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December 5, 2019
As a pioneer in responsibly sourced, colored gemstones, Gemfields is working to change our perception of precious gems like emeralds and rubies. One aspect of this is educating consumers on what it means to responsibly mine, the positive impact Gemfields works to make on surrounding communities, and ethical choices further downstream.
Another aspect is raising awareness of the beauty of African gemstones, specifically Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies. Emeralds, when recovered in Zambia, have been underground for half a billion years. And the rubies of Mozambique exhibit a gorgeous range in hues.
The beauty of a colored gems has lately inspired artists and designers like Sebastien Leon and Dan Tobin Smith, in partnership with Gemfields to create site-specific projects visited by the creative crowd. Last September, during London Design Festival, Smith and The Experience Machine’s multi-sensory spatial installation “VOID” featured large-scale projections of precious colored gems, combined with light, moving image, and sound for a meditative journey through nature and time. And this week at Design Miami/, Leon has designed an immersive exhibition, “GEOCHROM,” inspired by natural crystal formations and the range of colors found in Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies.
Whitewall spoke with Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields, about the growing appeal of precious colored gems, and the company’s ongoing collaborations with artists.
WHITEWALL: How is Gemfields actively changing people’s perceptions of colored gemstones?
SEAN GILBERTSON: Gemfields aims establish an understanding of responsibly sourced, colored gemstones—in particular Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies—in the consumer market.
There is an increasing interest in a gemstone’s origin and how gemstones can be responsibly mined to have a positive impact on the countries of source; Gemfields’ is the market leader in this regard and speaks to these concerns.
There is also a growing awareness that African gemstones are just as beautiful as the more established provenances, such as Colombia and Burma. Africa has become the single largest exporting mining operation for both emeralds and rubies during the last decade.
Gemfields compile consumer research, collaborate with jewelers, designers and artists, undertake marketing activations and masterclasses as well as participate in gem and jewelry fairs to maximize the awareness of responsibly sourced, colored gemstones.
WW: What may we be surprised to learn about emeralds and rubies?
SG: Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies are over 500 million years old and are particularly rare—far rarer than colorless diamonds.
Rubies vary in color more than you might expect, from purplish-red to orangey-red. Rubies from different origins tend to each have their own distinctive hue, but those found in Mozambique cover all of the known color ranges, including the rarest pure fluorescent reds. As a result, Mozambique quickly became the world’s most significant location for sourcing rubies.
Zambian emeralds get their beautiful intense green color from the presence of chromium and iron, and they are often lacking in vanadium, resulting in a bluish-green, lively and often eye-clean emerald.
When an emerald is recovered at Kagem emerald mine, it is the first time that light has ever passed through the crystal, bringing it to life after half a billion years in darkness.
WW: How do you see colored gemstones impact the creativity behind jewelry design?
SG: Rubies, emeralds and sapphires are considered the ‘big three’ of colored gemstones. Not only are they the primary colors of light, but no other gems have delighted kings, maharajas, Mughals, pashas, queens and tsars for centuries.
The allure continues, with jewelry brands—contemporary and classic—captivated by the uniqueness, color, character and inclusions of colored gems.
WW: Why did Gemfields start collaborating with contemporary artists?
SG: Contemporary art is very much aligned with the celebration of color and nature and colored gemstones epitomize both. Often surprising and unique, these collaborations are chosen to promote consumer awareness to new audiences and through new “eyes,” to increase the appeal of colored gemstones, raising their profile, and in turn providing greater benefit to their place of origin: Africa.
WW: How have you seen artists embrace the beauty of colored gemstones?
SG: “VOID” by Dan Tobin Smith and The Experience Machine, which exhibited at the London Design Festival in September 2019, provided an immersive experience combining large-scale projections of gemstones, showcasing the expanded space inside them and mapping the blurring boundaries between nature and design.
Sebastien Leon’s fascination of crystal formations drew him to work with Gemfields and his “GEOCHROM” brings to life the unique beauty of emeralds and rubies in an abstract and artistic experience.
WW: What is your impression of artist Sebastien Leon’s for the installation in Miami?
SG: Our partnership with Sebastien Leon is the latest in Gemfields’ innovative activations to further fascination for colored gemstones. We see great parallels in Sebastien’s work and what we find beguiling about our colored gems. His love of the formation of the earth and the nature of time and space, resonates with the age and wonder of Gemfields’ Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies which were formed over 500 million years ago.
“GEOCHROM” brings to life the vibrant hues of emerald and ruby and plays on how we perceive color, as it is impossible for our eyes to simultaneously detect pure green and pure red, thereby providing the ultimate contrast.
WW: How do you envision Gemfields continuing to engage with artists?
SG: We will continue to seek further artist collaborations globally that are unexpected but like-minded and resonate with our values, promoting the awareness and appeal of responsibly sourced, African colored gemstones.
To learn more about responsibly sourced colored gemstones, visit Gemfields.