London: Gemfields hosted a one-day introductory coloured gemstone seminar in London recently with industry experts. A panel of speakers – including specialists in sustainability, jewellery and gemmology– addressed sales and retail staff from key jewellery brands, lifting the lid on the charm, attraction and complexities of rubies, emeralds and sapphires, the three most coveted coloured gemstones.
The latest adaptation of Gemfields’ ‘Masterclass Series’ (which started in Hong Kong in 2016 and has travelled the world on a mission to further education of coloured gemstones within the industry), this London seminar was the first of its kind, offered as a free introductory course and aimed at giving those on the front line of the jewellery business – salespeople – the most up-to-date understanding of the ‘big three’ rare coloured gemstones. Previous successful Masterclass series have been held in Europe, the US, UAE, China and India, addressing specific trade and industry audiences and tailoring content to attendees’ needs. Topics covered at the London event included: history; treatments and traceability; supply chain stages and integrity; the challenges of mining; pricing and investment performance; sustainability and responsible sourcing; and gemstone and jewellery trends.
Each of the speakers is an expert in their given field and their passion was clearly enjoyed by the audience as they took turns leading focused talks on different aspects of the world of coloured gemstones, hosted by Rachel Riley. Among those speaking were Joanna Hardy, an author and independent jewellery and gemmology specialist with over 30 years’ experience in the industry; Rachel Garrahan, the jewellery and watch director of British Vogue; Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields; Daniel Nyfeler, managing director of Gübelin Gem Lab; Jack Cunningham, sustainability, policy and risk director of Gemfields; and Vincent Pardieu, a writer, documentary filmmaker and field gemmologist who has made 149 expeditions to coloured gemstone mining areas around the world.
Standout points from the talks included:
• The passion, excitement and joy of both gemstone discovery and ownership: every piece is unique.
• The fifth, sixth and seventh Cs: ‘Certification’ reports to understand the treatments and origin; the inclusions and uniqueness of a gem that speak to its owner and make up its ‘Character’; and the level of ‘Credibility’ provided in knowing its route to market and whether it generated a positive impact for the communities and nation of origin.
• Treatments and traceability:
o The importance of recognising gemstone treatments and disclosing these to consumers in a transparent manner.
o Gemstones are durable and never go – they live many lives passing from hand to hand. Most gemstones today have been in the market for decades (and many for hundreds of years), and hence traceability is impossible in such cases and can only be applied to new sources, highlighting the importance of the nano-particle tagging deployed by Gemfields’ emerald mine using the Gübelin ‘Provenance Proof’ system.
• Supply chain stages and integrity:
o How to buy coloured gemstones with confidence: currently the only way of guaranteeing full knowledge of a gemstones’ origin is to purchase the gem at source or to buy a gem with Gübelin’s ‘Provenance Proof’ technology, preferably combined with blockchain. Jewellery brands have a greater role to play in providing customers with information on where their gemstones were sourced.
o The importance of the jewellery industry to work together to improve standards.
• The challenges of mining:
o The best 7% (by weight) of the emeralds recovered make up 70% of the revenue from Gemfields’ emerald mine, and the per carat prices of lowest to highest grades increase 2 million times for emeralds… and 25 million times for rubies.
o The new significance of the African continent in the history of gemstones, as well as the discovery of new deposits, such as Gemfields’ Mozambican rubies in the newly found Montepuez region.
o The complexities of gemstone deposit discovery and depletion: examples were given of police clearing illegal miners from deposits simply to begin mining the deposit for themselves; shares in profitable formalised mining operations being seized by changing governments and political systems; ‘fake news’ and sensationalist views sometimes reported by the media who have typically not been on the ground to assess the details for themselves.
• Pricing and investment performance:
o That, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the value of a basket of gemstones didn’t waver when the Dow Jones, S&P and FTSE fell approximately 50%, suggesting remarkable resistance to volatility.
o The prevailing concern in the diamond sector regarding lab-grown gems and the view that these are unlikely to pose significant threat in the medium term given that history is likely to repeat itself: synthetic coloured gemstones and cultivated pearls have been around for many decades and trade at deep discounts to natural, ‘earth made’ gems. It was mentioned that the introduction of synthetic rubies in the late 19th century had a severe but fairly shortlived impact on the market.
• Sustainability and responsible sourcing:
o The potential of formalised mining to give back and make a significant contribution to host countries, such as Gemfields’ community projects and conservation efforts across Africa.
• Gemstone and jewellery trends:
o Current jewellery trends: a celebration of colour, pieces of greater volume and experimenting with new materials. The Vogue team’s interest is piqued by the different, the unusual and the bold.
o The use of gemstones to tell a story about their owner, from Cleopatra favouring emeralds to distinguish herself from others, to the protection and power symbolised by the wearing of rubies in royal portraits. This continues today, with the Duchess of Cambridge’s blue sapphire and Princess Eugenie’s rare padparadscha sapphire mounted by Shaun Leane.
This Masterclass took place at an ideal time, when interest and appreciation of exquisite rubies, emeralds and sapphires is on the rise, and consumers are increasingly interested in the story behind each gemstone and concerned about sustainability. Consumers are eager to seek out gemstones that have been mined with integrity, and in a way that impacts positively on the communities and people involved. These concerns are perfectly in sync with Gemfields’ own values, and hosting a Masterclass is an ideal way to put this message out to the wider industry.
Gemfields has created a quick reference guide for retail staff (available at www.gemfields.com/quickguide) and launched a competition for attendees of the event (and any two additional persons in jewellery sales they chose to nominate), whereby the participant who sells the highest value emerald, ruby or sapphire piece by 31 December 2019 will win a visit to one of Gemfields’ mines in either Zambia or Mozambique, seeing 450 million-year-old gemstones recovered from the ground first-hand and visiting the community projects in place supporting local people’s health, education and livelihoods, before taking a short break on Mozambique’s spectacular beaches or marvelling at Zambia’s breath-taking Victoria Falls.