Ethical diamonds are easier to find than ethical gemstones…
The diamond industry is ahead of the game with procedures such as the Kimberley process – where dealers must make sure the diamonds come from conflict-free areas – and there are even now fully tracked diamonds, such as Forevermark or Canada Mark that come accompanied by a certificate with a tracking number and the source.
When it comes to coloured gemstones however, the discussion becomes more complicated. Firstly, due to the number of species and varieties existing, secondly by the fact they are mined in 47 countries across the globe. Most of the mines are informal and in developing countries, where smuggling is still rampant and record keeping is intentionally ignored. When the gemstones reach closer to the end of the supply chain, dealers don’t usually categorise and store them according to their source, but rather according to their colour, size and shape to create parcels of matching stones, which is much more practical when selling. Therefore, the information regarding the source of the gemstone is most often lost, and this is key to knowing the labour condition in the area and the political context and then determine whether a certain gemstone is ethical or not. There is a lot of research work involved and not many willing to do it.
If a gemstone is what is wanted however, in-depth gemmological testing in a specialised lab can indicate the origin of a stone, but this is an expensive process that is only financially practical with fine quality gemstones that fetch high prices.