Madagascar Coloured Gemstone Project, Madagascar | Print |

The Madagascar project aims to legalize the gem trade and lead to conditions that will make smuggling and other illegal activity not worthwhile by the creation of a 2 percent royalties tax. Since beneficiation is part of the project, the 2 percent tax is waived for stones polished in the country.

The World Bank has avoided the duty free export zone concept and has empowered small businesses that mine the gemstones to enable them to cut and sell their own jewellery. Cushman has taught gemmology courses to give traders basic information to run businesses. There are courses for people who mine gemstones to teach them what to look for, as not all gemstones have value, and how to gain more value from their mining activity.

Cushman is a gem trade figure pushing for the implementation of an ethical code of business in coloured gemstone trading. He says the initiative is a work in progress, since it is not yet entirely clear who it can or should cover, and whether it can encompass the entire jewellery manufacturing chain.

He says that similar moves in the coffee, cotton and cocoa industries are clearer cut. In jewellery, it is not so obvious since there are the raw materials, such as gold and gemstones, which are then made into jewellery. Cushman said the impetus for the fair trade project came from across the jewellery trade, but particularly from consumers who want to know that what they are buying is doing good.

Cushman sees empowerment of small groups of workers, particularly in Africa, as a key goal of fair trade. He said a major part of this is about empowering people since there is no reason to take raw materials half way round the world to process them when it can be done in the producer countries themselves to give them added value.