28 January 2019

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Here is part two of our newsletter on ethics. We had a great time asking you questions and reading your answers. This month, we invite you to learn how mines work in Madagascar and how a state-of-the-art emerald mine in Brazil is struggling to preserve the environment by protecting the surrounding flora and fauna.


Pierres de Charme




We’ve had the opportunity to discuss with the owner of several mines, in Madagascar, who kindly explained to us the dynamics between the diggers and their owner. It all boils down to trust, help and reciprocity.


The owner of the mine provides with the techniques, equipment and tools, as well as food (mainly sacks of rice) and health care for the digger and his family. The teams are usually composed of 12 to 15 diggers. No children work at the mines and there are very few accidents.


Diggers are well trained on the techniques to be used and, moreover, they receive preventive advice. The stones that they find belong to them. The only condition is that the owner of the mine can have the first right of inspection and that he offers a fair price for the lot. The stones are then cut in a workshop of 7 lapidaries in the capital of Antananarivo.


There are 18 ethnic groups living in Madagascar. The mine hires local diggers and respects the territories and their inhabitants. There needs to be jobs and an economy where none exist.


Pierres de Charme


The anecdote of the vegetable garden


One day, when going to the mine, the owner realizes that the village could benefit from a collective garden. Indeed, every day the inhabitants eat rice and meat, but no vegetables. The villagers explain to him that it is impossible to grow anything on this land. Without a large water source, they cannot actually grow vegetables. Thus he decides to have 4 wells dug in different places in the village - one of 7 meters deep and 3 of 21 meters - and to create a vegetable garden of 1000 m2. He then invites a gardener friend from France and hires 3 locals to help him start growing the garden.

His plan is that once the kitchen garden is up and running, the locals become responsible for managing it, much like a cooperative. Every villager has to work two hours a week and in return they get a basket of vegetables.


The National Day of Madagascar being soon, he decides to organize a big fair for all the villagers. Music, dance, food and games are on the program. This is an opportunity for him to make a census that will serve to plan the garden. Invitations are therefore sent to each respondent.


Three months later, the vegetables grow in large quantities; onions, tomatoes, asparagus, eggplant, herbs and much more. The French gardener leaves the village, his work being finished. All there is left to do is water the vegetables, weed the garden and keep it alive.

Back for a visit at the village, the gardener finds an abandoned garden. The villagers have eaten all the vegetables, but overlooked its maintainance! It is sometimes difficult to empower people and change their habits.


Pierres de Charme




The vast majority of emeralds that you find at Pierres de Charme come from Brazil and we buy them directly from the mine. This mine is located on the land of the owner's family farm, which is about fifteen kilometers from Itabira, in Minas Gerais (which means “collective mines”), thus respect for this land and the environment has always been an important matter there.

The family began to mine the open pit right after the discovery of the deposit, in 1978. Today, there are two other underground mines in operation. Underground mines produce much less waste than open pit mines. The environment is taken into account from the start right up to the end of operations.


Here are some of the measures that were taken by the company:


Recovery and filtration of water. The water used for stone extraction contains particles of minerals that can contaminate it. Used water is transferred to a filtration system consisting of 7 ponds at different levels. The water passes from one basin to another before being completely filtered and then returned to the river.


Mine filling. Soil residues or minerals that do not contain emeralds are set aside and strategically placed. Once the original open-pit mine no longer produces, it is then filled with residue from other underground mines. The surface can then be reforested. The whole process lasts about ten years.


Reforestation. The mine manager owns a degree in environmental engineering and the mine is totally responsible for reforestation. A nursery grows native trees that are planted once the original mine is filled. Fauna and flora surveys are done on a regular basis to ensure that the same number of animals return to the forest once it is renewed.


Reduction of distances. The land that is removed is relocated in places that require to travel as little distance as possible. The residues are moved to mined places so as not to contribute to the degradation of untouched land.


Today, this mine is one of the most sophisticated colour stone mines on the planet and we are extremely proud to be working with them.


Pierres de Charme


Determination of origin


During my trip to Bangkok, I attended a discussion led by Wim Vertriest, M. Sc, GIA, GG, FGA, Supervisor of Field Gemology Department at GIA, about new sources of sapphires and emeralds in Ethiopia. We already knew that the origin is determined by comparison between different samples. Here are the different types of samples used for these searches, sorted in order of reliability.


Samples collected by the gemologist from the mine

Samples collected by the miner directly at the mine, under the supervision of the gemologist

Samples collected at the mine without the gemologist having witnessed the extraction


Samples collected by the miner but exchanged elsewhere than at the mine

Samples collected at the market near the mine

Samples obtained at gem shows.


These laboratories have thousands of samples and they analyze each of them to see the different levels of mineral concentration and inclusions present, as well as their reactions to various tests. When you send stones to the laboratory, the data obtained is compared to that of their samples.


Pierres de Charme


Question results:

  • How often do you receive requests for ethical stones? Almost never
  • Does your business model is focused on the ethical side of jewelery? 82% yes and 18% no
  • Is the origin of a stone important to you? 90% yes and 10% no
  • Are your customers looking for stones with a specific origin? 63% yes and 37% no
  • Do you favor mining on a small scale or on a large scale? 88% small scale and 12% large scale

Pierres de Charme
620 Cathcart street, #310
Montreal, Québec,
H3B 1M1

Opening hours :
Monday to friday 9h to 12h and 1h to 5h pm or by appointment

Gemmologist & Gems Dealer
+1 (438) 384-1284


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