Kagem pioneers high-tech emerald tagging system at Lusaka auction

A new high-technology system to tag and trace emeralds has been used commercially for the first time at an auction of high quality emeralds in Lusaka in a move that is set to revolutionise the gemstone industry worldwide.

The nanotechnology system invented by Swiss gemstone testing laboratory Gübelin Gem Lab made its global debut this week at an auction of gemstones hosted by Kagem Mining Ltd, the Lufwanyama-based mine that is 75 per cent owned by London-based Gemfields in partnership with the Zambian government.

The particles – which leave no visible trace – were infused into five high quality emeralds purchased at the auction by Zambian gemstone jewellery company Jewel of Africa.

“For the customer to know forever that the gemstone was mined responsibly in Zambia, cut in Zambia by Zambians, mounted in jewellery in Zambia by Jewel of Africa, is truly ground-breaking. For us, that’s what this means,” said Jewel of Africa Director Dr Rajnish Sharma.

The breakthrough technology uses customised synthetic DNA-based nano-particles that are infused by gentle rocking into the rough emerald crystals, enabling traceability of emeralds back to the mine of origin, the date of mining and any other data requested.

It was the first-time nanotechnology – the branch of technology that deals with dimensions of less than 100 nanometres – has been used commercially in the gemstone sector. The size of the particles makes them invisible to optical microscopes, therefore not affecting the appearance, quality or properties of the gem whatsoever.

The technique will only be undertaken at the mine site, but an exception was made in the instance of this world debut in order to demonstrate the process, explained Gübelin Head of Development Klemens Link.

The process enables discerning gemstone buyers to be assured of traceability, knowing the exact origin of their emeralds, and demonstrating that the gemstones originate from a responsibly-mined source such as Kagem.

The technology has been developed by Gübelin Gem Lab under the “Provenance Proof” label, and can trace the origin of emeralds, using nanotechnology to tag the gems with an invisible imprint that is accessible at any stage of the supply chain. It is regarded as a true game-changer for the gemstone industry.

Gemfields is at the forefront of harnessing the nanotechnology, in line with its pledge to bring transparency and trust to the gemstone industry.

“Gemfields is committed to ensuring that there is transparency and trust in the gemstone industry. We are convinced that the Emerald Paternity Test will help stakeholders to track the origins of their emeralds at any stage along the supply chain,” said Gemfields chief executive officer Sean Gilbertson.

He said that with the increased global acclaim for Zambia’s green gems, the new technology would instil confidence and create trust along the entire supply chain by providing buyers with proof of the exact source of emeralds. The mining firm believes that transparency and trust remains key to the development and survival of Zambia’s gemstone industry.

“By embracing this new game-changing innovation, we are assured of increased demand for the green gem. The partnership with Gübelin is a leap in the right direction, instilling confidence and trust in the value chain of our emeralds,” said Mr Gilbertson.

The Gübelin Gem Lab invited Gemfields, a leading producer of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, to join the project as a test partner and thanks to Gemfields’ already robust supply chain and established standards of responsible sourcing, they were chosen to help provide the testing conditions for the technology in the field.

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