The strict chain of custody required by our Fair Trade Gems protocol also preserves the integrity of the link to the place where the gem is found. Because gems are an international business and large parcels are traded at every step of the distribution system, the link to the mine is usually lost in the shuffle. Diamonds, for example, are completely anonymous.
Because gem collectors prize certain origins, like Kashmir for sapphires or Burma for rubies, laboratories offer origin reports: skilled gemologists examine microscopic clues to trace a gem's country of birth. Sometimes no such clues exist.
Why is preserving the link to the producing country important? We feel that the association between a beautiful gem and the people and places that produced them adds emotional value to the gemstone itself. Consumers buy gemstone jewelry because it makes them feel good and this added emotional value supports that feeling.
For a country like Malawi, with few exports and little hope of a marketing campaign like Colombia has created for coffee or many countries sponsor to increase tourism, the link to beautiful Nyala ruby and sapphire offers great potential for name recognition.
We do all we can to promote the source of every gem we sell and to provide as much information about that country's culture and unique aspects as we can. We feel this effort supports that country's culture, which in a world of increasing global sameness, may even become a valuable marketable asset for its people.