There are few things more desirable and precious than gemstones. Once they have been cut to catch the light just right, and expertly set in precious metals to complete a piece of jewelry, gems are undeniably beautiful in their final form. However, behind every gemstone is a long supply chain, often involving miners, brokers and multiple traders across national and international markets, before landing on elegant shop floors and ultimately into your hands. And unfortunately, this journey, from the mine to your jewelry box, tends to be far from beautiful.
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, working conditions, health and safety, and human rights protections are often violated or go unregulated, and miners, their communities and their surrounding environments are often left to deal with the worst consequences. This is especially true when it comes to Artisanal and Small-scale mining (ASM), and up to 80% of gemstones are acquired this way. In short, gem mining can be wildly unethical and guilt-free gemstones are still extremely difficult to acquire.
Women Are The Future Of Gemstone Mining
There is a huge disparity between men and women miners: while women make up an estimated 30% of ASM miners, they tend to have less access to markets, education about gemology and basic business skills than their male counterparts, meaning they often end up losing out on opportunities or making less money.
The good news is, a number of non-profit organizations have launched initiatives in recent years to challenge this and build a more ethical and sustainable future for the gemstone industry.
To celebrate Earth Day, we’re shining a light on one such initiative that we at NYSSA are proud to have an ongoing partnership with, Moyo Gems, who are working towards changing the status quo for female artisanal miners in East-African countries like Tanzania and Kenya.
Many of these women turned to mining for a stable income – with other work like farming and teaching not bringing in enough income – and have been doing so over 30 years. They have children and grandchildren, and dreams to one day build their own jewelry and training businesses with the profits from their mining work.
How Moyo Gems Are Changing Lives For Female Miners
Miners have full financial freedom Moyo Gems miners are self-employed with their own mining claims that they work themselves. They have complete freedom to sell their gem findings elsewhere or into the Moyo Gems program, where they are paid based on the individual gemstones they find – the type, color and clarity of the gem all factor into the negotiated price. However, they report making 3-10 times more through Moyo Gems, compared to selling per stone in their village or a regional city.
Miners have free access to vocational benefits The Moyo Gems program equips them with the tools, skills and education necessary to increase their earnings and build a better future for themselves – at zero cost. This means they have free access to occupational health and safety training, financial literacy training, gemology training (so they know about the stones they are mining), and help to secure legal mining rights where they work, making them fully legal miners in the eyes of Tanzanian law.
Miners have access to empowering NGOs that ensure ethical practices. All Moyo Gems miners are voluntarily members of the Tanzanian Women Miners Association (TAWOMA). Comprised of over 3,000 women miners across Tanzania, this NGO fights discrimination, advocates for better laws and services, and helps reach the most remote miners with the fewest resources. Plus, they ensure any new issues are brought to light and addressed with the local and national government entities.
Gems are 100% Traceable For Moyo Gems, traceability is a number one priority. Each gem is mined by an independent local miner, not a large foreign company, meaning every gemstone is traceable back to the exact person who mined it, and no information is lost through the supply chain through innovative tracing and tracking.
When you choose Nyrelle, you choose conscious fines
It’s safe to say, Moyo Gems are doing everything they can to build a more ethical future for the gem industry and give female miners more opportunities and access to fair and ethical working environments.
Thus, we chose to source many of our colored gemstones from them to craft our own conscious jewelry, so you can feel as good as you look and wear your fines guilt-free. This partnership is one of the biggest steps we’ve taken towards 100% traceability, along with strictly working with recycled and fair trade gold and conflict-free diamonds. Change starts with small steps, but Moyo Gems are already taking big strides towards an ethical gem future, and we’re proud to be a part of that journey.
Read more about why ethical and traceable gemstones are important for both you and the planet here.