About Us

It all started with a boy tying flies. As a child, Founder Eric Braunwart, tied flies for the local fly-fishing shop. He fell in love with creating these little wonders because of the brilliant colors of thread, yarn and feathers used to do so. Years later, when he took his first jewelry making class in college, those same brilliant colors came back to him in a form that became a lifelong passion. At just 25 years old, Eric founded Columbia Gem House in 1976.

A turning point. In 2000, Eric took time away to assist on a World Bank project in Madagascar to find ways gemstone production could improve throughout the supply chain. One day as Eric left his hotel, he stepped in an open sewer, ruining one of his Italian leather shoes. He was quite upset until realizing his shoe cost more than the average annual income of the country. At that point, the importance of finding ways to steer the business to better benefit all those along the supply chain became imperative. Following his ruined shoe, Eric went to a US Embassy meeting where someone asked if we traced our stones and if we could prove that we operated ethically. After 25 years in the business, Eric admitted that while we had always conducted business ethically, we could not prove it. He promised the next time they met, he would be able to.

Fair Trade Gems® was born. Upon his return, Eric began researching and writing the world’s first Fair Trade Gems® Principles and Protocols, which Columbia Gem House still operates by today. We are a proud family run business, committed to operating in a way that creates a positive impact at every touch point, both with the people and environments involved, from mine-to-market. We mine and cut on three continents and manufacture our jewelry right here in the United States. We work with governments, non-profits, and other gem miners and cutters around the world to ensure safe workplaces, fair wages, ethical sourcing, and environmentally responsible gem mining.

Join the movement. Our vision is to create a world where responsibly sourced gems are the rule, not the exception. Whether you buy from us or not, we hope you’ll join the fair trade gem movement and demand safe cutting factories, safe and environmentally responsible mines, fair wages for the people and sustainable support for the communities who mine and cut these natural treasures. 

Together we can make fair trade gems the rule, not the exception.


Green America Certified Business

Columbia Gem House is proud to be a Gold Level Green America Certified Business. Learn More