics at the world's biggest diamond miner, De Beers, said the research was promising, but "at a very early stage".

"We supplied some of the samples for preliminary research, but the jury is still out on whether the process represents a viable technique," he said.

Mr Welbourn added that diamonds from conflict countries were often "alluvial" - meaning they could be washed downstream thousands of kilometres from their original location over time.

As such, there could be arguments over where diamonds were procured, even if the technology worked, he said.

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