Coloured gemstones dominate today’s global fine jewellery market, sparkling in the windows of Bond Street, Place Vendôme and beyond. Rubies, particularly the deep red colour known as pigeon blood, are among the most prized stones, but supplies had become scarce until recent months.
This was largely because of a US ban on imports from Myanmar, one of the world’s most important ruby mining countries. But human rights abuses under the country’s military dictatorship had led to sanctions.
Yet demand remained high, especially in India and China, where red is regarded as a symbol of wealth.
The ethical conundrum continued until 2012, when Gemfields, a mining company specialising in ethically sourced coloured gemstones, acquired a 75 per cent interest in the Montepuez ruby deposit in Mozambique.
Gemfields held its first rough ruby auction in Singapore in June this year. Of the 2.03m carats on display, 1.82m were sold, generating revenues of $33.5m.
The auction took place over six days, with the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Singapore Turf Club allowing light to flood in, providing optimum viewing conditions.
John Guy, a senior analyst at Berenberg, says: “The number of companies placing bids at Gemfields’ inaugural ruby and corundum [the mineral name for rubies and sapphires] auction in Singapore was 1.4 times greater than the average number bidding for emeralds and beryl from Gemfields’ Kagem Zambian mine in April and November 2013.
“Increased interest in coloured gemstones underpins our view of a growing global appetite for high-quality and responsibly sourced gemstones.”
In line with Gemfields’ ethical policies, those invited to the June auction were vetted by Adrian Banks, product director, with each lapidary required to complete a questionnaire.
“It was essential for us that none of the hard work of bringing the material to auction was jeopardised by the next step in the process,” says Mr Banks. “We asked everything, from questions about the companies’ distribution channels, to their factory conditions, to ensuring they had the necessary funds to pay.”
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