Gemfields is a company I’ve been following since I first met Sean Gilbertson, then the company’s CEO, in 2008 at the India International Jewellery Show in Mumbai. At that time the company had recently purchased a 75 percent stake in the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia and planned to increase its production. Days later it opened a cutting and polishing facility in Jaipur, India, dedicated for the processing of emeralds that came from the mine. But owning the mine and increasing production were just two steps in an ambitious program with the following goals:
* Build an exclusive network of manufacturers to purchase rough as well as cut and polished emeralds;
* Create a certification program that will tell consumers, among other things, the gem's origin or whether it is treated;
* Have third-party certification of the mine's environmental and social impact; and
* Develop a marketing program that will be used throughout the supply chain.
The idea, Gilbertson said at the time, was to produce emeralds whose origins can be traced from the mine to the retail jeweller so consumers will know the history of each stone.
“We want to provide rough, and cut and polished gemstones to the market in a timely and ethical fashion”, Gilbertson, who now serves as executive director of the company, said at our first meeting. “This gives people an unprecedented level of confidence that the Gemfields emerald they purchase is a credible product”.
The company was churning along until the economy collapsed and it then went into survival mode. The company is now back and doing quite well, with its share price up 340 percent during the past year. It reported its first profit ($2.6 million) for the first half of 2010 and continued the momentum with $15.5 million in earnings for the second half of 2010. This past week, a rough emerald auction of 740,000 carats of predominantly high-quality rough emeralds in Singapore took in a company record of $31.6 million.
“The results are testament to the company’s ongoing focus on marketing to both consumers and retailers, and the quality and consistency of the emeralds produced at Kagem,” said Ian Harebottle, Gemfields current chief executive.
In another twist, Gemfields is owned by Pallinghurst Resources, an investment holding company that also owns the Fabergé brand. Emeralds from Kagem are being used to create jewellery sold by Fabergé.
Much of this infrastructure to create a mine-to-market initiative has yet to be implemented. However, Harebottle insists that the recent success of Gemfields is due to the fact that it provides natural, untreated emeralds from a single mine that are reliable and ethically produced.
“We are seeing a significant increase in global demand for Gemfields’ ability to provide a consistent supply of well graded and ethically sourced emeralds”, he said.