Filed under: Jewelry
While people in general seems to be fairly aware of fair trade as it relates to coffee, chocolate and other foodstuffs, fair trade gems have been slower to catch on. People are familiar with the issues facing the diamond industry thanks to documentaries, the movie "Blood Diamond" and the Kimberley Process but colored gemstones (except for the recent attention given to Burmese rubies) have stayed out of the spotlight. At the recent AGTA Gemfair in Tucson, Arizona I had the chance to hear Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House give a presentation on fair trade gemstones.
What makes fair trade stones covet-worthy is that they are closely tracked from mine to market to ensure that every gem has been handled according to strict protocols. The protocols include environmental protection of the mining sites as well as fair labor practices at the cutting and jewelry factories. On the mining level, the gem buyers work with the mine workers, who often live close to the gem deposits, to leave as much of the surrounding area untouched as possible and reduce the impact on wildlife habitat, streams, watersheds, and groundwater. After mining they pledge to restore and replant mine sites to as close to original condition as possible. Columbia Gem House has a cutting factory in China, where workers are paid three times the minimum wage and also receive room and board, a food allowance, paid vacation, overtime pay, medical, disability and unemployment insurance and an annual bonus.
The stone shown above is a 3.29 carat Nyala ruby which is listed at $27,965 learn more about this type of stone after the jump.