According to reports, the Taliban has recently seized two formerly non-operational emerald mines in Pakistan. It is feared that the insurgents will use the proceeds to purchase mortars, roadside bombs and suicide belts to be unleashed toward war efforts.
The seized emerald mines are located in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan. The region is known to produce relatively small quantities of poor-quality gemstones. Due to their inferior quality, Swat emeralds are most often cut very small and used as accents in jewelry. Because the emeralds are typically cut so small, they are difficult to trace, making them far easier to push into the international market if jewelers are not carefully tracking and verifying origin for their gems.
Colored gems are notoriously difficult to trace. Despite various regulations that have been made against colored gems, such as the U.S. boycott against Burmese gems in 2008, controversial gems are still making their way into international markets. Once absorbed into these markets, the gems are not only fuelling the war efforts of groups like the Taliban, but the trade of these gems is also supporting atrocious human rights violations such as child labor and low wages, which are especially common in the emerald trade.
While any regulatory efforts should be applauded, it is quite difficult to keep gems like these out of legitimate markets. The only way to ensure that you are not taking part in the trade of these controversial gems is to be completely aware where your gems originate from. Conscious consumers should always ask for certification of origin when purchasing jewelry.
Brilliant Earth is committed to sourcing gemstones solely from mines that practice social and environmental responsibility. Our partners in Colombia are breaking ground in the ethical origin jewelry industry by working to develop certification standards for fair trade emeralds. All of our emerald jewelry pieces will always come with a Certificate of Origin that guarantees their ethical origin.
Read more about colored gemstone issues facing the jewelry industry.