Gemfields is a world-leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones. Gemfields’ work at the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia (believed to be the world’s single largest producing emerald mine) and the Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique (one of the most significant recently discovered ruby deposits in the world) has seen Africa become the world’s largest exporter of emeralds and rubies. Gemfields’ approach to transparency also means that the host nations in Africa today see dramatically greater value from their gemstone resources remaining in-country.
Gemfields’ first-ever report on coloured gemstones in China reveals that now is the time to seize the opportunity of meeting Chinese consumers’ expectations of corporate responsibility and sustainability. Titled Sustainability: The Future of Coloured Gemstones in China, the report also presents that up to 35% of Chinese jewellery owners plan to purchase ruby and 25% wish to acquire emeralds in the near future.
Based on extensive qualitative and quantitative research among gemstone owners across China’s different regions, city tiers and levels of affluence, the findings provide a set of clear conclusions as to the preferences and behaviours of gemstone owners in China across diverse demographics and geographies.
The report was launched in a live-streaming event, watched by over 11,000 viewers worldwide, with Gemfields’ CEO Sean Gilbertson appearing by video-link to a Chinese media event audience.
The Luxury Conversation followed up in a call with Sean, to find out more about what the future holds for gemstones in China.
What led to the creation of this China-specific report – what does it mean for Gemfields and the sector as a whole?
China is a very important market for Gemfields and is integral to our company’s growth strategy. As we release Gemfields’ first ever report on consumer gemstone preferences in China, we do so with great excitement about the opportunities and potential for this vibrant market even in what is such a challenging year.
The resilience and optimism shown in China’s economic recovery can serve as a positive indication of the market’s robust, long-term potential.
The past decade has seen a robust upward pricing trend for coloured gemstones, and China, the world’s largest jewellery market, accounting for up to 30% of global demand, has considerably propelled this rising trend.
As the report reveals, now is the time to seize the consumer opportunity as well as to meet their ever-growing expectations of corporate responsibility and sustainability both as a business and a brand.
For Gemfields, these findings also represent an exciting opportunity in marketing coloured gemstones in the future. The consumer base has an intensifying interest in coloured gemstones and, specifically, is seeking more access to contemporary jewellery designs.
These consumers would appreciate guidance and styling advice on how coloured gemstones can be worn in a modern and fresh way. Marketing opportunities can therefore not only centre around when and how to wear coloured gemstones, but also on design concepts and creative, personalised styling.
How does Gemfields champion and promote transparency in the gemstone sector? What do you think of the role and impact that Gemfields has had so far?
Gemfields remains a young and dynamic company and we always strive to do things differently. We believe that coloured gemstones should be mined and marketed by championing three key values: the first is transparency, the second is legitimacy, and the third is integrity.
We see ourselves as the custodian of our host nations’ resources and believe that it is our responsibility to optimise the prices achieved for Mozambican rubies and Zambian emeralds, with the full proceeds being repatriated to the host countries.
We seek to lead the coloured gemstone sector by setting new standards and benchmarks and we work closely with partners throughout the downstream supply chain, from industry associations, international non-profits, key consumer brands including in the Coloured Gemstone Working Group, which has been a core element in developing new standards and initiatives.
These initiatives provide many benefits, including open-access tools, educational materials and a number of other resources which are made available for use
by the whole industry to improve supply-chain transparency and of course good practice.
What does the data say regarding buyers coming to you because of your transparent business and responsible mining practices?
The jewellery industry has ancient roots and has historically been rather opaque, particularly in respect of the benefits accruing to the countries of origin.
We’re working very hard to change this, including by being open about our total revenues and the taxes we pay, and by selling our gemstones via auctions which provide our authorised auction partners and host government officials with a totally transparent and consistent sales process. This platform also provides greater assurance to the jewellery brands who buy from our authorised auction partners given it shortens the supply chain and improves the understanding of gemstone provenance.
Gemfields believes that raising awareness, demand and confidence via education and consumer-focused marketing is essential to ensure that responsibly sourced coloured gemstones – in particular Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies- are well understood and valued within the jewellery sector.
In China we do this by compiling research on consumer insights – such as our report – participating in jewellery fairs and organising media and trade roundtables.
We are also currently partnering with Guild Institute of Gemology, a trusted source of knowledge in China, to create the Gemfields ruby masterclass. Taught by the Guild Institute of Gemology and using the Gemfields Ruby Master Set, it is designed to provide professionals in the gem industry with an intensive 1 or 2 day classroom course.
We are seeing both a growing consumer understanding of the importance of a gemstone’s origin and how it should have a positive impact on the source countries; and an increasing awareness that African emeralds and rubies, which crystalised in the Earth’s crust some 500 million years ago, are highly desirable.
As a world-leading supplier of coloured gemstones with a B2B business model, how is Gemfields able to influence consumers more effectively with the belief on sustainability?
Sustainability and corporate responsibility practices lie at the heart of our business: these back up our brand statement and support our efforts to play a pivotal role in improving the credibility of the coloured gemstone industry.
At Gemfields we believe that raising awareness, demand and confidence via education and consumer-focused marketing is essential to ensure that responsibly sourced coloured gemstones (in particular Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies) are valued within the jewellery sector, especially the perception of them when compared with colourless diamonds.
As well as the initiatives mentioned, we also invited 10 Chinese professionals from the gemstone business to visit Gemfields’ Zambian Kagem emerald mine and Mozambican Montepuez ruby mine in August 2019. The field expedition was designed to be an intensive educational experience, providing the group with access to information and first-hand experience of a world-leading supplier of coloured gemstones. From the mining, to processing, to sorting, to supply chain business model and the Social Responsibility Programmes the group was immersed in an intensive experience.
Group members in the expedition have mentioned that Gemfields is crucial in the supply of rubies and emeralds, and that we demonstrate social responsibility to the communities and the children, improving the life of local people in these gem-producing areas.
One takeaway from the report was clear: It is highly positive that 97% of jewellery owners are willing to pay a premium for responsibly mined gemstones. We expect responsible sourcing will continue to receive ever-increasing attention and become progressively more important to Chinese jewellery buyers.