Now more than ever, jewellers are committing to responsible sourcing via supply chains as lucid as the gems themselves, says Rachel Garrahan.
It was not only the cherry-red radiance of the rhodolite garnet that Anabela Chan fell in love with when selecting gemstones for her latest collection. It was the wide, toothy grin of Prisca (who prefers to give her first name only), the artisanal miner in the remote Umba Valley region of Tanzania, who had pulled it from the earth.
It is rare in the jewellery industry to know much about a gemstone’s origin, let alone to be able to trace its journey all the way to the person who discovered it. Stretching back thousands of years, the gem trade is one of the oldest in the world and it has always been famously opaque. A single stone is likely to pass through many hands and many countries, from miner to cutter to polisher to an entire network of dealers before it lands in the hands of the jeweller.
Chan’s discovery of Prisca was made possible thanks to Moyo Gems, a project that provides female artisanal miners with vocational training and a fair mine-to-market price for their stones, allowing them to build safer, more viable businesses and improve living standards for themselves and their communities.
It is one of a growing number of positive steps being taken in the jewellery industry to improve supply chain transparency and sustainability. It’s about time. The irony is that fine jewellery, which relies on miracles of nature for its inspiration and its value, has too often blighted the planet and the lives of its inhabitants in the process of its creation.
Whatever the route taken, there is a long way to go. Given the reset offered to the world in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the chaos wreaked by humans on the natural world, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep pushing ahead. Chan quotes Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”