NAJ News

Gem-A conference highlights support for small-scale miners in East Africa

05 Nov 2019

Gem A CEO Alan HArt opens Gem A conference 2019

GemA CEO Alan Hart opens the 2019 Conference

The 2019 Gem-A. conference focused on an initiative to support small-scale miners in East Africa, and heard talks on a variety of topics from gemstone deposits in Greenland to the history of diamond mining in Brazil.

The annual Gem-A conference gathered some of the world’s leading gemmologists and geologists, as well as graduating students from the respected Foundation and Diploma courses.

The two-day event in London on November 2 and 3 featured talks on a range of gemmological subjects, including diamond deposits in Namibia; super-deep diamonds; attributes of tourmalines, and gemstone market trends.

NAJ member Simon Johnson, co-owner of Marmalade Jewellery in Chiswick, who is taking Gem-A courses, said the Gem-A’s education and presentations offered useful insight to jewellers looking to develop their businesses in new ways.

“The conference covered a variety of subjects across gemmology, and opens doors to jewellers looking for new business opportunities,” he said.

One key focus of the Gem-A conference was support for artisanal miners, who carry out the bulk of the world’s coloured gemstone production.

An address by Rachel Dery focused on the U.S.-based Gem Legacy charitable project initiated by her father Roger Dery to "give back" to impoverished gemstone miners and their families in key origins such as Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania.

 "We are giving to areas of greatest need, providing second chances and imparting knowledge and education," Rachel said.

 Presentations at Gem A 2019

Presentations at the conference included super-deep diamonds and rare gems.

Many small-scale artisanal miners lack basic tools, as well as training and education about the gemstones that they extract.

The miners often work also as farmers, and sometimes use farming implements to dig for gems.

Gem Legacy, supported by voluntary contributions, delivers mining tools to small-scale miners in East Africa, as well as education and vocational training.

Other talks included a presentation by Danish geologist Anette Juul-Nielsen about gemstone deposits in Greenland, including rubies and pink sapphires, as well as labradorite, garnet, nuummite and kakortokite.

Greenland authorities are determined to ensure sustainable production of gemstones, she said, noting that small-scale mining licences in Greenland are restricted to permanent residents.

Portuguese gemmologist Rui Galopim de Carvalho talked about the history of Brazilian diamonds, and highlighted the 5.11-carat Moussaieff Red, the largest known natural red diamond in the world, discovered in the 1990s.

Before the start of large-scale diamond mining in South Africa, Brazilian diamonds had a major impact in 18th century jewellery.


Market Trends 

Gemmologist Richard Drucker, whose GemGuide gives gemstone price trends, said in a presentation that prices of the “big three” coloured gemstones (rubies, sapphires and emeralds) faced downward pressure due to increasing production by medium-and large-scale mining companies.

Drucker later said a softening of prices for treated and heated coloured gemstones could create opportunities for retailers to maintain or raise margins, and to boost marketing of coloured gemstone jewellery.

He spoke of rising demand for lab-grown diamonds, noting that prices had fallen as more supply entered the market.

Geologist Charlton August gave a technical talk about diamond mining operations in Namibia, and gemmologist Laurent Cartier showed a film about a group of miners who dive for diamonds in a muddy  river in Sierra Leone.



David Brough