Jaipur Hosts ICA Congress

The In­ter­na­tional Col­ored Gem­stone As­so­ci­a­tion’s (ICA’s) bi­en­nial Congress held its 17th edi­tion in the Pink City, from Oc­to­ber 21st to 24th, the sec­ond time that In­dia has hosted the ICA event since 2003.

Solitaire - - CONTENTS - By Cyn­thia Un­ni­na­yar

Jaipur is one of the most im­por­tant gems and jew­ellery ex­port­ing cities in the world, and it has been our hon­our and priv­i­lege to host the ICA Congress here,” stated Ra­jiv Jain, chair­man of the Jaipur ICA Congress.

More than 275 par­tic­i­pants came from 25 coun­tries, in­clud­ing 100 at­ten­dees from In­dia. Speak­ers in­cluded world-renowned gem­mol­o­gists, min­ers, cut­ters, jew­ellery de­sign­ers, busi­ness ex­perts and au­thor­i­ties on sus­tain­abil­ity and trans­parency. The tra­di­tional poster com­pe­ti­tion also show­cased cre­ative graphic de­sign re­lated to gem­stones.

The Congress kicked off with a wel­come speech by GJEPC chair­man, Praveen­shankar Pandya, who stated that GJEPC is ready to sup­port generic mar­ket­ing of coloured gem­stones. He also touched on the var­i­ous laws af­fect­ing gem trad­ing in In­dia, such as the Goods & Ser­vices Tax (GST) and de­mon­eti­sa­tion, stress­ing the need for lo­cal deal­ers to be com­pli­ant and trans­par­ent in adopt­ing these new rules.

Trans­parency, along with cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR) and sus­tain­abil­ity were themes evoked by a num­ber of speak­ers at the Congress. First among them was Sean Gilbert­son, CEO of Gem­fields. Af­ter a few min­utes dis­pelling neg­a­tive ru­mours con­cern­ing the re­cent takeover of Gem­fields by Pallinghurst, he talked about Gem­fields’ fo­cus on Africa and the large-scale miner’s goal of pro­vid­ing a con­sis­tent and re­li­able sup­ply of gems. He also dis­cussed the im­por­tance of build­ing trust and trans­parency and briefly men­tioned the com­pany’s CSR poli­cies. In terms of mar­ket­ing, he said that Gem­fields spends more than $50 mil­lion to get the word out about its emer­alds and ru­bies, and that this pro­mo­tion ben­e­fits the in­dus­try as a whole.

Gilbert­son also show­cased the rare and re­mark­able In­sofu (“Baby Ele­phant”) emer­ald, dis­cov­ered in 2010 at the Kagem mine in Zam­bia. The ex­cep­tional 1.220-kg (6,100-ct) stone was re­cently pur­chased, for an undis­closed sum, by Ra­jku­mar Tongya, chair­man of Di­a­color, a four­gen­er­a­tion, fam­ily-run gem and jew­ellery busi­ness. “This is one of the best pieces I have seen,” Tongya com­mented. “Its size, qual­ity and green lus­tre make it a truly rare and price­less stone.” He added that the In­sofu will be dis­played in mu­se­ums be­fore he de­cides ul­ti­mately what to do with the ex­cep­tional gem.

While Gem­fields rep­re­sents the ad­van­tages of large-scale min­ing, other speak­ers noted that 85-90% of gem ex­trac­tion is car­ried out by small-scale, ar­ti­sanal min­ers. The chal­lenges of “il­le­gal” min­ing were high­lighted by ge­ol­o­gist Odulio de Moura, whose talk cen­tred on tour­ma­line de­posits around the world. He stressed the need for ar­ti­sanal min­ers to re­spect the laws of the coun­try where they work, as they put “le­gal” com­pa­nies at a def­i­nite dis­ad­van­tage.

Is­sues con­cern­ing small-scale min­ers were also dis­cussed by Vin­cent Pardieu, of VP Consulting, and gem col­lec­tor and dealer, Fed­erico Bar­locher. Pardieu dis­cussed the re­cent dis­cov­er­ies of sap­phire in Mada­gas­car and the need to bal­ance re­spon­si­ble min­ing with jobs. He un­der­scored the is­sues fac­ing some na­tional parks in Mada­gas­car that have been over­run with il­le­gal min­ers seek­ing sap­phires. Bar­locher fea­tured a film on ruby min­ing in Mo­gok, Myan­mar, where min­ing is car­ried out by both small-scale and in­dus­trial tech­niques. He added that many mines are los­ing money, al­though some are do­ing well.

On a re­lated note, Ed­win Moli­nas, pres­i­dent of Apre­col, spoke frankly about the chal­lenges large-scale min­ers face in Colom­bia when it comes to in­ter­ac­tions with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, who of­ten think of the min­ers as ar­ro­gant, dis­loyal and dis­hon­est. “We are los­ing the bat­tle with com­mu­ni­ties,” he lamented, in­sist­ing that large-scale min­ers must build bridges with the peo­ple in their area. He gave sev­eral ex­am­ples of this bridge-build­ing in the form of hos­pi­tals, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and work­ing with lo­cal law en­force­ment, while stress­ing the im­por­tance of trans­parency and trace­abil­ity of the gems.

In the “Ethics” sec­tion, Dr. Assheton Ste­wart Carter, di­rec­tor of the Drag­on­fly Ini­tia­tive, dis­cussed ac­cu­sa­tions by sev­eral NGOs and jour­nal­ists con­cern­ing the gem trade. “It’s too easy to cry ‘fake news’ when it comes to these claims, as there is usu­ally an el­e­ment of truth in them,” he warned. Carter em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of de­vel­op­ing a sup­ply-chain stan­dard where gem cut­ters and min­ers can have a clean and dig­ni­fied life. He also men­tioned that 2,000 peo­ple a year die in In­dia from sil­i­co­sis caused by in­hal­ing dust from gem­stones. He also gave sev­eral ex­am­ples, in­clud­ing Wal­mart and Chopard, that of­fer prod­ucts sourced in a trace­able and re­spon­si­ble man­ner.

Ra­jiv Jain, chair­man of Samb­hav Gems, was quick to point out, how­ever, that no case of sil­i­co­sis has been re­ported for cut­ters in Jaipur be­cause they use wet tech­niques. Agate cut­ters in Kham­bat, how­ever, which rep­re­sent less than 1% of In­dia’s to­tal gem pro­duc­tion, were at risk for sil­i­co­sis as they used dry tech­niques. To rem­edy the prob­lem, the GJEPC went to Kham­bat to ed­u­cate the ar­ti­sans on safe tech­niques. By 2014, they were us­ing wet tech­niques to cut the gems.

In terms of busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, Prida Ti­a­suwan, chair­man of Pranda, ex­plained the three tax struc­tures in Thai­land—im­port, VAT, ex­cise—and how the laws have changed to help gem and jew­ellery com­pa­nies. He noted that the Thai Gem and Jew­elry Traders As­so­ci­a­tion (TGJTA) is ready to help com­pa­nies that want to do busi­ness in Thai­land with ser­vices, in­clud­ing free ad­vice by at­tor­neys.

Indira Mal­watte, CEO of the Sri Lanka Ex­port De­vel­op­ment Board, ex­plained that it is im­por­tant to mar­ket to mil­len­ni­als whose ap­pre­ci­a­tion of coloured gems is grow­ing. This gen­er­a­tion also prefers brands that prac­tise good CSR and are even will­ing to pay more for prod­ucts from sus­tain­able sources. She also in­di­cated that the mid-mar­ket seg­ment is de­clin­ing while the high and low ends are grow­ing.

A pre­sen­ta­tion that elicited some con­tro­versy was given by Dr. Daniel Nyfeler, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Gube­lin Gem Lab. In or­der to help with trans­parency and trace­abil­ity, Gube­lin has de­vel­oped an Emer­ald Pa­ter­nity Test, which al­lows a DNA cap­sule to be placed in­side a gem right at the mine. This tiny 100-nanome­tre bar­coded cap­sule is not vis­i­ble and re­mains with the gem through­out the sup­ply chain. Brazil-based Bel­mont mine and Colom­bia’s Muzo mine are the first two com­pa­nies to help re­search this tech­nique. Af­ter his pre­sen­ta­tion, sev­eral de­trac­tors told me they were against this type of sys­tem for a num­ber of rea­sons, among them, the pos­si­bil­ity of abuse by peo­ple who might ob­tain the cap­sules and place them in emer­alds from any­where. Oth­ers were wor­ried that this type of “iden­ti­fi­ca­tion” might de­value emer­alds that did not have this “pa­ter­nity.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the ICA and the Congress, visit Gem­stone.org.

The in­com­ing ICA pres­i­dent, Cle­ment Sab­bagh, lights the flame at the in­au­gu­ral light­ing cer­e­mony at the start of the Congress.

The win­ner of the ICA Poster Com­pe­ti­tion, by Shanna Se­nior.

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