Coscuez, Colombia – Roquefort cheese, Scotch whisky, Cornish pasties and Spanish serrano ham are foods with one thing in common: they are all protected by appellation of origin.
Until now, this protection has been granted mostly to food and drink. The French have their appellation d’origine contrôlée to stop imposters passing off cheap plonk as Bordeaux; Italy’s denominazione di origine protetta safeguards everything from Parmesan to balsamic vinegar from Modena.
Now, Colombia wants to do something similar with its emeralds. The country’s miners are seeking appellation of origin (AO) status for their green gemstones. If they succeed, not only would Colombian emeralds become the first precious gemstones in the world to be protected on the basis of origin, but the move could also transform an industry that was once a vipers’ nest of lawlessness. Only Mexican amber from Chiapas, considered a semi-precious stone, has similar status.
The sector now attracts international investment. “We want to guarantee traceability from the mine right through to sale,” says Edwin Molina, president of the national emerald producers’ association, Aprecol, which leads the AO campaign.
“We want customers to know that when they buy a Colombian emerald, they are getting the genuine thing, that it was exported from Colombia legally and that it was mined ethically and responsibly.”
Colombia is not the world’s biggest producer of emeralds — Zambia and Brazil both mine more, Aprecol says — but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.
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