Gemstone mining company Gemfields has again partnered with Swiss gemologist Gübelin Gem Lab to embed nanoparticles proving origin into all Kagem emerald mine emeralds that were sold at auction in Lusaka, in Zambia, in May.
Gemfields is the operator and 75% owner of the Kagem mine and also holds controlling interests in various gemstone mining and prospecting licences in Zambia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Madagascar.
The partnership was aimed at furthering greater levels of transparency in the coloured gemstone sector, according to Gemfields, which states that brands and their customers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to know the origins of their products – from raw materials to how they are processed and manufactured into the final product.
“Brands want to reduce the human and environmental impacts on their supply chains and want certainty over the origins, or provenance, of their goods,” the company explains.
Gemfields states that the coloured gemstone sector currently has no system, globally at scale, that allows for gemstones to be confidently traced from mine to market, because the sector is old and largely artisanal. Moreover, gemstone trading is still often secretive. Further, ‘mixing’ of stones from different sources often takes place during the production processes. While Gemfields commends organisations, such as authentication and certification organisation the Responsible Jewellery Council, which are making headway, the company emphasises that the whole industry is looking for a solution to help remove origin uncertainty.
“Gemfields aims to bring greater transparency to the sector and is actively seeking solutions,” enthuses the company.
Gübelin and Gemfields initiated the inaugural commercial deployment of the nanoparticle “paternity testing” technology at an auction of higher-quality rough emeralds in 2017.
Gübelin Gem Lab’s solution is set to help alleviate origin concerns, as it allows for a brand or consumer to physically check the origins of a gemstone by using a synthetic DNA ‘nanotechnology’. The technology is owned by Gübelin and is part of a service it has termed ‘Provenance Proof’.
The laboratory creates a synthetic nanotechnology code containing key information about the provenance of the rough gemstones, such as the miner, the mine location and the date the gemstones were mined. Each set of nanotechnology code is unique to that miner, mine location and date.
The lab takes rough gemstones, such as emeralds from Gemfields’ Kagem mine, and immerses them in a liquid containing the nanoparticles. The nanoparticles embed themselves in the natural fissures of the gemstone, so that they can’t be removed, except by Gübelin Gem Lab. The nanoparticles do not have any effect on the quality of the gemstone or, once manufactured, the cut and polished gemstone. All the tests Gemfields has undertaken show that the integrity of the gemstones is left intact.
If a customer or brand wishes to verify if a gemstone contains the nanotechnology to guarantee the gemstones’ origin, the gemstones are examined by Gübelin Gem Lab and the code contained in the gemstone can be verified against the data held securely by them.
Gemfields says that this technology offers miners, governments, trade organisations, industry watchdogs, jewellery brands and final customers a completely new level of transparency when sourcing emeralds, instilling confidence and creating trust.
It believes that coloured gemstones should be mined and marketed by championing three key values – legitimacy, transparency and integrity.
The company emphasises that, by proving the origins of gemstones and seeking greater transparency, it also provides customers with the certainty to know that their gemstone was mined according to Gemfields’ values and that it contributes positively to its place of origin.
“This means industry-leading policies and practices across operations and community projects to improve health, education and livelihoods for the communities around our mines,” the company concludes.