Some 40 percent of the world’s rubies lie in one mining concession in Mozambique, where a troubling pattern of violence and death contradicts the claim of “responsibly sourced.”
MONTEPUEZ, Mozambique — Mila Kunis embodies just the kind of woman that Gemfields, the world’s leading supplier of rare colored gemstones, wishes to entice: young, sensual, enigmatic — and affluent.
The 32-year-old Hollywood actress, best known for her roles in Black Swan and Oz the Great and Powerful, is the star of Gemfields’s promotional short film, showcasing jewelry made by top designers with stones mined at Montepuez, the world’s largest ruby concession and one of Gemfields’s latest acquisitions.
Located in northern Mozambique, Montepuez is thought to hold 40 percent of the world’s known supply of a precious stone that, since antiquity, has been associated with wealth and royalty.
The promotional video has a dreamlike quality to it. Kunis’s delicate features, adorned with what the U.K.-based company describes as “the most precious and revered gemstones in the world,” float in and out of the frame in a slow, almost lascivious motion, the crimson color of her lipstick matching that of glittering earrings, elaborate bracelets, and necklaces, their deep hues enhanced by the paleness of her skin.
For Gemfields, which spends a substantial share of its revenue to bring colored gemstones “back to their rightful position, at least equal with diamonds,” as Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle put it in a 2011 interview, Kunis has been the perfect match.
At pains to differentiate its precious red stones from diamonds, which have increasingly become associated with bloody conflicts, Gemfields boasts that its rubies are “responsibly sourced” and “ethical gemstones.” In Kunis, one of Hollywood’s more socially aware role models, Gemfields found someone “that shared [its] value system,” as Harebottle put it in a 2014 promotional video on Gemfields’s work in Mozambique.
Much is at stake for the company. In recent auctions, Montepuez rubies sold for up to $689 per carat, more than 10 times the price of Gemfields’s emeralds, which in 16 auctions earned $276 million. Auctions for Montepuez rubies are oversubscribed, generating millions of dollars in revenue for the company: $33.5 million in Singapore in June 2014 and some $122.2 million in aggregate revenue since then. The tax and royalties it pays to Mozambique also swell state coffers.
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