Impressions of the Journey
Our Process of Sapphire Sourcing – Mine to market
Finding natural treasures doesn’t happen purely by luck. In the island nation of Sri Lanka, finding treasure has been an art that has been perfected for thousands of years. Sri Lanka has produced the world’s most prized gemstones. The sapphires that come from the country are famous, and we also see many other types of beautiful rare gemstones. We want to introduce Ceylon Sapphires in the most transparent, sustainable and direct way, straight from our mines in Sri Lanka – to you.
We source our stones through direct mine access or through close network partners in Sri Lanka. Our aim is to bring sustainably sourced and fair traded Sri Lankan sapphires and gems to Europe in finest quality with a “mine to market” approach that is based on transparency and sustainability.
Unlike a lot of sapphires and gems that come from various sources and middlemen, we guarantee all from a single source. Our rough stones are cut and polished to the highest standards by our own cutters in Colombo. Knowing the origin and way of processing is very crucial as this determines the stones’ value. We also work very closely with leading gem labs to certify our finest sapphires and gems. We like to see ourselves as a new face to a very old tradition!
Direct Mine Access – Traceable Supply Chain
Finding the right stone is matter of persistence. Gems come from gravel lodged deep in the depths of the earth. Gemstones are found after days and weeks of exhausting work. But all the exhaustion seems worth it when treasure is finally found. We directly source our sapphires and gemstones from mines we operate with local partners in a joint venture.
Our direct access to several mines in the highlands of Sri Lanka ensures a stable supply of high quality sapphires and gives us reliability about the origin, treatment and the conditions of the mining. The knowledge about the origin of the gemstone without any middlemen gives us a decisive advantage, on the one hand to promise the exact origin, and on the other hand to have access to finest qualities which we can offer at attractive market prices.
Due to our environmentally friendly and responsible mining, we can offer our customers fair sapphires that can be acquired with good conscience. Ecologically fair gemstone mining and ethically fair processing is possible (for more details click here). As we are not an atypical gemstone producer and supplier, we feel obliged to explain the interesting background to our value proposition, especially regarding our mining activities in Sri Lanka and the local industry.
Small Scale Mining – Environmentally Friendly
Traditional small scale mining is generally much less harmful to the environment and does not waste scarce natural resources. This is the most sustainable way of extracting gemstones for local people today and in the future. Therefore, mining is carried out according to traditional and sustainable methods and is deliberately designed for a small mining area and limited shafts or pits. Most of the mining tunnels in Sri Lanka can be imagined as relatively small vertical shafts. Mining in Sri Lanka is based solely on muscle power without the use of machines.
Many of the licensees have several traditional mining pits on their property. To give an idea of scale, the standard pit mine consists of a vertical shaft that measures two by four meters. If the pits are deep and in harder ground, the miners might dig a two by two meter square pit. Depth can range up to 50 meters, though most pits are between 5 and 25 meters.
In Sri Lanka usually several people involved in the venture, including the landowner, the holder of the mining rights, the person who supplies the water pump to remove water from the pit, and the miners. They all receive a share of the proceeds from the sale of the gemstones. Social responsibility and the employment of local communities is the key for a successful joint venture founded on ethical processes and treating people fairly.
Compared to gem mining in all other parts of the world countries, there are hardly any unfilled, abandoned pits because after mining the land has to be re-naturalized by law. The National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) collects a cash deposit when a license is issued. If the mine owner does not rehabilitate the land after mining is complete, the NGJA uses the deposit money for that purpose. In Sri Lanka environmental protection plays an important role in comparison to other Asian, African or South American countries. Sri Lankan recognizes gemstones are generously given as a gift by nature and they are very grateful for it. Learn more about mining regulations in Sri Lanka.
Way of Gem Processing – High Precision Cutting
Gem cutting is a fascinating ability that requires several sets of skills. It is easy to overlook the importance of traditional cutting in Sri Lanka, which is often associated with bulky cuts. In the distant past, traditional cutters used simple hand-powered cutting machines to produce some of the best-oriented stones in the world. Their ability to orient a stone for the best face-up colour and luster, while retaining maximum weight from the rough, is remarkable. This deep knowledge and long experience are passed over from generation to generation within the cutter’s family.
It is a wonderful experience to see the impressive craftsmanship of the cutters, who create wonderful faceted gemstones from rough stones. Cutting is an interaction between what is possible from nature and what can be done by man. The rough stone determines how it will be cut, depending on the colour center, colour distribution, inclusions and other natural characteristics in the stone and the cutter makes the best possible shape and cut for a sparkling and individual precious gemstone.
We have our own Sri Lankan cutters and we are proud to be able to claim that a few of the best cutters work for us. Our cutters are able to fulfill precision cutting to meet highest quality standards. Having talented, skilled and experienced cutters is a big competitive edge for us. We do cutting or re-cutting of stones from all over the world because cutting standards outside Europe and the US are comparable poor, as they usually pursue the objective of maintaining as much carat weight as possible. There is a growing precision-cutting industry in Sri Lanka that meets the strictest tolerances of proportion, symmetry, and calibrated size tolerances.
Our gem cutters are trained to provide faceted gemstones with the best quality in terms of colour saturation, consistent colour distribution, ideal proportion and symmetries as well as bringing out the best luster and fire of every gemstone. This is achieved by exact positioning of the facets in their number, length and width combined with a sharp polish of the surface. We only stand for the highest quality of sapphires but many jewellers around the world have different expectations. Some allow for windows for several reasons such as the depth of the gemstone being too deep or too shallow, to compensate for uneven colour distribution, or to mask imperfect symmetries.
Quality Management – Our Promise for Value
Our goal is to improve transparency in the market for coloured gemstones. We can guarantee a traceable supply chain for our sapphires and gemstones from Sri Lanka, which minimizes all typical risks in the gemstone trade. Our internal quality guidelines stipulate that only rough stones with the best transparency are selected for faceting. It must always be remembered that each sapphire is a rare natural resource and the sapphire crystal dictates what is the most suitable cut for it. This requires very deep knowledge and very long experience.
It is important to carry out and have strict quality controls at each processing step. Our quality managers first control the process of raw stone selection according to our quality criteria directly in the areas of our mines. Then in the various grinding processes, including shaping, pre-cut, faceting, polishing and, if necessary, each regrinding or re-sharpening before a final inspection. For our customers and their needs, we grind and polish uncompromisingly to achieve perfection; not just to obtain as much carat weight as possible. If the cut stone does not meet our quality criteria, we re-cut it until we are satisfied.
The final quality controls takes place in Colombo as well as in Munich to meet our demanding customer requirements. Quality assurance is thus carried out throughout the entire manufacturing process in order to live up to our promise of lasting value in the finest quality. Follow the process as a true sapphire masterpiece is created.
Leanest Value Chain – Impact on Sapphire Prices
Our customers appreciate our direct, transparent, and traceable supply chain because of our sustainable approach; rough stones straight from our mines, fashioned by our own cutters for high precision cutting, and our Munich based headquarters as a trustworthy gemstone expert. This is the most lean value chain you can have in the gemstone business. It is an approach that benefits our local partners in Sri Lanka and our customers around the globe; a win-win situation for everyone involved. Throughout our process of gemstone sourcing we try to minimize all indirect product related overheads costs like commercial marketing and PR, international events and fair shows, sales representatives and agents. Moreover we focus on the quality of our gemstones and offer attractive and stable market prices due to our “mine to market” approach.
There are several reasons why a direct supply chain and long-term cooperation with trusted partners is important. In the typical gemstone trade, the stones pass through many hands, from the mine through a collector system, before going through many local small, medium and large stone traders, until they are cut. After the refining process, there are usually more middlemen involved such as large international companies who export and take the stones to markets worldwide for sale. Each intermediary naturally wants his share of the proceeds, so there are usually a dozen players in this process. This of course pushes up the price and increases the risk as the gems are sold in ever larger lots to the next level of trade.
It is no more apparent than it is with smaller gemstones. One no longer knows where they come from, whether and how they are treated, and under what conditions the quarrying took place. It can no longer be completely guaranteed that e.g. stones subject to identification after chemical treatment or irradiation; false information about the country of origin with lower quality and market value such as Madagascar, Thailand or Vietnam; wrongly declared stones such as pink spinels as sapphires, and even a few synthetic stones are contained in the large lots. The exact knowledge about the origin, the way of processing and treatment of the gemstone is very important in this trust-based market that appreciates integrity and high moral values. Learn more about the generally accepted heat treatments used to improve colour and clarity in gemstones.
We would like to put an end to the myth that market prices for gemstones of comparable quality in countries of origin such as Sri Lanka are cheaper than in the countries where they are sold, as was the case decades ago. In a digitally networked and globalized world today, with much higher demand than supply for gemstones, local prices for valuable gemstones in the countries of origin are significantly higher. In order to offer the best value for money, this can only be achieved through a direct, lean and trustworthy supply chain without intermediaries. This gives us a competitive advantage for fair pricing and a sustainable stable gemstone volume for our corporate customers, combined with good service, expertise and advice as well as the satisfaction of individual customer needs. We combine all of this and are thus able to offer fine gemstone qualities at fair market prices today and tomorrow worldwide.