When buying gemstones, it is important to know how to spot if they are ethical and what to look out for that may mean otherwise. At ANUKA, I am committed to providing complete transparency in my process; sourcing gemstones that I can trace back to their source, providing clients with this precious origin story with their jewellery.
Knowing how to buy precious stones can be quite an endeavour and we want to make the process as simple as possible for you. So here it is, your guide to buying gemstones, covering everything you need to know about ethical gemstones and where to source them, including:
- What are ethical gemstones?
- How to know if a gemstone is ethical?
- The importance of an ethical supply chain?
- Which gemstones are ethical and where to source them?
- Questions to ask your jeweller.
What are ethical gemstones?
If a gemstone is ethical, it means it has a fully transparent supply chain, limiting environmental and social impact, providing safe working conditions and fairly paid jobs for people who are involved at each stage.
The mining process should empower local communities, ensuring there are no bad practices and that the livelihoods of those who are reliant on the mining sector are supported.
How to know if a gemstone is ethical?
A gemstone is ethical if you can trace each and every point along the production process. Without this, we would have no idea of where it was mined or cut.
When looking to buy ethical gemstones, here are a couple of things to look out for:
- A supply chain that cannot be fully verified or traced.
- Proof points/evidence of the source and the process on the supplier’s website.
- If a brand is forthcoming in offering details of sourcing and production. If they are not, ask why and they should have the answers.
I work with tech company Provenance, incorporating their block chain technology into my website and brand. Partnering with Provenance allows for complete transparency in our process, letting you know exactly how your jewellery is made, with each and every process presented for you to see. When working together on bespoke commissions you will always receive an origin card, stating all the details of your jewellery for complete assurance.
The importance of an ethical supply chain
Unlike diamonds and precious metals, gemstones have quite a complex supply chain. This is because they tend to be mined, cut, and sold in different countries.
In saying that, there are more and more reputable suppliers with transparent supply chains.
In order to understand how to buy ethical gemstones and identify these reputable suppliers, it is essential that you get to grips with the supply chain structure and learn what to look out for, as it can happen that a gemstone that is traceable to an ethical mine, has in fact been cut elsewhere by workers who have experienced poor working conditions.
It can all get quite complex, so here is the supply chain in its simplest form.
So long as these stages are all audited along the way and there are traceable proof points, you can be confident that your gemstone is ethical:
Mine - rough stones
Cutting - the practice of shaping and polishing the stone
Market - gemstone buyers/dealers
Jeweller - someone like me, who sources gemstone’s to make jewellery
Consumer - you, the wearer
For example, I use gemstone suppliers Nineteen48 and Capricorn Gems who both have fully traceable supply chains. Nineteen48 own and work closely with artisanal mines in Sri Lanka and Tanzania that ensure responsible sourcing and environmental protection. Many of the stones sold by Nineteen48 are sourced from Crown Gems, a British-Sri Lankan joint venture engaged in responsible, artisanal gemstone mining and ethical gemstone dealing. Crown Gems has its own cutting facilities in Sri Lanka and employs miners and cutters with years of professional experience and a strong relationship with the company. Some suppliers, much like Nineteen48 also market the gems too, which is the ideal scenario. As the jeweller, I then source the gemstones that I require (usually when making bespoke commissions) and sell the finished product to you.
Which gemstones are ethical and where to source them?
The mining of gemstones spans 47 countries on six continents, although many stones are limited to certain countries or continents.
When it comes to sourcing gemstones, it must be noted that no one country is perfect or without some form of exploitation, but there are a handful of countries that have notable labor and environmental laws that make buying gemstones a little more straightforward. I tend to source from Australia, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
To help you make an informed choice when buying ethical gemstones, we’ve put together some information on the top three ethical gemstones and where to source them:
Sapphires are a popular alternative to diamonds due to their high durability. In fact, they are one of the most durable naturally occurring elements in the world, second only to diamond in hardness.
They tend to come from small and independent family mines and therefore are easier to trace than diamonds.
Some of the most well-known sapphire producing countries are Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania, USA and Australia. Sri Lanka is a good place to start if you’re looking for ethical sapphires because the government has a lot of control over gemstone regulation.
As rubies are a very hard gemstone; highly resistant to scratching, they are perfect for daily wear in engagement rings. They have the same hardness rating as sapphires, making them inferior only to diamonds. In fact, you probably didn’t know that red sapphires are better known as rubies.
Some of the most well-known ruby producing countries are Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania, USA and Australia and the current leading producer for high-quality ruby is Mozambique.
As the shift toward non-traditional wedding becomes more and more common, couples are steering away from conventional diamonds in favour of coloured stones, such as emeralds. However, unlike diamonds, emeralds do scratch easily, so aren’t best for everyday wear.
Emeralds are extremely rare gemstones. For every 30 diamonds that get cut, only one emerald get’s cut.
One of the best known emerald producing countries is Colombia.
Questions to ask your jeweller?
Sourcing ethical gemstones can be a bit overwhelming, but it needn’t be too much of a challenge. If you get to the stage of purchasing the stones, here are some vital questions to keep in mind when discussing with your jeweller.
- Where are the gemstones mined and cut?
- Do you have details of a clear and transparent supply chain
- Can you disclose supplier details?
- Do you know the type of mine? Can you find that information out?
Now you’ve broadened your knowledge of gemstone knowledge, if you’re interested to learn more about certain steps of the process we use at ANUKA, we submit evidence to back our claims - from invoices to delivery notes and certificates. You can find our proof points on each product page, under the transparency tab.
To check out our whole journey with Provenance, view the link below or check out the QR code in your order!