May 1998

Gemstones & Pearls:News

Production & Trading

Developing Colombia's industry

Colombia's Ministry of Mines is prepared to support development of the country's emerald industry, according to Orlando Cabrales, who heads the ministry. That's a simple but important statement, given current low production levels and the need to develop new sources.

Experts suggest using newer mining technology designed to maximize yield and minimize damage to emerald crystals. (Many of the fissures so common in emeralds are caused by dynamite blasting at the mines.)

In addition, the country plans to allocate money to create value-added emerald industries, says Carlos Ronderos Torres, minister of foreign trade. "We have already done it for Colombian coffee and flowers," he says. Along these lines, Lazaro Mejia, general manager of ProExport, and Jose A. Duran, president of Fedesmeralda, called for the establishment of a "national emerald fund" to develop training in gemology and jewelry making. Duran also called for domestic tax reforms to stimulate the development of value-added industries in Colombia.

Debating a Bourse
Emerald dealers are divided on how emeralds should be marketed. Some favor a bourse or free-trade zone in Colombia. Torres favors a bourse because it would be consumer-oriented. But Colombia's independent miners are opposed. "It would create a monopoly by large dealers that would wipe us out," says one.

"A bourse is a responsible place to do business, and you need a new way to do business," argues Eli Izhakoff, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses. "Bourses are charged with protecting the interests of all members, and to be successful, bourses have to cut across all strata of society." Izhakoff lists these positive aspects of a bourse: security for buyers, a code of ethics and a gathering place. "If you create a bourse, buyers will come," he predicts. "Buyers will not come to two thousand offices spread all over Bogota."

The emerald industry is growing up internationally and in Colombia and the World Emerald Congress represented an important step in solving some of the growing pains.

"We feel the World Emerald Congress is going to help change Colombia's image in the eyes of the world," says Francisco Grijalba, general manager at state-run Mineralco, which administers the production and promotion of emeralds. "The success of this congress also will stimulate the government to provide us with the means and tools to increase education we sorely need to stimulate mining production and exports of cut stones and finished jewelry. The historic link between emeralds, silver and gold should never be forgotten; Colombian emeralds should always glisten in the world's finest jewelry."

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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