How We Source Our Gems
Traceability + responsibility = positive impact.
Our value chain was built to be traceable and responsible, and aligned to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Because, if you know where your money is going ultimately, you know the story. And if we can point to a source on a map, it means we can go visit and see for ourselves how people are working and living. We can see what challenges and problems there are at source, what impact our business is having on our suppliers, their communities, and environments, and how we can help more.
For decades, the global gem routes from mines to cutting workshops, via a network of gem merchants, have remained opaque. But at Juraster, we want to turn this around.
Our mission is to set the touchstone standard for quality, design, and ethics for you, as well as to ensure a better deal for the people and places where nature’s treasures come from. To improve both ends of the value chain, we intend to lead in responsible and 100% traceable sourcing. It’s going to be a journey, but we are well on our way.
- Our diamonds built a nation. Learn more.
- No to synthetic lab-grown diamonds. Learn more.
- Our pearls preserve marine ecosystems. Learn more.
But there’s more for us work on.
We still can’t trace our moonstone, chrysoprase and labradorite to their mines of origin. This is because lower value gems like these are mixed up, graded and bulk batched by multiple merchants and cutters, so they are difficult to separate out. With time though, we will find direct sources we can work with, and tell you about.
How we source our diamonds
De Beers mine -> sight-holder cutting factory -> Juraster jewellery workshop.
You’ll know from pictures on the internet that diamonds are mined in large scale, machinery intense operations. This is because of the way that diamonds are found and their much higher relative value due to their importance for industrial usage – not just as beautiful gems.
Only a few countries on Earth possess diamonds, for whom they are a very important source of revenue. Thanks to the 2009 film Blood Diamond and the subsequent international policy called the Kimberley Process, every country sending rough diamonds out from their borders has to keep accounts and track where they go. This dried up trade in blood diamonds. But when rough diamonds get to their destinations – the merchants and cutters who process them into cut and polished gems - they will normally get mixed up with diamonds from different counties.
At Juraster we want to ensure our actions have the best possible social impact, so we source diamonds that have been mined by De Beers. In the past De Beers’ name was synonymous with monopolistic practices built on colonial privilege. But now, in our opinion, De Beers is excellent on social responsibility and transparency.
And also because the posterchild of diamond mining is Debswana - the transformational De Beers partnership with Botswana. Debswana elevated the fortunes of the nation. Botswana’s entire national infrastructure – schools, roads, hospitals – is built on diamond revenues. It also retains the onward processing of the diamonds (sorting, grading & cutting) in the country, building additional jobs and skills and helping to build a peaceful productive modern African nation.
Juraster’s diamonds are bought from one of the 250 businesses in the world called ‘sight holders’. These are diamond merchants who hold a contract to buy all the rough diamonds produced by De Beers’ mines. Buying De Beers’ diamonds means we know that about 80% of our diamonds come from Botswana with the rest coming from De Beers’ operations in Canada and Namibia.
In De Beers’ words:
Our stringent sourcing procedures, selection processes and certification requirements mean that the diamonds in every piece of De Beers jewellery are guaranteed to be ethically produced and 100 per cent conflict-free.
Although the diamonds in your Juraster designs don’t have any certification for the actual source of the diamonds, our Joy Guarantee provides De Beers traceability via the System of Warranties scheme and a statement that the rough is Kimberley Process compliant and up to the highest ethical standards of supply.
De Beers are also the lead advisers on GemFair, a new pioneering artisanal diamond mining scheme in Sierra Leone, where the 2009 film Blood Diamond was set. Although GemFair diamonds are not available yet, it will have an incredibly positive impact on the co-ops of local miners and their communities and land. We at Juraster want to be the first to bring GemFair diamonds to you.
Natural v synthetic lab-grown diamonds
We know you want to invest well. So, we set Juraster with natural diamonds only because synthetic lab-grown diamonds have no residual resell value. Meaning once you’ve bought them, they’re worthless.
From an ecological perspective, we all know that mining produces quantities of carbon. And synthetic diamond retailers like to claim their carbon costs are lower than mining. But this simply isn’t true. An independent report backed by Livia Firth in 2019 revealed that 160 kgs of CO2 are emitted per polished carat of mined diamonds compared to 511kgs of CO2 for an equivalent lab-grown synthetic diamonds.
We have found only one lab-grown synthetic diamond producer, in the USA, that claims to use 100% renewable electricity. Carbon offset claims from other manufacturers such as investment in forestry need decades to take effect, but the planet needs help right now.
The most transparent miners like De Beers’, set ambitious SDG goals, and publish their carbon offset and ecological regeneration schemes.
Ultimately, we want to offer you GemFair diamonds from Sierra Leone, that are artisanally mined and have much lower carbon emissions and high positive social impact. But until they are available, we will focus on using De Beers sourced diamonds because of their positive SDG activities.
Akoya v freshwater pearls
Wearing: Wayfarer Necklace - White Gold
You love pearls too, right? We think you’ll also love the fact that Juraster only offers you pearls that come with positive impact and social benefits, because we only use Akoya (or marine) cultured pearls.
Akoya pearl farming:
- protects reefs, fish and fragile sea environments.
- provides employment and economic benefits for remote communities.
- avoids migration to cities and family break-up.
Pearls are farmed in two environments – marine and freshwater. The global jewellery market is totally dominated by cheap freshwater pearls from China. But at Juraster we only sell and work with marine Akoya pearls.
Freshwater pearls are highly unsustainable. 95% of the world’s freshwater pearls come from China where they are produced in vast numbers (2010: 1500 metric tonnes) in flooded rice paddy fields. Every young mussel is opened by hand and carefully seeded by inserting 25-50 tiny shell or plastic beads inside the shell, which the animal coats with its natural pearly covering called nacre. The farmers suspend all the mussels from string bags and ropes from floats made of old plastic bottles.
The waters are fertilised with sewage and manure to breed the algae that feed the pearl mussels. Fresh water mussels live for about 5 years when they will be opened, with the multiple pearls harvested from inside their shells. Sacks of freshwater pearls are gathered together by dealers, and these huge sacks are sent on for processing elsewhere. They are cleaned and bleached, graded, and then drilled and strung by other workers elsewhere. No individual farms or regions are traceable. Because of the sewage and manure in the water, the mussel meat is not fit for consumption and the dead mussel shells are left in huge rotting piles without being processed.
In contrast, you’ll find that marine pearl oysters need pristine seawater to grow their pearls over their natural life spans – around 5-6 years. Because the animals are so sensitive and can only grow one pearl each, they are opened under anaesthetic in a clinical sanitary process, so as not to shock them.
Juraster’s pearls are tended by two small-scale farms invested in the future despite the environmental challenges they face. The uncontrollable forces of water warming, increased CO2 and pollution pose great risk. Oysters can help decarbonisation, because they lock CO2 away in their shells. When the pearls are judged to have grown big enough to harvest and the oysters are at the end of their natural lives, they are carefully harvested, and the meat is chilled and sold on to restaurants - in Australia, Japan, and SE Asia, pearl oyster meat is a culinary delicacy.
Nothing is wasted from Akoya pearl farming, even the shells are polished and sold for use in mother-of-pearl inlays and small beads.
Image to come
Your Juraster marine pearls have all been farmed for us on two beautifully situated pearl farms in Vietnam. They are one of the very few marine cultured pearl farms that are traceable in the world (other Akoya pearls come from mixed farmers in Japan). The pearls are cleaned, bleached, graded, sized, and sorted and sold in small batches, and because the volume of production is so low and they only sell to our ethical pearl merchant, they are easy to trace.