Where do Loose Gemstones Come from?

 The Origins of Gemstones

It is possible you have never heard of the term “loose gemstones” and “precious stones” before. To you gemstones come set in jewellery – end of story. Often that changes when you decide to get married and the shopping for rings begins. For many this is the first exposure to the fact that like anything, rings get made from raw materials. It’s just that their raw materials are precious commodities and gemstones or diamonds. It is
interesting to explore and get into in-depth analysis as to where they come from and how they get to your home or a jewelry store and the issues surround fair trade gems. Unlike the rough and finished diamond market which is well structured with centres of trading in Antwerp, New York and Tel Aviv, the market for precious and semo precious loose gemstones is far more fluid. 
Some Hard Working Gemstone Miners In the USA there a lot of fun places you and your loved ones can go to learned about precious and semi precious stones. A Hand’s on experience in the process it will be great to get started. They cost around $ 5 per person and is really fun. (Image source marengo cave)
Mining Areas of Colored Precious Gemstones
Given that many coloured and precious gemstones are mined by small operators in various parts of the world it is more difficult to organise this market. The International Coloured Gemstone Association said that more than 82% of stones are coming from small scale mining, and of these more than 95% are located in developing countries.
For example the president of the Sri Lankan Gem merchants federation said in 2002 there were over five thousand mining sites registered in Sri Lanka. Most of them are bucket and spade operations where the mining pits (digging areas) are three to four square meters and go to depths of only about 25-30 metres.
The other factor that makes regulation of the industry hard is that loose gemstones are commonly sold at local markets. The miners want to turn their rough and raw material of stones to hard cash as soon as possible and often do not have the means to travel far to go to central markets. Buyers and dealers in rough stones will purchase these offerings and offer them to wholesalers in foreign markets.
An Australian sapphire mining company found that their stones would pass through a supply chain of up to six – eight people from the mining area until it
reached the final customer or retail purchaser.
Each time the stones changed hands someone was making a significant mark-up. The mark-ups can range from 1.25 – 125 times in many cases so take well informed decisions and bargain hard specially when buying from a store.

Real Picture of the true Sri Lanka Miners. The GIA website and many other websites have pictures from Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand and they will tell actually show you how they come from the mines to the marketplaces.

Due to the location and small size of many of the precious gemstone miners there has been an increased interest in the fair trade aspects of gemstones and diamonds. With large quantities of the precious and semi precious stones coming from developing countries it is important to make sure the benefits are going back to the people. In situations like this corruption, child labour, forced working conditions, money laundering, terrorism become really ethical considerations. With the support of governments, and bodies such as the World Bank, initiatives such as gemstone bodies and education programs are improving the outlook for communities. Fair trade is a wonderful idea but a fine balance has to be maintained between sanctioning countries that are treating their workers exploitatively and the impact such sanctions have on the miners themselves. If we stop buying Burmese or African rubies, the miner in Burma or Africa will ultimately pay the price for factors outside his control. Unfortunately here is no easy answer on this. The loose gemstones market is a fascinating and fraught one, but the gemstones themselves are pure works of beauty.


 

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