The gold seekers of yesteryear knew it well: to find the precious metal you always have to go a little further. Dev Shetty is not looking for gold, but for gems. Emeralds, rubies, sapphires. After many years at Gemfields, one of the largest gemstone mining companies on the planet, with which he had built the world‘s largest mine for emeralds in Zambia and rubies in Mozambique, he needed to go further. . «I had transformed a loss-making company into one of the most important suppliers of these gems, I felt it was time for new challenges», he explains. And this is how he founded Fura Gems in 2017: in six years from a start-up in the sector, it has grown to become one of its leaders, the only one to deal with all the three most important gems on the market, with 1,600 employees on four continents and which manages the largest sapphire mine in the world (in Australia) and two of the largest for emeralds (in Colombia) and rubies (in Mozambique). From the latter last July the Estrela De Fura was extracted, a gem with a record size of 101 carats (see the description on the page).
But Shetty’s biggest challenge goes far beyond the numbers: it’s about reorganizing the gem industry, a giant worth about 20 billion dollars, in a truly sustainable way. «Unlike those of gold and diamonds, which are historically more organized and concentrated, the colored gem industry is highly fragmented in all its phases, from the mine to the shop-he explains. Information on the origin of a gem can be lost easily or is not recorded in a coherent way, because there is a lack of shared and standardized systems. But now, driven by the increase in demand for gems on the market and their sustainability on the part of consumers, especially the younger ones, our industry is recovering quickly, also thanks to technology».
Fura Gems was one of the founders and among the first companies to adopt the Provenance Proof blockchain system, developed in collaboration with Gübelin Gem Lab and Everledger, and designed precisely to follow the journey of gems in all its phases: «We have done a lot research to develop this tool – continues Shetty -, but today it allows us to obtain an unalterable record of the data of each gem, data that form a single digital certificate and which can be easily verified by stakeholders and consumers via a special platform». The blockchain will also be applied immediately to blue sapphires that Fura will soon start extracting from the recently acquired mines in Madagascar, with which it will further expand its offer of certified gems.
But alongside those in the indispensable technology, Fura Gems also allocates its investments to the essential protection of people and the environment: «For us, the relationship with local communities is crucial – continues the CEO -. We have involved about 20 thousand people in our projects, we invest in training and education programs, through our Fura Training Academy (a school has been opened in Napula, in the Montepuez mining area in Mozambique, ndr) and we contribute to the development of activities not directly connected to the mine, such as agriculture and livestock, to create a more diversified and therefore more resilient local economy. We want to minimize the environmental impact of our activities: in Colombia, for example, we aim to reduce our emissions to zero by 2027; in Mozambique every year we restore about half of the excavated land to its original state, in Australia we are already at 80%».
In recent years, the jewelry industry has made a lot of progress in terms of sustainability and ethics, but it is also true that its extreme fragmentation has made this path slower than that of other sectors: «Yes, a lot has been done, even thanks to the work of organizations such as the Responsible Jewelery Council (Fura is awaiting its certification, ndr), the Cibjo, to international regulations such as the Kimberley Process and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – concludes Shetty -. But much work still remains to be done. We want to contribute.” The pioneers, even those of gems, do not stop.