Colombian Emerald Industry: Winds of Change – by Darwin Fortaleché, Andrew Lucas, Jonathan Muyal, Tao Hsu, and Pedro Padua (Gems and Gemology – Fall 2017)

Colombia is synonymous with fine emerald, and production is believed to date back well over a thousand years. Over the centuries the beautiful verdant gemstone, which emerges from areas that are also a lush green, has been linked to violence and human exploitation. Nevertheless, the desire of the Colombian people to mine for this treasure and strike it rich has endured, with enough dreams coming true to drive their passion.

In recent years, industry changes have accelerated, perhaps more profoundly than ever before. While government ownership and regulation, criminal activity, and violence have affected production over the years, the industry’s greatest opportunities may still be ahead. Multinational companies are investing heavily in Colombian emerald mining, which has led to modernization.

The government’s position on emerald mining has also improved dramatically in this period. Calls for transparency and traceability have led to branding and a revamping of the industry’s image. The loose system of independent miners (figure 1) is seeing efforts at formalization. These landmark changes are occurring at a time when most of the country’s emerald reserves have yet to be mined.

In October 2015, a joint GIA and Colombian team met at the First International Emerald Symposium in Bogotá to interview industry leaders and government officials. Many topics involving industry change were discussed at the symposium.

Afterward, the team traveled to Colombia’s major mines and visited dealers and cutters in Bogotá to document the current state of the mine-to-market industry. We were also able to collect rough emerald samples for the GIA laboratory’s country-of-origin reference collection.

For the rest of this article: