By David Brough
JAIPUR, India – Education and training will be key to helping artisanal gemstone diggers achieve better livelihoods, an industry panel heard.
The panel, on day two of the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) Congress in Jaipur, India, on October 4, 2023, discussed future steps that need to be taken to bring in more effective responsible sourcing of the coloured gemstone industry.
Key messages in the panel, chaired by Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough, included:
The sector, led by industry associations, needs to invest more in the education and training of diggers, including how to run their own businesses;
Investment in carefully curated beneficiation projects in impoverished mining areas are required to bring much-needed infrastructure to artisanal diggers, such as potable water supplies;
Sustained efforts are 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.
Panel about responsible sourcing in coloured gemstones, at the CIBJO Congress in Jaipur, India, in October 2023
Jenna White, a research scientist with the Colorado School of Mines, presented her research findings after living in a Kenyan mining community, noting the importance of helping diggers to help themselves.
Kim Collins, President of 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 (SFGs).
John Ford, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) and Douglas Hucker, CEO of the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA), agreed that new technologies such as blockchain would struggle to be effectively implemented in the highly gragmented 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 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.
Journalist Jennifer Heebner addressed the CIBJO plenary at the start of the session to inform them that well-respected longtime industry editor Hedda Schupak had passed away after a short illness earlier this week. She was the former editor-in-chief of JCK magazine and the Centurion newsletter and is remembered for her honesty and loyalty.
Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough moderated the panel