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Emerald speak: Colombia sets the scene for the First International Emerald Symposium

By Cynthia Unninayar

Emerald and diamond ring by Yael Designs.

Organized by Fedesmeraldas—the Colombian Emerald Federation—with support from the country’s emerald-related bodies, including the governmental Ministry of Mines and Energy, the First International Emerald Symposium was held Oct. 13 to 15 in the nation’s capital city of Bogotá.

It was the first time producer countries have come together at a high-level global gathering to discuss issues relating to the emerald business. Many stakeholders in the international precious gemstone and jewellery industry attended, as well as governmental and private delegations from Zambia, Brazil, and Afghanistan. In attendance were also representatives of the major international trade organizations and laboratories, including:

• International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA);

• American Gem Trade Association (AGTA);

• World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO);

• Instituto Brasileiro de Gemas e Metais Preciosos (IBGM);

• Gemological Institute of America (GIA)

• Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS); and

• Gübelin.

Attracting some 200 local attendees and more than 150 international participants, speakers at the conference addressed many issues and concerns relating to the emerald trade, not only in Colombia, but around the world. Topics included resource management, traceability, ethics, manufacturing, treatments, certification, nomenclature, technology, consumer education, risks, security, marketing, and branding.

After the opening ceremonies, Maria Isabel Ulloa, vice-minister of mines, provided background on the Colombian emerald industry and how it is changing. Her main point dealt with the issue of transparency. “Currently some 63 per cent of mining activity is carried out without meeting legal requirements or paying taxes. We need to formalize the industry,” she said. “The Colombian emerald industry has reached a milestone and must be inclusive and competitive. International players are arriving and raising the bar for Colombia. We support them and our emerald industry must adapt to rigorous international standards.”

 [Left to right] Jean Claude Michelou (moderator), Oscar Baquero (Fedesmeraldas), Gerry Manning (AGTA), Sean Gilbertson (Gemfields), and Charles Burgess (Muzo) at a discussion about theft and robberies in the mines.
[Left to right] Jean Claude Michelou (moderator), Oscar Baquero (Fedesmeraldas), Gerry Manning (AGTA), Sean Gilbertson (Gemfields), and Charles Burgess (Muzo) at a discussion about theft and robberies in the mines.
Santiago Ángel, president of Asociación Colombiana de Minería (ACM), declared Colombia is open for business, reiterating the vice-minister’s comments the country welcomes and supports big players to the emerald scene, such as U.K.-based Gemfields and Minería Texas Colombia (MTC), which is a division of U.S.-based Muzo Emerald Colombia, formerly known as Muzo International. “They are important to our economy, and bring investment and higher standards to our industry.”

“Colombian emeralds are very much a gemstone of the present,” said Luis Gabriel Angarita, president of the Colombian Association of Emerald Exporters (ACODES). “Approximately two million carats worth $147 million U.S. were exported last year, mostly to North America.

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