Rough Cut: Sustainability Issues in the Coloured Gemstone Industry

46 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2010

See all articles by Sanne van der Wal

Sanne van der Wal

SOMO - Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations

Esther de Haan

SOMO

Date Written: February 9, 2010

Abstract

Global coloured gemstone industry suffers from poor working conditions Coloured gemstones such as sapphire, ruby and emerald adorn countless pieces of jewellery. However, recent field research in Thailand and Madagascar, a company survey among leading international jewellers and a literature review by SOMO all demonstrate that the world behind these gemstones does not hold much sparkle.

The retail value of coloured gemstones is estimated at US$ 10 - 15bn worldwide. Trade statistics indicate a value of nearly US$ 4bn worldwide. However, as in many other commodity chains value and sustainability issues are distributed unevenly.

People tend to earn less every step down the coloured gemstone supply chain. Many stones originate in the poorest developing countries, like Tanzania, Madagascar and Zambia. Then they go to less poor developing countries like India, China and Thailand, where they are cut and polished. And eventually they are sold to wealthy consumers in the West.

Major labour problems occur at the beginning of the production process. Child labour, health hazards, fatal accidents, low income and employment insecurity: it is mainly the miners and gemstone processing workers who suffer from these effects. To date however there are no serious industry wide sustainability initiatives in place to address and attempt to mitigate the sustainability issues that plague this sector. Whereas the gold and diamond sectors, often involving the same jewellers as the coloured gemstone industry, show that industry wide efforts are possible. It is the authors’ opinion that it is high time for the jewellery sector and other coloured stone stakeholders to start taking their responsibility.

Keywords: jewelry, gemstones, labour problems

Suggested Citation

van der Wal, Sanne and Haan, Esther de, Rough Cut: Sustainability Issues in the Coloured Gemstone Industry (February 9, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1557705 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1557705

Sanne Van der Wal (Contact Author)

SOMO - Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations ( email )

Sarphatistraat 30
Amsterdam, 1018 GL
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.somo.nl

Esther de Haan

SOMO ( email )

Sarphatistraat 30
Amsterdam, 1018 GL
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.somo.nl

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