Mine to Market
Colombia is known for producing the finest emeralds in the world; their green colour is so vivid and distinct that obvious inclusions are often overlooked. The country also used to be the world’s biggest emerald producer in terms of volume, but according to the country’s mining agency its output has declined considerably over the last two years, sliding behind Zambia and Brazil; other countries with major sources of gem-quality emeralds include Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Russia, with each varying considerably in terms of colour. Zambia, for instance, is known for its deepgreen emeralds—darker than Colombian emeralds—while Brazil, apart from its saturated green emeralds, is also known to produce an extremely rare cat’s-eye variety.
Today, Uk-based Gemfields stands as the world’s largest emerald manufacturer, counting among its assets the Kagem Emerald Mine in Zambia, which supplies 20 per cent of the world’s emeralds and annually produces an average of 25 million carats. The company is looking to acquire a mine in Colombia, which will allow the company to expand its operations beyond Africa. Ian Harebottle, the CEO of Gemfields, can hardly suppress his enthusiasm when he talks about the future and its potential: “Coloured gemstones’ share of luxury goods sales could increase greatly around the world— potentially rivalling diamonds—if jewellery manufacturers and retailers could count on regular supplies, stable pricing, consistent grading and increased marketing support.” Gemfields is putting its money where its mouth is; the company spent some US$5 million, about a third of its total advertising budget, on a marketing campaign that brought actress Mila Kunis on as the brand ambassador for its emeralds.
From top: An emerald is set on a ring by Dior Joaillerie; emerald rough found in Zambia’s Chama Pit