Education is key to helping coloured stone diggers
achieve better lives and livelihoods

Panellists discussing responsible sourcing in coloured gemstone industry (from left): Sunil Agrawal, CEO of Vaibhav Global Ltd.; Jenna White, a doctoral student the Colorado School of Mines; John Ford, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA); Kimberley Collins, President of AGTA; Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields; Damien Cody, President of the International Coloured¬† Stone Association (ICA); Douglas Hucker, CEO of ICA; Longo Mulaisho-Zinsner, a founder of the Jewellery and Gemstone Association of Africa (JGAA); and David Brough, Editor and Publisher of the global digital trade magazine Jewellery Outlook, who was the panel’s moderator.

OCTOBER 4, 2023

Education and training will be key to helping artisanal gemstone diggers achieve better lives and livelihoods, a panel at the CIBJO Congress 2023 has heard. The session featured a discussion about future steps that need to be taken to bring in more effective responsible sourcing in the coloured gemstone industry.

Among the key messages stressed during the session was the sector, led by industry associations, needs to invest more in the education and training of diggers, including how to run their own businesses. Coloured gemstone companies were also called on to invest in beneficiation projects in impoverished mining areas, to bring much-needed infrastructure to artisanal diggers, such as potable water supplies. Sustained efforts are also needed to instil gender equality across all mining communities.

Some 20 million artisanal miners are estimated to mine coloured gemstones around the world, accounting for around 80 percent of total production.

Jenna White, a doctoral student the Colorado School of Mines, presented a research paper conducted with the support of the American Gem Trade Association, which looked at the development of responsible supply chains in the coloured gemstone sector. While conducting the research, she lived in a Kenyan mining community, and learned the importance of helping diggers to help themselves.

Kim Collins, President of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), addressed the urgent need to work to achieve gender equality along the coloured gemstone supply chain, as part of ongoing efforts to meet the UN-backed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

John Ford, CEO of AGTA and Douglas Hucker, CEO of the International Coloured Gemstone Association (ICA), agreed that it currently is challenging to introduce new technologies such as blockchain in the highly fragmented artisanal coloured gemstone supply chain.

Sean Gilbertson, CEO of industrial miner Gemfields, highlighted steps taken by his company to enhance working conditions of employees.

Gilbertson also spoke of the low officially declared coloured gemstone annual export revenue declaration by Madagascar of up to $15 million, adding that miners in origin countries should in his view receive a fair, market-value share of the income they are generating. Madagascar is an important supplier of gemstones such as sapphires.

Sunil Agrawal, CEO of Jaipur gemstone manufacturer Vaibhav Global Ltd, spoke of actions taken by his company to improve working conditions along the coloured gemstone supply chain.

Longo Mulaisho-Zinsner, a founder of the Jewellery and Gemstone Association of Africa (JGAA), addressed the difficulties of jewellery makers in Zambia to obtain tools for their work and their challenges in affording coloured gemstone raw materials against a backdrop of rising prices.

There was a sad and poignant moment at the start of the session, when industry journalist Jennifer Heebner informed participants of the death a day earlier of a well-known and greatly  respected colleague, Hedda Schupak. Ms. Schupak was the former editor-in-chief of JCK magazine and the Centurion newsletter, and is remembered for her integrity, commitment to the industry and her fierce loyalty to the reporters who worked with her.

The panel was moderated by David Brough, Editor and Publisher of the global digital trade magazine Jewellery Outlook.

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