Editors

Sustainability Stories: Mine to Market with Moyo Gemstones

EditorsApr 29, 2019

Sustainability Stories: Mine to Market with Moyo Gemstones

The first in a new series from Senior Editor Brecken Branstrator highlights a program bringing tracked gems from women miners in Tanzania to market and improving mining along the way.

A new pilot program launched by Pact, a non-governmental organization, and gemstone trading partners brings tracked and traced gems from women miners in Tanzania to market.
The challenges associated with creating a supply chain that’s transparent, traceable and ethical are myriad.

Responsible sourcing, its obstacles and how to tackle them are among the industry’s hottest topics today, especially in the colored gemstone sector.

While discussion on these topics is necessary, it can be easy to get caught up in conversations about what still needs to happen without stopping to appreciate the concrete work being done by individuals and industry bodies today.

To that end, I’ve decided to launch a blog series highlighting real projects and initiatives undertaken by companies big and small, not only to celebrate them but to show what’s possible.

I’m kicking it off with a look at a recently launched program called Moyo Gemstones—so named because it means positive things in several different African languages—designed to help gemstones extracted by female miners in Tanga, Tanzania, move from mine to market while improving the lives of the women along the way.

The pilot project is a collaboration between the non-governmental organization Pact, Monica Stephenson’s Anza Gems and Nineteen48, with input from the Tanzania Women Miners Association (TAWOMA) and a blockchain addition from Everledger.

Building a Foundation
Moyo Gemstones builds on work already done in the area. The Gemological Institute of America approached Pact in 2016 to partner on an education program for miners, and the pilot took place in the Tanga province. 

Cristina Villegas, director of Mines to Markets at Pact, told me in a recent interview that while the program was successful in helping these women drastically increase sales, Pact realized they were still selling on a subsistence basis and that more needed to be done to help them find equal footing in today’s gem market. 

Collaborating with the miners and other players, Pact designed the mine-to-market program now called Moyo Gemstones, empowering the women to work safer, mine better, improve financial security and create equitable markets for their gems.

A couple of the miners in Tanzania with Anza Gems’ Monica Stephenson
A couple of the miners in Tanzania with Anza Gems’ Monica Stephenson

Not only do they want to effect change in the gemstone supply chain and the way gems benefit the communities from which they come, but also offer storytelling around them. 

“Consumers, regardless of commodity, are looking for different ways to interact and to make an impact through their purchasing power,” said Rebecca Villalobos, a member of Pact’s Innovation team. 

Based on direct feedback from the miners, Moyo Gemstones decided to hold “market days” in which all the women travel to a central location to sell their goods, providing a regular, controlled system for Moyo miners to do business with vetted local brokers and traders.

Each woman who wants to participate must be verified as a legal miner, among other considerations.

Moyo Gemstones will use the pilot phase to figure out how often the market days should happen. The first one is scheduled for May.

(A side note: The Tanzanian government has yet to officially lift the ban on rough gemstone exports instituted last year but has started to implement a few changes. Regardless, Villegas said the government has been supportive of the program and, because of Pact’s long history in the country, allows Pact to export despite the ban.)

Building the Communities
The Moyo Gemstones initiative is intriguing not only because it’s helping bring gems from vetted local miners to market, but also because it’s working to improve mining directly.

They are partnering with Tanzanian engineering services firm MTL Consulting to improve health and safety, working conditions, and basic geological and engineering support for enrolled miners. The firm has experience working with the Fairtrade Foundation’s ASM gold miners in East Africa.

Pact is also working with the Alliance for Responsible Mining to adapt the Code of Risk-Mitigation for ASM engaging in Formal Trade (CRAFT)—a global “entry” standard for due diligence in artisanal and small-scale mining—to colored gemstones.

“If we want to include as many (miners) as we can and change their lives, we have to meet them where they are but also set expectations and incentives,” Villegas said.

They will work with MTL Consulting to get the Moyo miners to CRAFT level over time.

In the meantime, as CRAFT for Gemstones develops, they will track progress against local laws, to which CRAFT is closely aligned, and aim to reinvest back into the community through staffed health clinics and teacher housing, which the women miners indicated are top priorities.

Adding Traceability
There’s another interesting aspect to the project.

Pact has been working with Everledger, the same tech company that developed Gubelin’s Provenance Proof blockchain, to develop a blockchain suitable for these artisanal miners.

Stones will first be recorded on the blockchain at market days. (There’s information on the reasoning behind that on the Moyo Gemstones website.)

When asked if this project presented any unique challenges, given the ASM aspect, compared with others they had worked on in colored stones, Carrie George, Everledger’s vice president, head of sustainability solutions, said when the company developed Provenance Proof with Gübelin, they already had taken ASM miners into account.

“One key factor that we needed to ensure was the ease of use and simplification of the process.”

Pact, Anza Gems and Nineteen48 worked directly with the women miners to put together a program that is feasible.
Pact, Anza Gems and Nineteen48 worked directly with the women miners to put together a program that is feasible.

She said teaming with the right partner, Pact, has been crucial in this project since they have so much experience on the ground with ASM miners. She added that education and training are important, which Pact has enabled through on-the-ground support and training.

“Everledger has evaluated the most effective and low-cost solutions for miners to provide chain-of-custody information. This combination is essential for downstream retailers to be able to confidently source ASM gems and, therefore, support their livelihoods.”

Pact and Everledger also had to keep the miners’ security in mind, meaning they had to balance providing enough information to allow for transparency and rich storytelling with privacy considerations.

“Part of the challenge here is recognizing that women miners are some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” Villegas said. “There’s usually some kind of shock event that happens to push them into mining. Not always, but often.”

Information visible on the blockchain will show the physical movement of the gemstones as well as who has handled them. There will also be basic information on the traders, exporters, brokers, mining regions and TAWOMA.

Individual miners’ stories and the program’s tracked metrics will not be on the blockchain, however, for both privacy and safety reasons.

Rather, Pact will aggregate the data and share information on MoyoGems.com to allow consumers, designers and retailers to learn more about how the miners are doing and how the program is developing.

Pact will test a few stones on the blockchain at the first market day in May and then improve as they confirm the format and get used to the technology, Villegas said, slowly incorporating blockchain as a complement to the chain of custody being constructed.

Headed to Market
To provide a point of sale for the loose stones the women mine—ruby, sapphire, tourmaline and garnet—Pact partnered with gem trading companies Anza Gems and Nineteen48. The two will work with existing traders in the country to buy gems from the participating miners and make them available to the global market.

“From the moment I heard about the GIA/Pact initiative, I could see the potential for a sustainable economic model,” Stephenson, of Anza Gems, said. “This could be a way out of poverty for these women and their children, through a natural resource they can harness. We can help bridge the gap of knowledge to help them mine better, safer and more productively, and give them a fair market value for their gems. And we can help them tell their stories and bring their beautiful gems to light.”

The first market day to connect the women miners of Tanga, Tanzania, with local traders is scheduled to take place in May.
The first market day to connect the women miners of Tanga, Tanzania, with local traders is scheduled to take place in May.

She added that as they worked on the program, local brokers and traders, as well as others in the Tanga community, rallied around it.

“When you elevate women, you are helping the entire community and region.”

Stephenson said faceted gems should be available by early to mid-summer for designers or retailers interested in buying and setting them in jewelry.

Ultimately, Pact is hoping that in building a program in direct collaboration with the miners and using participants and industry members already in place, rather than reinventing the wheel, Moyo will become a scalable project that could be replicated at other artisanal mining sites.

For now, I’m excited to see how this pilot program progresses.

To read more about it or learn how to purchase the miners’ gems, visit MoyoGems.com.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

The Latest

MajorsJan 30, 2023
Researchers Uncover Bejeweled ‘Golden Boy’ Mummy

The ancient Egyptian teenager was buried 2,300 years ago with 49 amulets to guide him through the afterlife.

SurveysJan 30, 2023
Consumers Embracing Non-Traditional Ways to Mark Valentine’s Day

The NRF’s annual survey shows that consumer attitudes about how, or even whether, to celebrate Feb. 14 continue to evolve.

Events & AwardsJan 30, 2023
JA Is Searching for the Next Retail ’20 Under 40’

Nominations are open now through March 24.

Brought to you by
Bringing Over 130 Years of Diamond Expertise to Modern Grading

De Beers Institute of Diamonds provides the very best in diamond verification, education and diamond services.

MajorsJan 30, 2023
10 Jewelry News Stories You Might Have Missed

A column detailing how independent jewelers did last year and the top watch brands of 2022 were among the most-read stories last week.

Weekly QuizJan 26, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
FinancialsJan 27, 2023
Tiffany & Co. Shines for LVMH in 2022

Acquired in 2021, the brand’s high jewelry sales have doubled and its new “Lock” collection was an instant hit.

MajorsJan 27, 2023
Diamond Council of America Appoints Treasurer, Board Member

Executives from Fred Meyer Jewelers and Riddles Jewelers have filled the roles.

Brought to you by
De Beers Institute of Diamonds Expands to Offer Education

De Beers is sharing over 130 years of experience and expertise through the De Beers Institute of Diamonds with a selection of courses.

CollectionsJan 27, 2023
Piece of the Week: Heavenly Vices’ Lock Necklace

The Victorian-inspired design is a functional lock and key.

Supplier BulletinJan 26, 2023
JA New York Spring Brings the Industry Together

For over 100 years, JA New York has played an integral role in facilitating the evolution of our industry, while also honoring past traditions.

TrendsJan 26, 2023
At Vicenzaoro, Paola De Luca Gazes Into Jewelry’s Future

The trend forecaster and her guests explored unconventional jewelry designs, NFTs, AI art, and more during her Trendvision presentation.

CollectionsJan 26, 2023
NDC and Lorraine Schwartz Announce New ‘EDDI’ Class

The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative provides diamond credit and mentorship to young brands helmed by BIPOC designers.

IndependentsJan 26, 2023
Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry Set to Open 10th Store

It will be located in San Antonio’s Alamo Quarry Market and will be Lee Michaels’ third location in the city.

Policies & IssuesJan 26, 2023
Diamonds Do Good Names 10 to Board of Directors

Stephanie Gottlieb, Jewelers Mutual’s Mike Alexander, and Craig Rottenberg of Long’s Jewelers are among the new board members.

WatchesJan 25, 2023
These Were 2022’s Top-Selling Watch Brands, Chrono24 Says

Rolex remained No. 1 while a brand known for its pilot watches slipped into the No. 5 spot.

MajorsJan 25, 2023
John Hardy Names New CEO

Luxury retail executive Frédéric Levy has taken on the role.

Events & AwardsJan 25, 2023
Couture DAC Accepting Applications for Mentorship Program

Jewelry designers have until early February to apply to take part in Couture's Diversity Action Council program.

CollectionsJan 25, 2023
Stephanie Gottlieb Announces First President, CCO Hire

Morgan P. Richardson joins from La Perla.

Policies & IssuesJan 25, 2023
PGI’s New Portal Wants to Teach You About Platinum

The new portal will share information on responsible platinum sourcing and how it’s used beyond jewelry.

SourcingJan 24, 2023
Tiffany Buys 35 of the Last Diamonds Recovered From Argyle

Purchased directly from Rio Tinto, the collection consists of pinks, purples and one red, none larger than 1.52 carats.

ColumnistsJan 24, 2023
On Data: Here’s How Independent Jewelers Did in 2022

Sherry Smith breaks down retailers’ performance last year, including how natural diamonds fared vs. lab-grown.

GradingJan 24, 2023
GIA and AGS Launch Diamond Light Performance Supplement Report

The AGS Ideal Report by GIA is a digital-only addition to GIA diamond reports.

MajorsJan 24, 2023
WJA Announces New International Board Members

The seven newcomers include executives from David Yurman, De Beers, and GIA.

Policies & IssuesJan 23, 2023
Melanie Grant Named Executive Director of RJC

She has more than 20 years’ experience in watches and jewelry, and says sustainability is the “greatest single issue” facing the industry.

Policies & IssuesJan 23, 2023
AGTA Forms Committee to Standardize Industry ‘Sustainability’ Terms

Its focus are words like “sustainability,” “ethics,” and “responsible sourcing.”

IndependentsJan 23, 2023
10 Jewelry News Stories You Might Have Missed

Another “Designer to Watch” and Kim Kardashian’s auction purchase were among our most-read stories.

MajorsJan 20, 2023
Quality Gold Acquires Herco

Herco President Reuven Itelman is retiring and selling the company, which will relocate to Ohio from California.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy