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First World Emerald Symposium.

'Be Part of the Change' was the theme of the First World Emerald Symposium (WES), held at the Sheraton Convention Center in Bogota, Colombia, 13-15 October 2015 (Figure 2). The advance registration was capped at 350 participants, and many more tickets were sold at the door (mostly to local Colombians), for a total attendance of 471. The WES was organized by the Colombian government and the Colombian emerald industry umbrella association Fedesmeraldas, an alliance of miners, manufacturers and wholesalers. The two most prominent corporate sponsors were Muzo International (Geneva, Switzerland) and Gemfields (London). Muzo International is the owner of the world-famous Muzo emerald mine, where they first began operations in 2009. Gemfields announced in September 2015 their acquisition of the historic Coscuez mine, some 10 km north of Muzo.

An important message from the WES is that, for the first time in history, Colombia is no longer the number-one producer of emerald in the world. Zambia now leads in annual emerald production by volume and by value. The precipitous drop in Colombia's emerald production is due to the lack of investment by Colombians in their mines.

Zambia's Minister of Mines, Dr Christopher B. Yaluma, spoke eloquently on his country's success in the emerald market. Unlike Colombia, where emeralds have been mined continuously for 1,500 years, emeralds were discovered relatively recently (1929) in Zambia. Next, the Vice-Minister of Mines for Colombia, Dr Maria Isabel Ulloa, focused on the scourge of 'illegal' emerald mining. By her estimate, half of the small-scale emerald miners in Colombia lack proper title to the land. In the miners' defence, government delays in issuing proper title under the updated mining law of 2012 have led to a three-year backlog in pending reviews and approvals. Minister Ulloa also stated that over 90% of the emerald licences are idle. Dr Carolina Rojas Hayes of the Colombian National Mining Agency reported that there were 1,496 exploration permits for some 7,500 prospectors, and another 359 licences for land parcels, with 178 parcels partially certified and another 49 under review. By her count, only two licences have been fully vetted, those of Gemfields and Muzo International.

Principals of coloured gemstone industry organizations discussed and then debated how guild organizations can promote business in a dynamic global market. ICA president Benjamin Hackman emphasized the need for full disclosure of treatments, saying: "Synthetic emeralds are better documented than natural emeralds that have been treated and enhanced." Roland Naftule with CIBJO highlighted the economic power of the emerging generation of millennials, and contrasted their motivations for buying gemstones and jewellery with those of the 'baby boomer' generation, leading to the creation of new market channels rewarding ample information and social consciousness. Gerry Manning with AGTA stressed the importance for national organizations to represent collective interests to both recalcitrant government regulators and hostile media. He said, "Misinformation is pandemic, and clarity is critical to value." Fedesmeraldas president Oscar Baquero hoped that the lasting impact of the WES would be closer coordination between Colombians and their international colleagues. Baquero reported officially that the 2014 emerald export for Colombia totalled US$145 million, derived from some 347 licences of which only 10% were active.

International gemstone laboratories were well represented during an afternoon session. In summary, the labs are confident they can distinguish Colombian emeralds from those of other sources, and can differentiate synthetics as well. Admittedly, the cost of testing melee parcels is prohibitive, rendering a risk of blended stock escaping detection. Although technology permits the identification of specific emerald fillers, there is presently no systematic reportage for treatments, nor any plans for such structure. Dr Thomas Hainschwang (GGTL Laboratories, Balzers, Liechtenstein) reviewed the standards and protocols for verifying emeralds in gem labs, especially infrared spectroscopy to differentiate fillers and fluorescence microscopy to map their distribution in a stone. Kenneth Scarratt (formerly of the GIA Laboratory in Bangkok, Thailand) spoke on the history of emerald enhancement, elucidating the multiple cycles of cleaning, treating and filling that any emerald might experience, as well as the breakdown over time of some fillers. Shane McClure (GIA Laboratory, Carlsbad) addressed the harmonization of reports, protocols and specific wording for emerald documentation. Ronald Ringsrud, speaking for Muzo International, focused on residues and other substances mistakenly classified as enhancements in emeralds--especially simple manufacturing residues. Ringsrud also delivered a passionate sermon on the importance of 'romance and glamour' as the driving factors in emerald sales, not scientific certificates. Dr Dietmar Schwarz (AIGS Lab, Bangkok) illustrated the many physical and chemical distinctions of Colombian emeralds as compared to those from other sources, notably their high Cr+V content and diagnostic three-phase inclusions, as well as characteristic growth features such as first-order prisms and pinacoids. Carlos Julio Cedeno (CDTEC Gemlab, Bogota) provided insight into some of the unique crystallographic features of Colombian emeralds derived from their growth within open spaces in a hydrothermal environment.

Muzo International president Charles Burgess delivered a keynote address focusing on the social responsibility of a modern gem mining company. Burgess said that "six years of positive social transformation has been key to Muzo's commercial success" in Colombia. Corporate social responsibility is a foundation commitment, not an optional extravagance, he claimed. When they arrived at Muzo, they confronted a health-social-cultural crisis that was exacerbated by the modernization and mechanization of an historic mine site. There was a general lack of law and order, a legacy of rampant environmental damage, the constant risk of invasion by squatters and an absence of social services. To succeed, Muzo International assumed a proactive role normally assigned to government in addressing the challenges of unemployment, the need for schools and clinics, and support for the disabled and elderly. Muzo International financed outreach to the community and empowered women by financing local tailors to deliver clothing for miners, and by hiring women to engage in environmental restoration of the riparian environment along the Rio Minero. Today, the mine employs over 600 workers and sustains a surrounding community of more than 2,500 people.

ICA director of communications Jean Claude Michelou spoke next on the traceability of coloured stones, with an update on ongoing initiatives and a way forward. He emphasized that documentation of provenance was critical to product branding and to building confidence with consumers. Captain Torres with the Colombian National Police then spoke on corporate and social traceability, and detailed the considerable capacity of the Colombian police and security forces in Boyaca, the state where the major emerald mines are located. Jaime Loder (Aegis Defense Services, London) and Adam Brown (Anuera Security, London) addressed private protection forces for the emerald industry in a high-risk environment, where safety originates in the village, and defence ultimately extends internationally to family, friends and business colleagues.

Another block of presentations concentrated mostly on the technical aspects of emeralds. Dr Gaston Giuliani (Centre de Recherches Petrographiques et Geochimiques, Nancy, France) started the session with a review of the geology and gemmology of emerald deposits worldwide, highlighting laboratory determinative techniques for the differentiation of emeralds that are derived, ultimately, from differences in the style of mineralization. Marcelo Ribeiro, owner of the Belmont emerald mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil, gave a stunning presentation on their modern, mechanized, surface and underground, emerald mining operations. Belmont is a type example of how to correctly mine emerald deposits in South America, from the use of optic sorters to integration with a national marketing campaign. Clarissa Maciel (Brazilian Institute of Gems and Precious Metals, Brazilia) expounded on how her organization--a partnership between the government and private sector--promotes the gem business (including Belmont), nationally and internationally. Warren Boyd (R.T. Boyd Ltd., Oakville, Ontario, Canada) provided an interesting review and update on the geology and gemmology of the Malysheva emerald mine in the Ural Mountains of Russia. He noted that the 'seizure' of Malysheva from Canadian-owned Tsar Emerald Corp. coincided with Vladimir Putin's shell companies consolidating control over the remnants of the beryllium industry of the former Soviet Union. Malysheva is Russia's primary source of beryllium for their nuclear industry. Next, Gary Bowersox (GeoVision Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) covered the extensive history of emerald mining in Afghanistan, providing, as always, his own considerable personal experience in south-central Asia. He painted a hopeful picture of the Afghan emerald miners, emerging from decades of war, improving their lives and circumstances, despite difficulties that continue to this day. This author spoke next for SRK Consulting (a global mining engineering firm working with diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire), describing new mining and recovery tools and technologies useful in the Colombian emerald industry.

Vijay Kedia (Jewelers Association of Jaipur, India) recounted the Indian tradition with emerald of all origins and the market perception of Jaipur as one of the largest buyers and cutters. Left unresolved was the issue of blended melee parcels combined from multiple sources of supply. Philippe Scordia (Christian Dior Joaillerie, Paris, France) described the purchasing criteria, selection and certification of suppliers for luxury jewellery brands, and the increasing importance of provenance and social responsibility. Luxury designer Erica Courtney (Los Angeles, California, USA) illustrated how social media can be used to promote gems and jewellery, including emerald, to a new generation of media-saturated and techno-savvy buyers.

On the third and final day, Jaime Rotlewicz (C.I. Gemtec, Bogota) began with a demonstration of acoustics and geo-gemmology, using various devices to amplify and record sonic signals, music and noise, from gemstone samples in his lab. David Lihgtle (The Wright Brothers, Dayton, Ohio, USA) re-emphasized the importance of global branding for service as well as product. Gabriel Angarita, a member of the WES organizing committee and president of the Colombian Association of Emerald Exporters, delivered a resounding review of Colombian emerald branding and lack of branding, ending with a plea for increased cooperation from all elements of the national industry. Andy Lucas (GIA, Carlsbad) gave a broadcast-quality still-and-video presentation on educating retailers and the global supply chain from mine to market, using specific examples from Asia and Africa.

Executive director of Gemfields Sean Gilbertson recounted the history of his company's activities in the coloured gemstone sector, focusing mainly on exploring and developing the Coscuez emerald district. Dr Sixtus C. Mulenga with Zambia's Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative considered the foundations for global gemstone growth to be honest and responsible practices.

Darwin Fortaleche, CDTEC Gemlab's chief gemmologist, presented research into a new emerald enhancement developed in Colombia, where the treatment of emeralds is routine and ever-evolving. Oded Ben Shmuel (Sarine Technologies Ltd., Kfar Saba, Israel) gave an update on his company's tools applicable to the emerald trade, borrowing new technology from the electronics and aerospace industries. Dr Adolf Peretti (GRS Gemlab, Lucerne, Switzerland) discussed his colour terminology for gem reports, and emphasized its use as a marketing and communication tool. Hypone-Phyo Kan-Nyunt (Gubelin Gem Lab Ltd., Hong Kong) detailed the ultra-trace-element analysis of emeralds through a combination of techniques. Wei Ran (National Gemstone Testing Center [NGTC], Beijing, China) concluded the WES with a description of emerald investigations underway in the Research Department at NGTC.

A post-conference field trip brought participants to various emerald mines in Colombia. Although the symposium was organized rather quickly, it came together with resounding success.

William Rohtert (william.rohtert@cox.net)

William Rohtert Consulting LLC

Phoenix, Arizona, USA
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Title Annotation:Conferences
Author:Rohtert, William
Publication:The Journal of Gemmology
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:3COLO
Date:Dec 1, 2015
Words:1869
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