Fura Gems, the newest force-multiplier for the coloured gemstone industry, is hitting its targets across the globe — and looks set to boost business in India.
The company intends to collect an astonishing 30,000 tonnes of material from the mineralised body, using existing tunnels. This will be the first phase of the programme, up to 31 December 2018.
The storied mines of Colombia produce fully half the world’s emeralds each year, in value terms. Coscuez alone covers some 46 hectares. A total of 1,720 carats of emeralds were mined in this initial bulk-sampling, of which 826 carats were high-quality gems.
“The company is well-positioned to hold an 8–10 per cent global market share in coloured gemstones during the next three years,” says Dev Shetty, president and CEO, Fura Gems.
Fura is not only the first publicly listed company in the world to commence a bulk sampling operation in Colombia, the world’s largest supplier of emeralds. It also stakes a claim to be recognised as the first to organise and formalise artisanal mining operations in that country.
Unlike many other miners, Fura prides itself on its humane and non-exploitative approach towards its workers — an approach that is not common in the sector. “The company has enrolled 200 indigenous employees and taken responsibility for their safety and health,” says Shetty. “Workers here are not used to the idea of salaries and benefits. We are the first ones to introduce such welfare schemes.”
Fura’s vision, he says, is “not just to produce gemstones but to build a business that is employee-friendly, community-centric and has sustainability at its heart”.
These developments at Fura hold out the promise of huge opportunities for India, where 60 per cent of the world's emeralds are cut and polished. Shetty sees India as one of Fura’s top three markets.
“India is the largest cutting and polishing centre for emeralds in terms of volume,” says Rupak Sen, vice president–marketing & sales, Fura Gems. “There is a growing demand for emeralds in India and we intend to capitalise on it by strategically organising the sector.”
In other recent moves, Fura has entered into agreements to acquire four ruby licences in Mozambique, the world’s largest supplier of rubies. The exploration process has already begun.
The company’s prime objective is to develop the mines it controls and ramp up gemstone production. But it is also working hard to establish the kind of pipeline — one that rests securely on the footing of accurate provenance data — that will help it build trust at every level of the market.
Measures include the tested and tried, such as working with gemmological laboratories to build traceability. Among the more ambitious measures, Fura is “developing a blockchain model to give a strong foundation to provenance”.
The mere 14 months since Fura’s launch have been highly eventful, says Shetty. “We have not only set up the operations but also acquired mines, and now we look forward to beginning revenue flow from March 2019.”
The base of demand for coloured gemstones is small, Shetty says, but growing exponentially at 40–50 per cent annually. “It will eventually stabilise at no less than 15 per cent as we go around building the segment.”
Fura’s dedication to the gemstone industry as a whole, and to doing things right, promises the world market a steady and solid supply of gemstones. It also presents an opportunity to other players in this industry — some of which have long been reluctant to increase their stake in the category — to organise their businesses and lay the ground for a bright future in coloured gems.