Increasing Collaboration and Transparency in the Colored Gemstone Sector June 2017
Increasing Collaboration and Transparency in the Colored Gemstone Sector
Woman Miner in Madagascar
Photo Credit: Lynda Lawson
Increasing Collaboration and Transparency in the Colored Gemstone Sector
Woman Miner in Madagascar
Photo Credit: Lynda Lawson
 

The wide variety and rarity of colored gemstones make this distinctive sector a rich and fascinating field. Some colored gemstones were discovered for the first time in recent decades, while others form a cultural tradition in communities where they have been mined for generations. Colored gemstone supply chains are also uniquely complex, and industry and academia’s understanding of the sector is still evolving, particularly from a social and environmental perspective. Compared to other precious materials, the colored gemstone sector is highly fragmented, with gems changing hands multiple times before reaching retailers. They also often originate from mining of an informal nature—approximately 80% of the world’s colored gemstones come from small-scale, artisanal mines (ASM) in more than 40 countries.

For several years, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has supported standards setting in the artisanal mining of precious metals and diamonds. In order to expand upon the progress made in these areas, the Foundation recently awarded two grants to support efforts to bring stakeholders together to increase collaboration and advance the positive impacts the colored gemstone sector can have in communities that depend on the mining and trading of these stones.

In late 2016, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation awarded a grant to the University of Delaware for the creation of a Colored Gemstone Knowledge Hub. The hub will centralize and make available research, best practices and information across the colored gemstone supply chain in order to share knowledge as well as identify and promote recommendations for advancements in the sector. The Colored Gemstone Knowledge Hub is a collaboration between three core partners: the University of Delaware, the University of Queensland in Australia and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. The goal is that the hub will contribute to broader and deeper understanding of the sector’s environmental and social impacts, and its potential to support sustainable livelihoods for communities.

In addition, the Foundation is also supporting the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in its efforts to build a global forum for collaboration among ASM, large-scale mining (LSM) and government representatives, which is critical for the colored gemstone sector and more broadly. Through multi-stakeholder dialogues, IIED provides a setting which facilitates collective action among stakeholders toward positive outcomes such as better governance, a greater voice for artisanal miners, and fostering safe and productive working conditions in mining communities.

The Foundation hopes efforts such as these will help build momentum for industry-wide collaboration and ultimately improve the lives and local environments of millions of people working in artisanal mining worldwide.