Diamonds are forever

Materials World magazine
5 Oct 2010

The title of Ian Fleming’s novel and James Bond film ‘Diamonds are forever’ struck me as rather prescient during Naomi Campbell’s testimony at the War Crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Blood diamonds

The prosecution allege that Taylor was responsible for trading diamonds for arms to support a rebel army in neighbouring Sierra Leone – so called blood diamonds – and that he gave a pouch of them to Campbell as a gift. If her testimony leads to conviction and imprisonment, then these diamonds really will mean ‘forever’.

Coincidentally, during the same week as her court appearance, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron was leading a high level delegation to India to strengthen economic ties. Such missions to former parts of the Empire inevitably raise questions about Britain’s imperial past and demands for apologies, reparations or return of ‘stolen’ property – in this case, the Mountain of Light, commonly known as the Koh-I-Noor diamond.

The Koh-I-Noor diamond

It could be argued that the Koh-I-Noor is as much a blood diamond as the ‘dirty looking pebbles’ given to Campbell. The Koh-I-Noor has a long and exotic history, and, until the discovery of the Cullinan diamond in 1905, was the largest and most precious stone in the world. Thought to have been mined in Golconda, Hyderabad, in the 12th century, it passed into the hands of the British under the terms of the Treaty of Lahore after the first Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46.

Death, torture, imprisonment and exile befell so many of the diamond’s owners that its ill luck, for male wearers at least, became proverbial. Queen Victoria is the only reigning British Monarch to wear the diamond and since then it has only been worn by the female spouse of the monarch, most recently the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I am not going to comment on the legality of Britain’s ownership of the Koh-I-Noor or indeed Taylor’s alleged gift.

The IOM3 Code for Professional Conduct

Hopefully, as members of IOM3, we will never find our own ethics called into question. Indeed, the IOM3 Code for Professional Conduct gives a very clear statement of what is meant by ethical behaviour and how it applies to us.

It says, ‘Members should always be aware of their overriding responsibility to the public good. A member’s obligations to the client can never override this, and members should not enter undertakings which compromise this responsibility. The “public good” encompasses care and respect for the environment, and for humanity’s cultural, historical and archeological heritage, as well as the primary responsibility members have to protect the health and wellbeing of present and future generations’.

The Institute’s Code for Conduct is a useful guide in my professional undertakings, and usually more succinct and practical than the reams of policies and guidelines issued by my various employers over the years. It is also an important part of the professional responsibility interview for those seeking membership, although it is surprising how few have actually read it!

Which reminds me of an alternative story of how the Koh-I-Noor diamond came to be in British hands, courtesy of someone who by his own admission would fall short of the Institute’s high ethical standards – Sir Harry Flashman VC. Alas, I do not have space in this column to recount the tale, so you will have to read it for yourself in George MacDonald Fraser’s book, Flashman and the Mountain
of Light


Further informtion

IOM3 Code for Professional Conduct

Flashman and the Mountain of Light