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Gemstone miner Gemfields, which operates the Kagem mine, in Zambia, and the Montepuez ruby mine, in Mozambique, has identified “huge potential” to market Zambia’s responsibly-sourced emeralds to consumers in China, the miner reveals in its first report on coloured gemstones in China.

The report, titled ‘Sustainability: The Future of Coloured Gemstones in China’ reveals that now is the time to seize the opportunity of meeting Chinese consumers’ expectations of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

It also shows that up to 35% of Chinese jewellery owners plan to buy rubies, and 25% hope to acquire emeralds in the near future, pointing to an opportunity for the coloured gemstone industry if pieces are correctly marketed.

The Kagem mine is owned in partnership with the Zambian government’s Industrial Development Corporation. According to the miner, all proceeds from the sale of Kagem’s emeralds are repatriated back to Zambia, generating tax revenue for the government, as well as employment and associated economic growth.

Based on extensive qualitative and quantitative research among gemstone owners across China’s different regions, city tiers and levels of affluence, the findings of the report provide a set of clear conclusions on the preferences and behaviours of gemstone owners in China across diverse demographics and geographies.

Gemfields CEO Sean Gilbertson says China is a very important market to Gemfields and integral to the company’s growth.

“It is highly positive that 97% of jewellery owners are willing to pay a premium for responsibly-mined gemstones.”

In this regard, he says, it can be expected that responsible sourcing will continue to receive ever-increasing attention, and become progressively more important to Chinese jewellery buyers.

In addition, all jewellery consumers surveyed consider it “slightly important to very important” that a brand acts in environmentally and socially responsible ways. Specifically, the report finds that younger consumers aged between 21 and 38 in Tier 1 cities state that environmentally and socially responsible mining is “very important”.

Further, the report finds that, for 92% of respondents, clarity of a gemstone is the most important factor when making a buying decision, while 85% view carat (weight) as the most important, closely followed by colour at 83% and cut (design) at 82%.

Gemfields notes that the four Cs (clarity, carat, cut and colour) were first applied by the diamond industry to inform consumers’ buying decisions, and in the coloured gemstone industry, six Cs are required, with the addition of character and certification.

“While a familiarity with the four Cs is heartening, improving understanding of these two additional factors among Chinese consumers could add to the appeal of coloured gemstones and boost their popularity, thus further marketing could be advantageous in these areas,” the miner states.

Notably, the report also reveals that 76% of respondents think price is the most important factor, making it of less significance than the gemstone itself.

Gemfields marketing and communications director Emily Dungey says it is encouraging to see that it is the gemstone itself – in terms of clarity, colour, carat and cut – that is the decisive factor in a purchase decision on gemstones.

“The research also indicated that an overwhelming number of consumers are specifically seeking coloured gemstones set in more contemporary jewellery designs, as well as advice on how to style coloured gems with their look.”

Therefore, she says there is an opportunity to increase the popularity of coloured gemstones by focusing marketing efforts on modern design concepts and creative, personalised styling.