Why should you bother to know if the sapphire or gemstone you buy from our company is ethically sourced? What does this even mean?
Ethical sourcing do not have a universal definition among industry experts, however, we view ethical sourcing as sourcing gemstones that are mined in the context where the miners’ well-being and the environment is taken into consideration. We understand that mining regulations and standards in countries varies, and we do not use the yard stick that is obtainable in advanced countries to judge. Nevertheless, one thing we absolutely consider when making our assessment or claims to the sourcing of our gems is that the human and source community’s well-being must be taken into consideration.
We will not source gemstones where there is evidence of, or reasonable grounds to believe the stone was sourced in conditions where:
- Child labor was used in mining the gemstone. By “Child labor” we go by the definition published by the International Labor Organization. Some people that are not familiar with the realities children face in many parts of Africa could interpret a picture of a child in the mine as child labor. In most of these mining communities, kids accompany their parents to the mine after school. It is their own way of getting involved in their parent’s work. We don’t consider this as as child labor.
- Miners are paid unfairly or taken advantage of. Buying high-end gemstones is a very competitive process, and with miners having access to smart phones and the internet, the era of buyers taking advantage of miners in buying their gemstones is fast fading away. As a company, we can proudly beat our chest with confidence that our miners have seen their lives transformed by our business. This is why they have stuck with us over the years, because they know we treat them fairly in all aspects of our business.
- The mining area must be away from the community’s source of drinking water. Most communities that engage in riverbed mining for sapphires do not drink the water, because they recognize the health risks.
- Transactions that directly or indirectly fund conflict or terrorism in any shape or form.
- Ownership of the mine is in contention.
How do we ensure these criteria are met?
- 80 – 90% of our sapphires are sourced either from Nigeria, Australia or Sri Lanka. We have offices and teams and /or partners in these countries that deal with miners and brokers directly. In other words, we are not reliant on hearsay regarding the source of the stone. In Australia we deal directly artisanal miners who also own their mining claims.
- Our team members go out to the mine and form relationships with the miners. In their visits to the mines they can tell if the overall mining operation is carried in a context where the well-being of the miners and the environment is taken into consideration.
- Miners from these regions visit our offices to sell their stones.
- On the other hand, we collaborate with mine owners to buy basic mining equipment to increase efficiency and reduce waste. It is a win-win situation for both the mine owners, miners and our company because miners are more productive, and we get to have a first dip of the finest sapphires to offer to our clients.
Sapphire mining in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka
women working alongside their husbands in a sapphire mine well
Every year we embark on a project that fills a social gaps that is prioritized by members of the source community. The project must:
- Directly impact people’s health and/or well-being including the miners and their families
- It must be sustainable, or at least there must be a path to sustainability
One of the social gaps we noticed in one of our major sapphire source village in Gombe, Nigeria was that families travel an average of 2 – 4 miles every day to fetch water for their households. The village head and the miners identified this as a problem. Choice Gems Co partnered with another like minded company in Seattle – Green Lake Jewelry to build a water well close to the residences of the villagers. This is our first water plan and we plan to build more.
Besides water wells, we would be donating books to the local elementary school in this village – a priority identified for the community leaders and the miners. We have termed this project sapphire-for-books!
Our visit to the village where we sited the water well in collaboration with Green Lake Jewelry