HomeEast AfricaGemfields embeds nanoparticles in stones to trace origin

Gemfields embeds nanoparticles in stones to trace origin

Gemfields has partnered with Gübelin Gem Lab to embed nanoparticles proving origin into all Kagem Mine emeralds for sale to drive levels of transparency in the coloured gemstone sector.

This is important for coloured gemstone customers because brands and their customers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to know the origins of their products, including the raw materials.

This includes, but is not limited to, where the raw materials come from, how they are processed and manufactured into the final product – brands want to reduce the human and environmental impacts in their supply chains and want certainty over the origins, or provenance of their goods.

The coloured gemstone sector has no system, globally at scale, that allows gemstones to be confidently traced from mine to market because the sector is ancient, largely artisanal and gemstone trading is still often very secretive.

There is a lot of ‘mixing’ of stones from different sources during the production processes. Gemfields aims to bring greater transparency to the sector and is actively seeking solutions.

Unlike other bulk commodities such as gold, or fairtrade bananas or responsible palm oil, there aren’t yet the systems for checking where gemstones have come from, and whilst organisations such as the Responsible Jewellery Council are moving in the right direction, the whole industry is looking for a solution to help.

Gübelin Gem Lab’s solution is set to change that because it allows a brand or consumer to physically check the origins of a gemstone by using a synthetic DNA ‘nanotechnology’.

The technology is owned by the Gübelin Gem Lab and is part of a service they have termed ‘Provenance Proof’.

How it works

Gübelin Gem Lab create synthetic nanotechnology code containing key information about the origins or provenance, of the rough gemstones, such as the miner, the mine location and the date the gemstones were mined. This means that each set of nanotechnology code is unique to that miner, mine location and date.

Gübelin Gem Lab take rough gemstones, such as emeralds from Gemfields’ Kagem mine in Zambia and immerse them in a liquid containing the nanoparticles.

The nanoparticles embed themselves in the natural fissures in the gemstone, known as “inclusions” in the industry, so that they can’t be removed, except by Gübelin Gem Lab.

The nanoparticles do not have any effect on the quality of the gemstone, or once manufactured, the cut and polished gemstone.

All the tests that have been undertaken show that the integrity of the gemstones is left intact.

If a customer or brand wishes to verify if a gemstone contains the nanotechnology in order to guarantee the gemstones’ origin, then the gemstones are examined by Gübelin Gem Lab and the code contained in the gemstone can be verified against the data held securely by them, revealing the miner, mine location and date the gemstone was mined.

This technology offers miners (both big corporates and cooperatives of small and artisanal miners), governments, trade organisations, industry watchdogs, jewellery brands and final customers a completely new level of transparency when sourcing emeralds, instilling confidence and creating trust.

Why is Gemfields doing this?

It’s Gemfields goal to operate in a way that contributes positively to national economies, taking a leading role in modernising the coloured gemstone sector and building sustainable livelihoods for the communities around the company’s mines.

Gemfields believe that coloured gemstones should be mined and marketed by championing three key values – legitimacy, transparency and integrity.

Proving the origins of gemstones and seeking greater transparency for its customers means the company can be certain their gemstone was mined according to Gemfields’ values and contributes positively to its place of origin.

This means industry-leading policies and practices across operations, and community projects to improve health, education and livelihoods for the communities around Gemfields mines.