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More than 40 countries gathered for the 2016 CIBJO Congress
More than 40 countries gathered for the 2016 CIBJO Congress

Opal a hot topic at CIBJO 2016

A stand-alone guide for opal that would be spearheaded by Australian delegates was among a number of industry issues discussed at the 2016 CIBJO Congress.

Representatives of jewellery and gemstone associations from more than 40 countries gathered for the 2016 Congress for the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) in Yerevan, Armenia, from 26 October to 28 October.

The annual conference served as the official meeting place for delegates to discuss updates for the organisation’s international industry standards. These standards cover diamonds, coloured gemstones, gemmological laboratories and precious metals and are contained in manuals known as the Blue Books.

CIBJO senior representative of Australia Ronnie Bauer said one of the important points raised for the local industry was in regards to opal. 

Andrew Cody, director of Cody Opals in Melbourne, gave a presentation to the organisation’s Coloured Stone Commission about the need for an opal guide that would be separate from the CIBJO Gemstone Blue Book.

Bauer told Jeweller the industry would benefit from a stand-alone guide owing to the wide variety of opals available and the complexities of each type and related pricing.

“The current nomenclature, which has been reviewed by CIBJO but not published anywhere, is now 20 years old,” he said, adding, “With the introduction of the hyrophane Ethiopian opal, [the nomenclature] urgently needs revamping to properly address this opal variety.”

Ronnie Bauer, CIBJO senior representative of Australia
Ronnie Bauer, CIBJO senior representative of Australia

Bauer explained it was proposed that the guide would be produced by the Australian industry, given the country was the largest source of opal and opal jewellery. He said, however, that CIBJO representatives were concerned the terminology would be “skewed” to the detriment of Ethiopia.

“That is not true,” Bauer stated. “We want to produce a nomenclature and guide that is scientifically accurate and acceptable to the industry internationally.”

Australian delegates hoped to present a final updated nomenclature to CIBJO at the 2017 congress in Bangkok, Thailand, he added.

Terminology concerns

Another topic said to be hotly debated was inconsistencies in the use of the terms ‘pigeon’s blood red’ for ruby and ‘royal blue’ for sapphire.

According to a CIBJO statement, a meeting of its Gemmological Commission heard how many consumers believed the colours to be industry standards or quality grades when they were in fact non-scientific and could differ depending on the laboratory that was grading the gemstones.

There were calls by the commission’s chairman, Nilam Alawdeen, to distinguish between scientific and subjective colour descriptions and for each laboratory to clearly state in reports that the colour was an ‘opinion’.

Bauer said one more area of discussion by the Gemmological Commission was the expense required to maintain the equipment in order to be a “credible” laboratory.

“So what they’re saying is more and more jewellers are being pushed out because they can’t afford the technology to stay ahead of all of the treatments,” he said. “That is a big problem and it means that the whole industry as far as certificates are concerned are dependent on only about seven laboratories.”

The issue of responsible mining of diamonds and gemstones was high on the Ethics Commission’s agenda, Bauer added.

“It doesn’t get much coverage here but CSR [corporate social responsibility] is a really big issue worldwide on making sure that the proceeds of the first world get back to the third world,” he explained.

CIBJO was established in 1926 and is said to be the oldest international organisation in the jewellery industry. It was formed to represent the interests of all individuals, organisations and businesses within the jewellery, gemstones and precious metals sectors, and to uphold consumer confidence across these industries.

More reading
CIBJO seeks to ‘monitor’ diamond labs
Pigeon’s blood and cornflowers: the truth behind gemstone colours

Tuesday, 23 October, 2018 10:17pm
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