Fair Trade Protocols

Kimberly Process and Columbia Gem House Fair Trade Protocols

The Kimberly process was developed to make sure the production and sale proceeds from diamonds did not support civil wars in Africa. In addition, the process was written to assure all diamonds were legally exported and not smuggled.

The Columbia Gem House Protocols ensure the production and sale of colored gemstones were done legally, did not support civil wars, and much more. In addition to the Kimberly ideals, Columbia Gem House Fair Trade Protocols also:

  • a. ensure country of origin.
  • b. support local production through sales, and work on development projects and critical needs in the local communities.
  • c. track our fair trade gemstones through the cutting process to ensure no worker is exploited or subjected to health hazards like Silicosis, which ultimately results in death.
  • d. ensure full disclosure and clarity of any treatments performed on gems that travel under the Columbia Gem House “Fair Trade Gems®” brand.

Given the similarities and differences between the Kimberly Process and the Columbia Gem House Fair Trade Gems Process, we are currently adjusting our Fair Trade rating levels to better coordinate the two.

Why We Created Fair Trade Gem Protocols With Categories

The only way to give you the whole story behind each gem is to track it carefully and pass that information with the gem from the mine to the cutter and jeweler so that the person who wears that gem will know every step of its journey. From the minute we mine or purchase rough, we track each parcel separately with information about its origin and cutting history.

Even though we’ve been working on it for 20 years, not all our gems can be traced back to mines that meet all our standards. We improve every year by constantly working all over the world to convince the suppliers of each of the hundreds of gem varieties and origins we sell to document their efforts and meet our standards.

One challenge is that some gem varieties are only available in quantity through local rough brokers who consolidate parcels from local artisanal miners working in a specific region.  In this case we would not know the specific condition of each individual mine.  Still, as we work with small local consolidators, we communicate our goals and work with these people to gather further information on exact production methods. We cut nearly everything ourselves so we do not have the industrial decease problems others do.  We do also work with some individual cutters that also meet our safety requirements.

That’s why we created Fair Trade Gem Protocols with categories from 1 to 5: we want you to be able to easily see what we can guarantee about each individual gem we sell and what we can’t. 

We work only with suppliers who believe in creating a traceable supply channel, even if they aren’t completely there yet. Once we know they are committed, we can work with them to improve, step by step. That being said, we never buy rough that is completely undocumented or untraceable.

We cut all group 1 to 4 faceted and cabochon gems in our own workshop. Beads and some carvings are cut in a neighboring workshop that we chose because it meets our quality, employment and health standards.


We can trace these gems all the way back to a specific mine, where we either mine them ourselves or have formal agreements with the producer that all the Fair Trade Gem Principles for the workers and the environment have been met. We visit the mine, legally export the gems, and cut them ourselves so can confirm that these steps are also in accordance with our Fair Trade Gem Principles. Gems include Nyala Ruby and Mulanje Sapphire from Malawi, Montana Sapphire, Black Stallion Jasper and Blue Ice Chalcedony from Oregon, Rodeo Queen Ruby and Iolite from Wyoming, Idaho garnet, Oregon sunstone, Mesa Verde Peridot, Anthill Garnet, Cortez Pearls and many more.  Cortez Pearls are a little different in they aren’t mined, but still must meet our protocols in all the other aspects.


We can follow these gems to a specific rough broker or miner who guarantees us that the rough comes from a known region in the country of origin. The supplier understands and supports the Fair Trade Gem Protocols has been conveyed to the miners and assures us that the supplied rough meets those standards. We legally export the rough and cut it ourselves so can confirm that these steps are in accordance with our Fair Trade Gem Principles. Gems include Iris Amethyst, Fire Citrine, Madeira Citrine, and citrine. 


We can follow these gems back to the legal documented export of the rough from the country of origin. We are working with the broker or miner to improve traceability to qualify for level two. We cut them ourselves so we can confirm that it has been done in a healthy and fair environment. Gems include Apsara zircon from Cambodia, Imperial Diopside from Russia, and morganite, green beryl and aquamarine from Nigeria.


We can confirm that these gems have been cut in accordance with the Fair Gem Principles and we know country of origin but not the details of how they were mined or exported. The most common FTG-4 gem is blue topaz which is batched when being irradiated. This level also includes “heritage rough” which we purchased before instituting our protocols in 2002 plus goshenite and golden beryl we purchased from the US government strategic stockpile years ago.


We don’t cut these gems ourselves so we can’t document the supply chain to guarantee that they fall into the Fair Trade Gems category. We buy these gems from suppliers we know and trust who often cut in the producing country, creating jobs for the local community. Gems include Sri Lankan sapphire, Colombian emerald, and sphene.

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