In response to the recent alleged smuggling of an astounding 1,179-pound rough emerald from Madagascar, the African island nation’s government imposed a ban on the export of all gemstones. While it has continued to haggle over the emerald’s return with a French company that claims ownership, the country is once again exporting cut and finished stones, but not rough stones, causing a shakeup in the industry.
Madagascar is one of the world’s most prolific sources of rubies and sapphires, but it has had a huge problem with smuggling in the past, which prevented the stones’ revenue from filtering back into the country’s economy and relieving the widespread poverty of its people.
In the wake of the giant emerald debacle, the government has decided to only allow export of cut and polished, or “transformed,” stones. The argument of the Ministry of Energy and Mines is that this policy will encourage development of the gemstone-cutting, or lapidary, industry in Madagascar. It is thought that the increased value of the transformed stones will benefit the local economy and the mining industry. The Ministry also hopes that the policy will encourage the establishment of foreign stone-cutting companies in Madagascar, employing local stone cutters and facilitating sustainable development.
Toward the same end, since 2003 the Institute of Gemology of Madagascar (IGM) has been working to provide lapidary training and resources to Madagascar workers in order to build a self-sustaining local gemstone-cutting industry. Brilliant Earth has recently teamed up with the IGM to provide two full scholarships in lapidary training to disabled workers. For more information, visit http://www.brilliantearth.com/giving-back-IGM.aspx