They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Not this one’s, though – I’ve always had a penchant for emeralds. As a child, summer holidays at my Spanish grandma’s home would start with a rummage through her jewellery boxes; inside, the tissue-wrapped packages were labelled in her immaculate copperplate writing. My favourite piece was an emerald ring that had been passed down from her mother. To me, it seemed as if that ring, with its rich green stones, was imbued with magical powers – I couldn’t wait for it to be mine.
Fast-forward more years than I care to remember and my love of the green gem remains. So when the opportunity arose recently to meet with the team at Gemfields – the world’s largest supplier of emeralds – I jumped at the chance. Gemfields is a remarkable company in many ways. In an industry sometimes tainted by questionable practices, Gemfields’ ethos rests on the production of gems that are ethically mined and distributed. Its Kagem mine in Zambia, for example, has funded the creation of community schools, a medical centre and an agricultural-assistance programme in the area. The 2010 Emeralds for Elephants campaign was a pop-up collection of pieces intended to raise awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant and to bring attention to the World Land Trust’s Indian Elephant Corridors Appeal.
It’s worth noting that while diamonds are more expensive, emeralds are more rare. According to Gemfields’ CEO Ian Harebottle this is because the market in coloured stones has hitherto been fragmented and under-capitalised, with formal marketing and promotion all but unheard of. Gemfields has set about changing that.
The purchase in 2012 of Fabergé brought fine-jewellery pedigree to the brand. More recent collaborations with hot young designers, such as Jordan Askill, Fernando Jorge and Dominic Jones, added a fashionable element. Completing the potent branding mix was the splash of celebrity sparkle from Gemfields-jewellery-toting stars Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson, Eva Longoria and Victoria Beckham.
As a professional jewellery trendspotter, this one’s a no-brainer for me. Demand for coloured precious gemstones is on the up. In 2011 global imports of coloured gemstones were worth $2.4bn – up 36 per cent on the previous year. Unsurprisingly, Gemfields’ next move is the expansion of its portfolio into the ruby and amethyst markets.
This February, Gemfields announced doe-eyed actress Mila Kunis as its new brand ambassador. In an advertising campaign photographed by Mario Sorrenti and styled by Vogue Italia’s Anastasia Barbieri, Kunis looks simultaneously sassy and elegant in an array of exquisite one-of-a-kind pieces created by the likes of Alexandra Mor, Shaun Leane, Dominic Jones, The Gem Palace, Sutra and Fabergé.
March 14 will see the debut of Gemfields’ exclusive jewellery collection created in collaboration with 37 international designers. They include Michelle Obama’s favourite Dickson Yewn, whose striking angular ring features a Mozambique ruby (first picture, $64,800); Hoorsenbuhs, whose elegant wraparound cuff is set with Zambian emeralds (second picture, $75,000); and Solange Azagury-Partridge’s Mozambique ruby-set tasselled tear-drop earrings (third picture, £55,000). The pieces are being launched at a gala event, and will be available to buy from the designers directly.
“These are heirlooms to be passed from generation to generation,” says Harebottle. As I glance at the magic emerald ring on my finger, I know what he means.