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Articles from GEMSET JEWELLERY (308 Articles)


That's not a blood tourmaline is it?

CHARLES LAWSON sheds some light on the responsible sourcing of gemstones.

Consumers are raising the subject of the responsible sourcing of diamonds and gemstones more and more these days; however, even though everybody wants it, not everyone is willing to pay for it.

This issue can largely be credited to a lack of awareness of the additional effort and cost that goes into conscientiously sourcing gemstones.

Surely I’m not the only supplier who has been asked, “Are these blood diamonds?” or “That’s not a blood tourmaline, is it?”

This is a very real problem within our industry, no doubt exacerbated by movies like Blood Diamond, Lord of War, and The Last King of Scotland. I imagine few people would walk into JB Hi-Fi asking if they sell ‘blood smartphones’ when it is not out of place to discover Korean factory workers producing shiny new smartphones in difficult and dangerous conditions.

Responsible sourcing is not as black and white as many would believe. The bottom line is that one needs to have complete control over the entire process in order to guarantee that a supply chain is 100-per-cent ethical. Not quite so difficult for sapphires from Australia but easier said than done when talking about rubies from the northern wilderness of Mozambique.

Despite these complexities, all is not lost. When purchasing a diamond or gemstone from a supplier, jewellers can put themselves in good stead just by equipping themselves and staff with a little knowledge about the ‘grey’ areas surrounding gemstone sourcing.

Knowledge can help justify the level of value that has been added to a gemstone by its supplier. This in turn shows what steps the retailer has followed to ensure their products are helping to build a better industry.

The gemstone industry is such an ancient trade, yet only a small percentage of suppliers worldwide take the time to really gather proper information on their stock. However, the closer one gets to the source, be it you or your merchant, the easier it is to show at least some attempt at responsible sourcing.

The simple act of making sure that you can see exactly where the money is going when you purchase a gemstone will ensure you are confident that it is reaching someone in need. This is definitely relevant when one gets closer to the source in third-world countries; here, the chance of dealing with more unscrupulous dealers is very real.

I have passed on more than one fantastic parcel at a great price because I just couldn’t justify buying from the seller.

Another question jewellers should be asking suppliers is if any stock purchases support worthy endeavours. Dealing with programs that empower disabled workers within the industry or build up local mining communities, for example, is a great way to improve sourcing and also to create a powerful selling feature to the end-consumer.

Do your homework as some big-name NGOs and other such bodies will enter impoverished areas and shut illegal mining and trade without considering that they have destroyed the means of survival for huge percentages of the local communities.

In some cases, programs created to aid these communities will be led by bureaucrats and pen-pushers with zero relevant experience. So unfortunately, even though hearts and wallets are in the right place, throwing money at a problem without proper consideration, can sometimes end in frustration for those who really need the support.

Another option is to buy from suppliers who donate back into the communities from where they source. If this isn’t possible, strike out on your own and put a percentage of profit from every gemstone sale back into an appropriate charity.

The great thing about the movement behind responsible sourcing is that it provides jewellers and retailers with extensive back stories about the stock, which is a great selling point when it comes to the end-consumer. Ultimately, this can be all the proof customers need to see how paying a little extra can make a big difference.

Retailers who can show customers the time and effort that has gone into the responsible sourcing of a gemstone are not only adding value to the pieces they sell but also creating awareness, brilliant stories and showing a commitment to improving our industry ina way that has literally be neglected for millennia.
In this instance, ignorance is far from bliss!

Name: Charles Lawson
Business: Lawson Gems
Position: director
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Years in the industry: nine

Pink Kimberley Australia

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