NAJ News

ICA Congress tackles challenges in responsible sourcing of coloured gemstones

18 Oct 2019

BANGKOK, October 17, 2019 – The International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) Congress, which took place in Bangkok from October 12-15, debated solutions to pressing issues facing the industry, such as responsible sourcing and the challenges confronted by artisanal and small-scale miners.

Some 80 percent of the world’s coloured gemstone production is carried out by impoverished miners in a host of countries such as Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Mozambique and Zambia, the Congress heard.

Responsible sourcing is an arduous challenge for small-scale extraction of coloured gemstones, as some miners lack basic infrastructure, such as tools and electricity, and are illiterate without access to mobile communications.

Traceability in such cases -- tracking the journey of coloured gemstones from small mines in remote locations to retailers across the world – becomes challenging, because artisanal miners do not have the resources to input data at the start of the supply chain. 

For industrial mining – the remaining 20 percent of coloured gemstone production – responsible sourcing is feasible, as miners such as Gemfields have the resources to trace the journey of the stones to the final customer, delegates said.

New technologies such as Blockchain, which can be used to monitor the supply chain electronically, will have much greater potential in the industrialized sector than in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector.

A panel moderated by gemstone industry veteran Jean Claude Michelou and comprising experienced gemmologists, debated the issues surrounding responsible sourcing before a large audience at the event.

ICA Congress

In a news briefing later, Mr Prida Tiasuwan, Chairman of the ICA Congress 2019, said he believed a solution to improve the supply chain from small-scale mines could entail setting up a system starting with the auditing just of larger stones, say one or two carats and up.

Multilateral organizations and NGOs could potentially assist in the auditing of the supply chain for coloured gemstones, he added.

Mr Prida also said that at some stage in the future the ICA Congress should, in his view, take place in Africa, to help support the coloured gemstone industry in the continent, a major origin for coloured gemstones.

BIG TURNOUT

The ICA Congress in Bangkok had its largest ever turnout in its more than 30-year history.

The event gathered 370 delegates from 26 countries, including the world’s leading gemmologists, miners, retailers, gem dealers and jewellery designers in the Shangri-La hotel.

UK-based delegates included Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields, the anchor sponsor; Alan Hart, CEO at Gem-A, and Jason Hirsh of Grafton Street jeweller Hirsh London, which has an ample offering of coloured gem-set jewellery.

The Congress attracted its biggest number of female delegates and speakers since the first event was held in Tel Aviv, Israel in April 1983.

The event also announced plans to introduce a new membership status called “Accredited Ethical Member” via an application coinciding with membership renewal each year. 

The ICA Congress, usually held every two years, enables industry experts to share their latest knowledge and insights with members of the trade, industry professionals and media.

ICA con

The ICA selected Thailand, a global hub for coloured gemstones, to be the first country to host its Congress for the third time, in 1987, 2005 and now 2019.

“We are delighted to have seen the biggest ever participation by industry experts from around the world at this year’s Congress in Bangkok,” Mr Prida said.

“The increasing diversity of the organization is reflected in the largest ever presence of female delegates and speakers.”

The ICA Congress this year received sponsorship from colored gemstone businesses around the world, as well as from Thailand’s Department of International Trade and Promotion, and the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT.) 

“The 19th ICA Congress attracted leading speakers in the colored gemstone industry from around the world, including Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields, and top executives from retailers Chow Tai Fook and Amazon, among many others,” said Santpal Sinchawla, ICA Secretary and Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Congress.

The seminar programme included panel discussions about digital marketing, featuring speakers such as influencer Benjamin Guttery of Third Coast Gems; and challenges facing jewellery designers, with speakers such as Fulvio Scavia, Managing Director, Scavia.

Prima gold

A non-profit organization, the ICA is the only worldwide body specifically created to benefit the global coloured gemstone industry.

The ICA was founded in 1984 and now comprises over 700 gem industry leaders from mine to market, including miners, gem cutters, suppliers, retailers, trade associations, gemological laboratories, academia, museums, and so on, from 47 countries, who are devoted to advancing and promoting the knowledge and appreciation of coloured gemstones.

The ICA’s global network works to develop a common language for promotion and consistent business standards necessary to improve international communications and trade of coloured gemstones.

Over the years, the ICA has provided direct access to coloured gemstones and related information. There is no other international organization with the same collective access to, and knowledge about, all levels of the coloured gemstone industry.

David Brough