Join us for our weekly BAJ:Insight on the latest industry trends by Rachael Taylor, a freelance journalist who writes about jewellery for a number of titles, including The Financial Times, The Jewellery Editor and Retail Jeweller. In her 10 years reporting on the industry, she has travelled the globe to visit key industry fairs, descended a Fairtrade gold mine on top of a Peruvian mountain, toured silver jewellery factories in Thailand, and regularly has access to the most sparkling jewels and people in the business.
A small room, up a couple of flights of stairs in an office block just off Hatton Garden, was the place to be this week. Huddled into this tiny space were three companies specialising in the sourcing and selling of fairly traded gemstones, and their combined presence attracted jewellers from as far away as Scotland.
While an exact name for this miniature exhibition wasn’t entirely honed down, let’s call it the Ethical Gems Fair. And it should have a name, because if the streams of customers jostling to view opals and sapphires and the like were anything to go by, it should hopefully make a return.
The three companies taking part were: Capricorn Gems, purveyor of untreated gemstones from Australia’s Queensland; Fair Trade Gemstones, a London-based supplier of diamonds and coloured gems; and Nineteen48, seller of fully traceable gems from far-flung places like Sri Lanka. What unites them, other than selling gemstones, is a desire to trade only in ethically sourced stones.
Capricorn Gems – Purveyor of untreated gemstones from Australia’s Queensland
Fair Trade Gemstones – a London-based supplier of diamonds and coloured gems
Nineteen48 – Seller of fully traceable gems
This trio of companies had no idea what would await them during this one-day showcase. In fact, Nineteen48 founder Stuart Pool joked that he had expected to be drinking tea and eating biscuits in an empty room all day; as it turned out, friends who had turned up just to support him in this imagined lonely venture couldn’t even get through the door to say hello.
Nineteen48 founder – Stuart Pool (right)
Indeed, when I was there, seeing a gem or talking to a supplier involved a lot of waiting around, and a gentle spot of muscling in. This was late in the afternoon, and I was told it had been a similar scene since first thing that morning.
What I, and the suppliers and jewellers at the show, took from this steady swathe of buyers is that there is a huge interest in, and demand for, gems with transparent supply chains. Grouping companies committed to such practices under the guise of a dedicated exhibition only makes it easier for jewellers to get their hands on such stones. And I have to say that, as a veteran of all the international jewellery trade shows, it was hugely refreshing to actually see some orders being placed at a show. Long may the hype continue.