Ethical Gemstone Shopping

Dealer Anup Jogani offer insight into how collectors can ensure they’re shopping ethically for a stone.

An unethical stone is a diamond or gemstone sourced from a geographic area in which the population is oppressed or living off of the region’s natural resources. Unethical sources also include mines operating in a war zone or where a type of forced labor is utilized.

While the gemstone and diamond industry has a complicated history, within my sector of the trade, which mostly deals in antique stones, we don’t encounter the issue of unethical sourcing because the stones we handle are often a hundred to hundreds of years old.

For the modern stones we purchase, however, we buy from sources that are highly reputable. If we acquire a modern diamond cut by a mid-manufacturer, we inquire about the origin of the rough. Throughout the years, the industry has also standardized the process of ethical sourcing fairly well because the industry as a whole suffers when unethical stones are allowed into the market.

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There was a period of time where a large quantity of diamonds were being mined in Africa, and in some of those countries, the politico-social climate was highly unstable and imbued with corruption. Zimbabwe, for example, began producing critical diamonds, but the leader was not of high character, and as an industry, we did everything to prevent purchases from being transacted for those stones.

The best way to shop ethically in the gemstone market is to purchase an antique stone. Get to know the dealer and the retailer, ask questions about how the stones they offer are sourced, and buy from legitimate craft sources and manufacturers. As a consumer, one should ask about and know the chain of command. If the dealer or retailer can intelligently speak about their gemological sources, corresponding mines, and the people they’re dealing with, a customer can be confident they’re purchasing an ethically sourced stone.

Sri Lanka, for example, has a beautiful, homegrown, small operation. The country opts out of investing in a massive mining enterprise in order to preserve the vast natural areas on the island. Much of the gem trading that takes place there is between single stone owners rather than large suppliers or manufacturers.

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