And it’s not only sapphires. An emerald from Colombia will almost always sell for more than stone from Zambia with very similar characteristics and color, as will a Burmese ruby from the valley of Mogok in Upper Myanmar, although similarly fine rubies are also produced in Afghanistan, India and Tajikistan.
The fascination with origin in the colored gemstone trade proved to be lucrative for the gemological community, which took up the challenge and began producing country of origin reports. This was not without controversy, with some claiming that they were creating a false hierarchy within the trade, and others questioning were sometimes problematic scientific methodologies for determining provenance.
But for the diamond business, the colored gemstone sector’s big brother, the issue of origin was not just irrelevant, it was sometimes taboo. But no longer. The Gemological Institute of America has recently announced that it plans on featuring country of origin diamond reports in its consumer advertising this coming holiday season.
LINKING A POLISHED DIAMOND TO A SPECIFIC ROUGH STONE
GIA’s country of origin service is the result of research conducted as part of its Mine to Market, according to which the organization’s scientists developed means of linking a rough diamond to the polished stones that it yielded.
However, unlike the many gemologists examining polished colored gemstones and making country of origin determinations, in order to GIA to definitively determine that the polished diamond was produced from a specific rough stone, it needs to have studied the rough stone before it was cut.
In the past there were research programs that attempted to identify atomic markers that would indicate that a rough diamond originated a from a specific mine. Essentially these involved detecting foreign elements in the stones that were indicative of them coming from a very specific location. While the findings were sometimes quite conclusive, the methodologies were complicated and often expensive, and they never really translated into a marketable service.
The Gemological Institute of America has launched its Mine to Market (M2M) country of origin service, founded on its scientists’ ability to link a rough diamond to the polished stones that it yielded.
High-end jewelry brand Tiffany and Co. has begun reporting to customers the geographical origin of diamonds it sells.
GIA, however, believes that it is onto something. “We know from our research that diamond consumers have a growing interest in the geographic origin of the gems they purchase,” said Anna Martin, senior vice president of global development at the institute, responding to a question by JCK magazine’s Rob Bates. “They also want to know about the positive effect their purchases have in gem producing countries and communities.…The new reports connect consumers to the stories of the positive social and economic benefit their diamond purchase brings to diamond producing countries and communities.”
ORIGIN NO LONGER TABOO
Earlier this year, Tiffany and Co. said that it would begin reporting the the geographical origin of its diamonds to consumers, adding that it would going beyond the standard responsible-sourcing methods that are standard in the industry. The company said that it would supply provenance information in its engagement-ring display cases, and customers would be able receive further details by asking a sales or customer-service representative.
De Beers’ Tracr programs, which used Blockchain technology to trace the journey of a diamond from the mine to the market also pinpoints the exact mine from which the stone originated. This is particularly ironic, because for decades it was De Beers that insisted in mixing stones from its various mines, resisting attempts to identify stones originating from the countries where conflict was non-existent, as did certain producers in countries like Canada and Russia.
It should be noted, however, in the diamond trade there is rarely an effort to contend that a diamond from one particular location in necessarily more physically impressive than a stone from another country or region. Provenance primarily has been emphasized in order to indicate a lower degree of reputational risk.