Fair Trade and Sustainable Gems

Firstly, I would like to introduce myself by saying I have been reading the fora and articles on this site for years as a lurker. During that time, I have learned a tremendous amount from all of you and the IGS’s resources, and am proud to finally be a dues-paying member!

I joined at this time because I am in a position (for the time being at least) to devote myself full time to converting my interest in colored stones from a hobby into a business. Specifically, I want to incorporate my previous experience with trade issues and social enterprises into the gems trade. This would involve development of a network to literally follow stones ‘from mine to finger’ to ensure that everyone from traders to jewelers to consumers knows the gems they are buying reached them through sustainable channels.

A project of this nature requires a number of people with varied backgrounds and talents ranging from IT security to securities law and everything in between, so if you have an interest in colored gems, fair trade and sustainability, there might be a place for you on the team I am assembling. If interested, please PM me.

And finally, I know there are a number of people and companies dealing in sustainable stones, and I have no intention of stepping on anyone’s toes Rather, I hope to bring all like-minded folk together into one global network that can maximize all our efforts to improve the lives of the people who work so hard to find the gems we all love so much!

I am in the process of liquidating my current gemstone collection to raise seed funding, so please check my ‘For Sale’ listings and check back here for information on the crowdfunding campaign I plan to launch in the very near future!


Fair traded gems is a great idea, but unlikely to take a large segment of the market, which is price driven. It might be a good idea to give back to the communities from which the gems come and to sponsor gem cutting programs in the countries of origin. I know more than one person who has been frustrated in attempts to establish gem cutting schools/factories, but I also know more than one gemcutter who gives back by sponsoring students, financing wells, etc., in host communities.

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Thanks for taking the time to read my post and respond! Sponsoring gem cutting programs is an excellent idea, and if i have any success at all, i will most definitely look into that as a route through which to return some profits to the areas the gems come from.

As a matter of fact, on my recent visit to the emerald mines at Chivor in Colombia, one of my tour guides was a former miner who had invested his earnings into a workshop/storefront where he cuts and polishes stones he buys from his former colleagues and resells to visitors at prices better than those available in Bogota. His assistance with the mine tourism project also helps inject money into local restaurants, shops, hotels, etc. He gave me a brief lesson on cutting and polishing a small rough I found in the mine, so i imagine he’s probably sharing his skills with other locals as well. Even the stones that go to Bogota to be processed greatly profit the miners there, and by extension, the whole community. To that extent i’d say that Chivor emeralds ARE fair trade products at currently sustained market prices, and from everything I saw and heard during my trip, this extends to the other main sources of emeralds in the country as well.

This model could easily be extended to other locations, such as the zircon fields in northwestern Cambodia, where mining the stones does benefit the locals (who mostly only mine during the seasons when there is not work to be done on their farms), but not as much as it could do if increased tourism and local processing brought more money into the area. One huge way a few extra dollars could help there would be through enhancing worker safety, which did not seem to be a huge problem in Colombia (at least not any more so than in, say, the coal mines of my native Kentucky).

I managed a social enterprise for a year while living in Cambodia, and worked with others who had begun such projects in a wide range of industries all across the country. Although none had anything to do with gemstones, most were quite successful in returning profits to their communities through carefully chosen local charities and enhanced salaries and benefits for employees. Upon my recent return to the country, i learned that a gem lab/workshop/storefront has opened in Siem Reap with an all-local workforce, so efforts are afoot to keep some of the profits from the trade in the country, if not necessarily in the actual communities where the stones are mined.

Thanks again for your time and suggestions, and I’d love to hear from the folks you know who have tried to establish schools or who sponsor students or communities. While i was working in Cambodia, i learned more from other social entrepreneurs than i did from my own project!

Hello I don’t know if I am what you are looking for but I will explain my work in progress and see if we can work together?
I am an American who has lived in Mexico for 27 years. I have always designed my owned jewelry. For the last two years I have four a great gem cutter dealer in Pakistan. Now I have been trying to sell my designs on Ebay with very little luck. I love gems and designing jewelry. I need a place to sell my jewelry. Living in Mexico it is very difficult to do I need help in the selling area. I use instagram to show my designs. I have never had anyone ask about buying my jewelry. I work only in 14k gold and I use all type of gems. I have my own gold that I use. My margins are very good but I just don’t know where to find buyers. I am now forced to sell at auctions. I get my money back with about 15% over my cost. I am selling jewelry that is brand new. I specialize right now in spinels and tourmalines. Nadine Laxen

I am very happy to hear of people wanting to establish projects like these. How are you getting on? Can you give us an update?