Talking Green, Literally – Second World Emerald Symposium
Second World Emerald Symposium
The world’s first global symposium devoted to emeralds took place in Bogota, Colombia to rave reviews in 2015. This October, the Second World Emerald Symposium took place and enjoyed an even more overwhelming positive response from participants. While the focus was on the theme of ethics in the gemstone industry, the very successful three- day event also included discussions on other issues and challenges facing the emerald industry along with talks on industrial mining, geology, gemmology, origin, treatments, new technologies, jewellery and more. Cynthia Unninayar reports.
The second edition attracted more than 200 people from overseas and some 300 from Colombia, and featured more than 75 presentations. Organised by Fedesmeraldas, the Colombia’s National Emerald Federation, the symposium brought together the world’s key players, including representatives of the Colombian government and emerald trade associations (Aprecol, Acodes, Asocoesmeraldas), brokers, dealers, gemmologists, laboratories, miners, jewellers and more, from October 12th to 14th, 2018.
Oscar Baquero, president of Fedesmeraldas, explained that the federation bridges the needs of the emerald industry and works with the government to ensure best practices and to promote Colombian emeralds abroad. He noted that it conducts research at the mines to expand the knowledge of Colombian emeralds, all the while promoting projects for sustainable and responsible sourcing as well as increasing the visibility of the precious green gems. Focus on ethics The recurrent theme of the Second World Emerald Symposium was the need for industry players to focus on ethics with an emphasis on responsible sourcing, transparency, sustainability and an ethical supply chain. Illustrating the importance that the Colombian government places on these best practices, a number of high-level officials spoke at the symposium. Among them was vice minister Caroline Rojas Hayes, of the Colombian ministry of mines and energy, who kicked off the symposium with a welcome to all the delegates. She discussed Colombian emerald mining in general, along with specific issues facing the small-scale and artisanal mining community and the need to formalise many of those working in this sector.
Later, Colombia’s minister of foreign affairs, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, continued the discussion on responsible sourcing while outlining policies that are intended to help the entire emerald industry
supply chain, including local communities and the environment. Monica Maria Grand Marin, of the directorate of mine formalisation under the ministry of mines and energy, explained how the government works with unlicensed miners to help them acquire legal status and to work in accordance with national standards. “We also provide assistance to firms to secure financing and also check to ensure that they are following safety procedures,” she commented.
Among the keynote speakers was Edwin Molina, president of the Colombian Emerald Producers Association (Aprecol), which groups emerald producers and promotes established best practices and sustainable development initiatives, along with economic and social development. Founded in 2002, Aprecol works alongside the Colombian government to help set policy and support sustainable emerald production. It recently established a secondary emerald recovery plant, working with artisanal and local miners, to dispose mining waste in an ecofriendly manner.
“We aim for more such plants with the help of the local firms throughout the region,” said Molina. Aprecol also works with the private sector to improve the quality of life in mining communities. “We believe emeralds should really be green— from every point of view.” As part of an expanded cultural effort, Aprecol is promoting an “Artist in Residence” programme to bring top artists to the western Boyacá region, where many emerald mines are found, and to promote community classes for adults and
children to showcase their artistic skills. Improving infrastructure, helping local farmers and driving tourism are also among the association’s projects.
Keynote speaker Guillermo Galvis, president of Acodes (Colombian Exporters Association) and chairman of the Second World Emerald Symposium noted that responsibly sourced gems build confidence for consumers who want to feel good about their purchases, while reiterating the importance for the private sector to work with the government and local communities to achieve lasting social solutions for sustainability in the mining areas. “It’s up to us to have a better industry,” he mused.
Under the skilful gavel of moderator Anthony Brooke, representatives from the main emerald-producing countries, the major trade organisations and laboratories spoke on a variety of issues, with a focus, as above, on ethics in the industry. These included Pramod Agarwal (GJEPC chairman), Jean Claude Michelou (ICA advisor and Second World Emerald Symposium’s international coordinator), Clement Sabbagh (ICA president), Jeffrey Bilgore (AGTA president), Douglas Hucker (AGTA CEO), Alan Hart (Gem-A CEO), Gian Carlo Parodi (National Museum of Natural History, France), Gaetano Cavalieri (CIBJO president), Ahmed Bin Sulayem (DMCC chairman), Shane McClure (GIA director, coloured gemstone department), Kenneth Scarratt (DANAT CEO), Daniel Nyfeler (Gubelin Gem Lab managing director), Claudio Milisenda (DSEF director), Taijin Lu (NGTC chief researcher), Prida Tiasuwan (TGJTA chairman), Zhao Xin Huo (GAC director) and Luca Maiotti (OECD policy analyst), among many others.
Ethics in the industry was also on the agenda of Charles Chaussepied, from the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). After an overview of RJC’s role in the jewellery industry, he stressed the need for companies to be proactive in ensuring that the elements of their products are sourced ethically. He added that gemstones are also on the RJC’s agenda for 2019. Ethical and responsible sourcing were also topics of the presentation by Cathelijne Klomp, environmental project manager at luxury group, LVMH. She discussed the importance for companies to be proactive in ensuring that the elements of their products are sourced ethically.
Traceability on tap
On the topic of traceability, blockchain technology was discussed by Edward Mendelson, project manager of the Sustainable Supply Chain project at Everledger. He noted that the advantages of blockchain’s traceability can play a role in the small-scale mining sector and that “private” blockchains would be more appropriate than “public” blockchains.
Continuing the traceability theme, Daniel Nyfeler, managing director Gubelin Gem Lab, explained the lab’s nanotechnology project recently initiated with industrial miners. He indicated that this technique might not be suitable for small-scale miners unless a structure could be put into place to organise them.
A somewhat different approach to traceability was provided by Gloria Prieto, from Colombia’s ministry of mines and energy. She unveiled the government’s fiveyear plan for the “Mineral Digital Fingerprint” project that started in 2018. The goal of the Fingerprint is to provide an understanding of the particular conditions and physical-
chemical characteristics that were present at the time of the geological formation of a mineral, which then gives a specific geo-chemical DNA. This Fingerprint can also be traced at the different stages of exploitation, refinement and commercialisation of the mineral.
A revealing and animated panel discussion on the important issues of traceability and responsible practices was moderated by Jean Claude Michelou, Second World Emerald Symposium’s international coordinator. Offering their outlook for the necessity of responsible industry practices and traceability, the seven members comprised Daniel Nyfeler (Gubelin Lab), Cathelijne Klomp (LVMH), Edward Mendelson (Everledger), Charles Chausspied (RJC), Edwin Molina (Aprecol) and Charles Burgess (MTC Muzo).
The mining sector
On the mining side, speakers representing three of the largest mines related their activities. Rosey Perkins of Fura Gems (owner of the iconic and recently acquired Cosquez mine) stated, “There is a reticence about Colombia and its past, but this must be the past. We work with communities now that are established and reliable. In the last nine months, we have employed 270 local people with experience in mining and we are also committed to working with 70 local suppliers in Coscuez.” Among the community-oriented activities, Fura supports a health clinic, bakery, sewing centre, and a women-only washing plant for mine waste. “We even teach English to the workers because that is what they have asked for.”
The president of Mineria Texas Colombia (MTC) Charles Burgess detailed the transformation of the Colombian emerald industry over the last few years, including MTC’s purchase in 2009 of one of the region’s most important mines, Puerto Arturo in Muzo. MTC soon introduced modern mining methods and technology and today has a number of social and health programmes for the local community. One of MTC’s
community projects is Furatena Cacao, which promotes sustainable cocoa cultivation by farming communities. “There can be no growth in this industry without bringing in local communities,” he commented, adding that MTC has also established a cutting facility in Bogota for its emeralds.
German Forero, director of Esmeraldas Santa Rosa, owner of the large Cunas mine, spoke about the company’s socially and environmentally responsible mining projects in the Boyacá region. “Despite a violent past, our country has a great deal to offer due to the national development plans that include mining, housing and education. The mining industry is an example of development in Colombia that includes good social practices, the promotion of employment and working with the environmental authorities to improve standards in the region. We are also committed to community projects such as raising literacy rates.”
The rather hot topic of mine/ region origin determination was discussed at length in a panel discussion led by Shane McClure of GIA. Members included Claudio Milisenda (DSEF), Taijin Lu (NGTC) and Kenneth Scarratt (DANAT). While they generally agreed that origin determination is important to today’s consumer, the reality is that it is not always straightforward or simple. Scarratt summed up the problem, “You need hundreds of thousands of specimens, and that’s the easy part. The difficult part is having the instrumentation and the people with the right training to create databases that people can use around the world. This is a phenomenal task that no single lab has ever been able to achieve. The enormity of this task is mindboggling.” Treatments and jewels A number of informative talks dealt with treatments, including the topic “Resin-Filled Fissures with ‘Oil-Like’ Films – Concerns and Challenges” presented by Gagan Choudhary, deputy director of GJEPC’s Gem Testing Laboratory, Jaipur. He explained the types and processes of filling emeralds, as well as their observational features and associated problems when cleaning a filled gem, while noting that treatments and their disclosure are still areas of concern for the emerald industry.
On the jewellery side, Ioannis Alexandris, president of Gemolithos, gave an interesting
Despite a violent past, our country has a great deal to offer due to the national development plans that include mining, housing and education. The mining industry is an example of development in Colombia that includes good social practices, the promotion of employment and working with the environmental authorities to improve standards in the region.
presentation on “Old Mine Emeralds,” which included a number of beautiful antique and vintage pieces of jewellery and objets d’art. Jewellery expert Joanna Hardy traced emerald jewellery through the millennia, while professor Clemencia Plazas of the Contemporary Jewelry School in Colombia delved into the fascinating symbolism and attraction for emeralds used in the pre-Colombian era.
Moving up a few thousand years to the present, Richa Goyal Sikri, a social media expert, touted the benefits of Instagram, explaining that people who use this platform are generally looking for authenticity. She recommended that “people who post their products don’t try to sell, but rather build trust with their followers.”
The attendees were also treated to a spectacular gala dinner and fashion show of sumptuous emerald jewellery and Colombian traditional dresses, a fitting conclusion to Talking Green at the Second World Emerald Symposium.
The Plaza Bolivar is at the heart of historical Bogota and dates to the pre-Colombia times, an era where Colombian emeralds were also highly appreciated.
Moderator Anthony Brooke oversaw more than 75 presentations on emeralds at the Second World Emerald Symposium.
Gagan Choudhary (GJEPC Gem Testing Lab) receives a thank-you gift for his presentation on “Resin-Filled Fissures with ‘Oil-Like’ Films.”
Edwin Molina, president of Aprecol, stressed that “emeralds should really be green—from every point of view.”
Guillermo Galvis, chairman of the World Emerald Symposium and president of Acodes (left) with Oscar Baquero, president of Fedesmeraldas.
A model dressed in traditional Colombian attire wears emerald earrings during the gala dinner at the World Emerald Symposium. The butterflies on the screen reflect the famous blue Morpho butterflies of Colombia, which are one of 3,000 varieties found in the South American nation.
Gem-A CEO Alan Hart spoke about terminology issues, the rapidly changing environment, corporate social responsibility, green issues and how education provides value to consumers and the trade.
Charles Burgess, president of MTC Muzo, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2019, details the great transformation of the Colombian emerald industry over the last decade.
A seven-member panel, moderated by Jean Claude Michelou, discussed responsible practices and traceability. (From left) Jean Claude Michelou, World Emerald Symposium; Daniel Nyfeler, Gubelin Lab; Cathelijne Klomp, LVMH; Edward Mendelson, Everledger; Charles Chausspied, RJC; Edwin Molina, Aprecol; and Charles Burgess, MTC Muzo.
The presentation “Emerald Deposits in the 21st Century: Then, Now and Beyond,” by Dr. Gaston Giuliani (CRPG/CNRS and INPL Nancy, France) examined the geology and geochemistry of emeralds around the world.
Speaking on “Emerald Field Geology,” Vincent Pardieu (DANAT) spoke at length on the importance of origin determination and how difficult it is, along with a description of emeralds in Zambia and Madagascar.
Taking a look at “Old Mine Emeralds,” Ioannis Alexandris of Gemolithos offered a highly visual presentation of fabulous emerald jewels.
A slide from the presentation by Gemfields’ Elena Basaglia, detailing the company’s sustainability and social responsibility agenda.
Edward Mendelson of Everledger, discussed the use of “private” vs “public” blockchain transactions to provide traceability in the gem industry.