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Gemfields ushers in new era for gemstone trade

25 March 2019

By Bernardette Sto. Domingo   

Gemfields is setting the pace for coloured gemstone professionals with its sustainability-focused business model aimed at fostering transparency and ensuring seamless trade.

Kagem mine

Polished emeralds

Polished ruby

Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields Group Ltd

Emerald in the mines

Gem sorting

The Lion Emerald

Workers at the Kagem mine


Coloured gemstone specialist Gemfields Group Ltd has built a solid reputation over the years as a major source of top-quality emeralds and rubies. With calls for transparency and responsible sourcing propulsively taking hold in the jewellery and gemstone universe, the company is now moving towards its goal of becoming the De Beers of coloured gemstones. This essentially means continuously providing ethically sourced stones while maintaining a solid foothold in the global gemstone trade.

In a talk with JNA, Gemfields CEO Sean Gilbertson revealed that the company had effectively tailored its product portfolio to reflect its focus on the coloured gem trio of rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

This growth strategy is hinged upon further expansion and development of Gemfields’ operations in Africa, its main source of gems. Gemfields owns 75 percent of both the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia and the Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique.

“We plan to increase our footprint in rubies and emeralds but in Africa only,” noted Gilbertson. “We have a new licence adjacent to Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada (MRM) – Megaruma Mining – where we have started bulk sampling. We are also opening new pits and a sorting house at MRM.”

In Zambia, Gemfields has restarted its Mbuva-Chibolele pit, which already produced three million carats. The company official said having local partners in Africa is critical to the success of the mines. “It is our hope and vision to become the preferred partner for coloured gemstones on the African continent,” he added.

Mine and market strategy

At the forefront of Gemfields’ business model is accountability and transparency in the trade, according to Gilbertson. To demonstrate this commitment, the coloured gems expert is actively working towards minimising its mining procedures’ environmental impact, protecting and benefitting the people within its mines, and contributing to the national economy.

Gemfields’ operations have immensely contributed to the local communities in Mozambique and Zambia through the establishment of schools, farming associations, health facilities and other infrastructure.

More importantly, the company has created job opportunities and helped generate revenues for the local governments.

According to the miner, as of June 2017, a total of US$73 million has been contributed to the Mozambique government in the form of corporation taxes and production royalties while the Zambian government has benefitted from US$91 million.

Gemfields has also developed a proprietary grading system and a pioneering auction and trading platform to provide a consistent supply of quality coloured gemstones to the global jewellery market, revealed Gilbertson.

2019 and beyond

With the planned expansion in Africa, Gemfields is also aiming to resume its emerald mining licence in Ethiopia. It is likewise eyeing Madagascar, where it has an existing licence, as an “exciting coloured gem province” but operations will depend on Madagascar’s political landscape.

This year will also see a new acquisition in sapphires take flight – a crucial element of Gemfields’ expansion strategy.

Gemfields remains upbeat about prospects in the emerald and ruby trade in 2019, citing positive results of recent auctions. Its December 2018 auction of rough rubies in Singapore, which included the sale of the rare and top-quality 12.24-carat Rose of Mozambique ruby, generated US$55.3 million in revenues.

In November last year, the company’s emerald sale raked in US$28.4 million. During that auction, Gemfields sold an impressive 5,655-carat emerald, dubbed the Lion Emerald or Inkalamu, which was discovered in the Kagem mine.

“The end customer base is robust and we have seen strong growth across all three gemstones – in many cases double-digit growth,” remarked Gilbertson. “This increased demand has stemmed from consumer confidence through unrivalled insight into how our gems are mined and our ability to provide a reliable supply.”

According to the company official, Mozambique has risen to become the world’s most important deposit of rubies in a short period of time, offering rubies in the full breadth of known colour ranges, including the rarest pure fluorescent reds.

The most prominent colours of Gemfields’ Zambian emeralds, meanwhile, range from light to dark green and slightly bluish to bluish-green. The crystal displays lively reflections from within and is often eye clean.

“Today’s gemstone buyers care about a gem’s history – from the sourcing of raw materials to the principals and values of the mines and companies behind the product. In choosing Gemfields’ rubies and emeralds, the buyer has peace of mind that their gemstones are mined responsibly,” noted Gilbertson.


All images provided by Gemfields