What is an ethical gemstone?

Feb 12 2016 0 Comments Tags: brazil, ethical, gemstones, sourcing

Founder Maíra Toledo Rodrigues sourcing gemstones in Brazil

At Gemstones Brazil, we feel that this is one of the most important questions we can answer for our customers! In order to truly enjoy your gemstone, you want to be comfortable with its provenance. However, it is notoriously hard to acquire them in an ethical and environmentally-friendly manner. Allow us to clarify what constitutes an ‘ethical gemstone’ and how Gemstones Brazil guarantees the provenance of our wonderful gems.


The first thing to know is that there is no industry-wide system of regulation for gemstones. The furore around blood diamonds (whereby diamond mining funds militias) led to the creation of the Kimberley Process, an initiative which aims to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. However, no equivalent exists for other gemstones, despite the fact that they are often used for the same horrific purposes. Most notorious are the Burmese ruby, used to finance the junta in Myanmar and the Apartheid ruby, from Greenland, where Inuit peoples are being exploited for mining land without receiving any of the associated benefits.



The “Big Hole” at Kimberley, South Africa, where the UN Resolution which created the Kimberley Process was passed.

Other dangers associated with unethical mining are the catastrophic risks it can pose for the environment (deforestation, chemical spills, river pollution), not to mention the possibility of dangers posed to local miners if health and safety regulations are not strictly adhered to.



A stream polluted by wastewater from a strip mine reaches the Ohio river

If you aren’t stringent in checking the provenance of your gemstone, that shiny sapphire on your finger could spell doom and gloom for thousands of people in the land from which it came. I’m afraid that the onus is still firmly on the consumer to check where their diamonds come from - but that’s not an easy task, and even an experienced gemstone dealer can be deceived.


At Gemstones Brazil we are in the rather unique position of knowing exactly where almost all of our gemstones come from (though a small number are imported from elsewhere when they are not available from Brazil) . Although the business was founded in 2008, in Europe, Maíra’s family has been involved in the mining and production of gemstones and minerals for over a decade. They own and operate several mines in the beautiful Jequitinhonha Valley in the state of Minas Gerais (“general mines” in Portuguese).



Jequitinhonha Valley: the vast majority of our gemstones come from the family-owned mines or small suppliers in the area.

 

 

We call ourselves “ethical producers” because we comply with the very stringent Brazilian laws governing our industry, which require that we earn certain certifications on a regular basis. Such natural resources are considered a state asset in Brazil, so any company, including Gemstones Brazil, has to prove that their extraction will be of benefit to the local people and not damage their environment in order to engage in the mining process. This includes not using child labour under any circumstances - and in fact, a 2003 Brazilian law to ensure children of low-income families are able to attend school made child labour virtually extinct in this industry in the Jequitinhonha Valley.


We are always very happy to share information about the provenance of our gemstones with our customers, so please get in touch if you have any queries!



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