WEBINAR – Consumers increasingly want to know the stories behind the gems they buy, Gübelin lab head says

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Daniel Nyfeler, Managing Director of Gübelin Gem Lab in Switzerland, joined Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough in a complimentary Jewellery Outlook webinar entitled “Why do we need gem labs?” on April 29, 2021 

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Please click below to watch the replay:

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In the following interview with David Brough, Daniel Nyfeler outlines reasons why labs are needed to reassure consumers with credible and verifiable reports into gemstones’ journeys from their origins to jewellery.

Daniel Nyfeler, Managing Director Gübelin Gem Lab bei Gübelin.
Daniel Nyfeler, Managing Director Gübelin Gem Lab

Daniel, why do we need gem labs?

Gem labs determine the identity, authenticity, possible presence and type of treatments, and – for some stones – the country of origin.

Along the long, complex, often non-transparent supply chain of many gemstones, such information might be incomplete, get lost, or tampered with.

But this information is key to define a gemstone’s rarity and value, which is why gem labs come into play.

They have the analytical weaponry and the required knowledge to answer these questions, and as such facilitate the trading and selling of gemstones.

What are consumer expectations for gemstones?

There might be as many expectations as there are consumers.

We assume that beyond the desire of decoration, many might want to own something rare, precious, even unique.

Gemstones, with their many different appearances, are perfectly fulfilling this demand.

Coloured gemstones not only offer a choice, but also offer individuality to cater for the consumer’s manifold preferences and tastes.

Recently, we also observe that more and more consumers, in all regions worldwide, want to purchase an item of which they know the story behind it.

They not only want to be sure that their purchase is not doing any harm, but also that it suits a purpose.

Ideally, the jewellery makes them part of a system, gives a feeling of belonging.

To fulfil (or exceed) this expectation, credible, verifiable storytelling is key.

A transparent supply chain is just one prerequisite to enable such verifiable storytelling.

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What is the Gemstone Rating system of Gübelin, and how does it benefit the consumer?

Today’s consumer wants to make educated buying decisions, not only in regards to the provenance of the product, but also the quality and value.

The complexity of the coloured gemstone realm is massive, with dozens of different types of gemstones, hundreds of varieties, cuts, optical phenomena, treatments and origins.

To cope with this complexity is a challenge for professionals, and it is unmanageable for most privates.

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This makes coloured gemstones a demanding luxury purchase. The end consumer depends heavily on experts’ advice, and it is quite impossible to get even approximate value-for-money.

With the rating system, we intend to quantitatively assess some of the key characteristics (namely quality, rarity and salience), and reduce the complexity by concentrating to a single figure.

With the Gübelin Gemstone Rating system, we want to empower end-consumers by sharing information about the quality, rarity and salience of a gemstone expressed in an easily and yet comprehensive way: the Gübelin Points. Everybody who sells / buys coloured gemstones can benefit from the rating system as it can also be part of the storytelling and  offers more orientation and comparability.

Gübelin Gemstone Rating_Gübelin Points

How does Gübelin use the latest technologies to determine gemstone authenticity and origin?

The Gübelin Gem Lab has always been leading in adopting the latest technologies in its processes. Eduard Josef Gübelin revolutionized gemmology and origin determination when he studied photomicrographies and invented analytical instruments from the 1940s onwards. Innovation, pioneering spirit and the quest for more information about gemstones and gemmology are in the DNA of Gübelin.

Some 12 years ago, we were the first gemmological lab consistently applying ultra-trace elemental analysis.

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Five years ago, we were the first lab doing age determination by radiometric dating of zircon inclusions. Knowing when the gem has been formed in the earth can provide valuable information about its origin as e.g. African rubies developed 450-750 million years ago, whereas Burmese rubies can be dated back to 30 million years.

And for many years, we are applying multivariate analysis to ensure the consistent interpretation of the ever increasing amount of data that we collect on each gemstone.

Since last year, we have triggered the next phase with the Gemtelligence project, which deploys machine-learning methods to further increase the consistency of our work.

To achieve this ambitious goal, we are feeding the algorithms with the data of tens of thousands of gemstones and our Reference Collection that comprises more than 27 000 gems that we have collected and analysed over many decades, as such combining the wealth of our unique database with the potential of artificial intelligence.

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A truly disruptive way of using latest technologies is in “Provenance Proof”, an initiative of the Gübelin Gem Lab which we launched in 2017.

Provenance Proof develops technologies that bring transparency in the supply chain of gemstones, and makes them available to the entire industry.

The Emerald Paternity Test and the Provenance Proof Blockchain are two key technologies of Provenance Proof, which meanwhile are used by more than 300 companies, forming a unique industry community. The Emerald Paternity Test marks emeralds directly at mine. The Provenance Proof Blockchain is the first digital ledger for coloured gemstones and offers tamper-proof information about the journey of the gem along the entire value chain.