Gem News International Gems & Gemology, Summer 2018, Vol. 54, No. 2

Gemstones and Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub

Gem cutters in Jaipur wear masks provided by AGTA.
Figure 1. Gem cutters in Jaipur were issued masks, provided by AGTA, as part of the safety measures put in place after the Hub's assessment. Photo courtesy of Lynda Lawson.

In 2016, the Tiffany & Co. Foundation awarded the University of Delaware (UD) $350,000 over the course of two years to promote responsible practices in the colored gemstone supply chain. The grant recognizes a fine minerals collection held at the University’s Mineralogical Museum that was donated in large part by the DuPont family. Out of this effort, and under the directorship of natural resource governance specialist Professor Saleem H. Ali, grew the Gemstones and Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub (GemHub), a collaboration between UD, the University of Queensland, and the University of Lausanne. Gemologist Laurent Cartier has also been an instrumental part of this partnership. The GemHub’s goals are to perform research and to connect with initiatives identified by industry, academic, and mining communities as essential to the supply chain. The GemHub’s website,, is an excellent resource for those interested in learning about and buying sustainable and ethical stones. The areas addressed by the GemHub are colored stone mining and geology, processing and manufacturing (including cutting), gender analysis of supply chains, and economic development impact.

As of June 2018, the GemHub had launched two projects. The pilot project, initiated in Jaipur, India, in early 2018, is a study of the health issues associated with gemstone manufacturing and their solutions. This effort is in partnership with the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) and Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB). As part of this program, dust and silica were monitored and cost-effective best practices for improving conditions were evaluated. From these observations, educational materials on dust and silica exposure prevention and other safety precautions, such as the distribution of face masks (figure 1) were created. Noise levels have also been measured, and information on hearing loss, along with disposable hearing protection, have been disseminated. Future steps will involve measuring whether the methods that have been implemented (wetting to minimize dust, wet mopping of cutting shops) are adequate or if further measures must be taken.

Gem testing kid given to women miners in Madagascar.
Figure 2. The women miners in Madagascar use the gem testing kit, which includes tweezers, a bowl, a loupe, a dichroscope, and a scoop. Photo courtesy of Lynda Lawson.

The second project is a continuation of the work performed by Lynda Lawson, one of the GemHub’s research associates, and focuses on artisanal miner education in Madagascar. Women miners in the region of Atsimo Andrefana were taught field gemology essentials and provided with tools for identification (figure 2), even learning to make and use a simple dichroscope. The women were also taught basic lapidary skills, allowing them to make their own jewelry for sale. In the most recent training, the miners have been taught to identify characteristics of stones that are easily confused, such as topaz and quartz; women who had taken previous courses acted as peer coaches. The women have maintained their skills and tools, and the project has been extended through the end of 2018. Future steps will include working with the women to find more profitable markets for the small stones they find (primarily pink, purple, and orange sapphires).

Furthering the GemHub’s mission, the Unidel Foundation awarded a grant to the University of Delaware to develop the “Minerals, Materials and Society,” an interdisciplinary graduate certificate program due to launch at UD in 2020. The program, which will be offered online and on campus, will be designed for the multiple sectors that need to understand and address supply chain issues, including members of the jewelry industry along with geologists, economists, and government employees. The program’s signature project will be the Jewelry Development Impact Index (JDI), a project first discussed at the 2017 Jewelry Industry Summit in Tucson, Arizona and later championed by the U.S. Department of State. The JDI’s goal is to measure the gem and jewelry industry’s impact on the economic and social well-being of the countries in which they operate while establishing replicable examples of responsible activity and transparency. UD will hold a JDI Methodology Workshop on September 6, 2018 in Newark, Delaware. Those interested in participating should contact program development manager Patricia Syvrud at

Jennifer-Lynn Archuleta is the editor of Gems & Gemology. Aaron Palke is a senior research scientist at GIA in Carlsbad, California.