Guillermo Galvis, President of the Colombian Emerald Exporters’ Association and an Ambassador of digital trading platform Gembridge, tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough that he sees a buoyant future in digital sales of high end emeralds, especially now that the pandemic has denied opportunities for selling in-person at international trade shows.
Guillermo, how did you come to be involved in the world of gemstone trading and emeralds?
I become involved after starting a small business near emerald mines, selling computers and IT services in the mid-1990s. Next to my window display people used to sell and trade emeralds in Chiquinquira.
At that time I was involved in several Internet developments taking place at my university.
Then I figured out it would be a great business to sell emeralds, particularly in view of their strong association with Colombia, around the world.
I put together some resources, and started creating my own knowledge base in emeralds.
I launched www.emeralds.co and developed my first Emeralds Price List.
And so I became involved as much in retail as in the wholesale of Colombian emeralds.
Have you always been passionate about gemstones? What is it about emeralds that appeals to you?
Gemstones bring meaning that can’t be translated into words. The same feelings and emotions for gemstones have been around for centuries in our civilizations. It is as though there is a special “halo” around them.
I have always been curious about the aesthetics of gems — why they shine, why they have a unique colour.
Emeralds appeal for hope, and for rebirth. They are the birth stone of May, carrying the rich green colour of Spring and radiating a gorgeous vivid tone. They bring an element of hope. I think this is what excites me about them.
The pandemic has changed the ways in which people live and work – and in how they trade in gemstones. You are an Ambassador for the digital trading platform Gembridge. What does this mean? How will your new role change the way in which you will trade gemstones? How important a network is the Gembridge community of traders?
I feel being an Ambassador for Gembridge is a very important challenge, and personally an honour.
Before the pandemic, digital trading was already becoming a reality. Over the last decade every trader had been struggling to reach out to customers, travelling to fairs around the world in a time-consuming one-to-one gemstone sales model.
Every dealer knew there was a need for a different way to trade with gemstones, but they were at that time unsure about digital channels.
To be able to bring Gembridge’s pioneering logistical and digital solutions to the Colombian emerald industry is very important for me, and I think it will be highly appreciated in the market.
The Colombian emerald industry contracted about 50 percent during a painful 2020, mainly because in-person sales could not take place as they did before the crisis.
A recovery in 2021 will not rely on the reopening of the fairs, but on developing skills, logistics and infrastructure to drive digital and hybrid sales. This is where Gembridge plays a key role.
Gembridge is founded and supported by real gemstone people with a vast experience in every continent and market.
It blends IT resources, logistics and a platform that can bring together real solutions for buyers and sellers of gemstones in this “new normal”.
Your are preparing some emeralds for sale on the Gembridge platform. Can you describe a few highlights and say what makes them special?
We have some very special stock. Two, in particular, are very unusual and really rare, and are set to be listed soon on Gembridge.
We have a pair of stunning, large (around 36 carats in total), very clean emerald-cut Colombian emeralds.
They turned heads in their first international appearance in China last month, where they were called “The Chosen Ones”.
We see this level of quality of emeralds maybe once in every 10 or 15 years in the entire production of Colombia.
Their deep intense colour (termed by the GRS “Muzo Green”), and their unusual clarity, will make them a very special investments or collector’s pieces for connoisseurs.
Another remarkable stone weighs 2 carats: it is a spectacular Colombian emerald of very fine quality with a “butterfly wing” effect.
This one feature — this very rare optical effect called “butterfly wing” or “oil drop” (“gota de aceite”), is a reference for the finest Colombian emeralds.
How is the trade in emeralds evolving in Colombia, and what is the outlook for the emeralds market during and after the pandemic, in your view?
The emeralds market around the world took a big hit in terms of its total revenue, with almost every emerald mine ceasing or significantly slowing down output. New supply for the market is sharply down. But even as production slows down, we are seeing strong interest in Colombian emeralds and good demand for them.
The prices seem steady since there is demand and not over or under supply.
For the future I think hybrid selling models and digital channels will become mainstream for the industry.