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ICA Congress:- Strengthening Consumer Confidence
The ICA Congress in Brazil focused on an issue of growing importance – how to implement fair trade practices that will help strengthen consumer confidence in the end product, despite the unorganized nature of gemstone mining. Diamond World reports.
By: Diamond World News Service
Jul 18 2011 5:41PM
Reference: 6172  

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Delegates at the Congress
Delegates at the Congress
The country produces almost 100 different types of gems, houses a growing coloured stone-studded jewellery industry and is one of the four most powerful and potential emerging economies, making it the perfect setting for the 14th Congress of the International Colored Gemstone Association, hosted by IBGM, the Brazilian Gems & Jewelry Trade Association, held in early May.

The Congress began with an extravagant launch event – a traditional steakhouse dinner at Porcão Rio’s on Flamengo Beach – that showcased some exotic Brazilian cuisine, music and dancing. It was sponsored by Monte Carlo Joias, a leading retail jeweller with 30 locations in Brazil, 15 of which opened in the past two years. Known for its use of Brazilian gems in designs that are both timeless and daring, of exceptional quality and affordable prices, the jeweller is a prime example of the burgeoning local industry as well as the domestic market.

The sessions on the first day were devoted to exploring Brazil, a country that is predicted by Goldman Sachs to be among the four most dominant global economies by 2050. Presentations focused on the strength of the economy, the growing domestic market, gemstone mining, innovative cutting techniques and the unique ways Brazilian jewellery manufacturers are using their native stones in design.

Over the subsequent sessions, an impressive lineup of speakers shared insights and success stories that highlighted how the coloured stone industry can advance fair trade concepts for the benefit of everyone along the supply chain. Presenting an overview of the issue, Jean Claude Michelou, ICA vice president, noted that the coloured stone industry has also faced issues similar to the ‘conflict diamonds’ problems faced by the diamond industry, citing the examples of tanzanite and Burmese rubies. However, it has faced problems in responding in a similar manner due to the fact that there is no centralised marketing and market price control; a variety of gems come from hundreds of countries with myriad cultures and standards; and 80 per cent of production is erratic at best, lacking investment capacity, and performed by artisanal miners in thirdworld countries.

A session in progress
A session in progress
Douglas Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association, shared some of the steps undertaken to fortify export documentation and create a set of policies to ensure the legitimacy of the supply chain, citing the example of tanzanite, where the task has been made easier by the fact that it is found only in one country. Gemfields’ CEO Ian Harebottle also presented the experiences of the company in ensuring full disclosure of the details of activity in its Kagem emerald and Karibam amethyst mines in Zambia, in partnerships with the local governments. “We’ve initiated and support a process of warrantees throughout the pipeline. And, we encourage and support certification,” he said.

Other speakers who put forward their perspectives were Marcelo Ribeiro, director of the Belmont Group, emerald mine in Brazil; Steve Bennett, whose Color Rocks Limited and GemsTV based in London sold 7.5 million gems, 287 different kinds from 31 countries in 2010, who advocated transparency and said “the more you tell the more you sell”. Tom Cushman ICA ambassador, Madasgascar who noted that local education and training in gem identification and cutting could add value downstream and Eli Izhakoff, president of the World Diamond Council.

In a separate session, members of the gemmological laboratory community shared their take on tackling traceability given the variety of gem types, origins within each type and the role labs can play in identifying gem footprints. “Origin identification not only provides historical reference and value basis, it’s becoming increasingly more important for traceability,” says Thomas Hainschwang, managing director GGTL GEMLAB, Geneva, Switzerland. He reported greater demand for these services that have shifted from a purely commercial aspiration to an ethical one.

Dr. Dietmar Schwarz, research manager for the Gubelin Gem Lab in Lucerne, Switzerland concurs: “As consumer awareness has increased in recent years, geographic origin reports have also become more important.” Both labs use a variety of techniques like infrared spectroscopy, UV-Vis- NIR spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence, microscopic examination, luminescence imaging and “mineralogical-gemmological fingerprinting” to try and relate an unknown gem to a specific genetic environment like sapphire from a basalt-environment or ruby from a marble-type host rock.

Dr. Wilawan Atichat, director of the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT), advocated the necessity for standardisation of gem identification and certification among gemmological laboratories and the fortification of groups like the Gemstone Industry & Laboratory Conference (GILC). Robert Weldon, manager photography, laboratory publishing, GIA, offered a blueprint for basic fair trade practices: establish guidelines all partners must sign and focus on; ensure all aspects of supply chain comply with fair trade goals; restore nature in mining efforts; provide value added benefits to remote mining communities; create sustainable adjuncts to mining operations; provide workers with adequate shelter, food, and health care; and work towards poverty alleviation, a living wage, and gender equality. He also cited the examples of different companies that had been successfully implementing this in their business.

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