Mila Kunis wearing Zambian emeralds

How coloured gemstones knocked diamonds off their perch

Diamonds may last forever but consumer tastes have noticeably pivoted towards coloured gemstones. This shift was initially driven by the continued high prices of natural diamonds which inspired consumers to look for more affordable, high quality options. Gemstones have opened up a range of possibilities for jewellers and attracted new customers, particularly Millennials who were born in the era of blood diamonds. High quality gemstones are found in Latin America, Asia and Africa, where Zambia’s reputation as a producer of some of the finest gemstones is growing.

The traditional diamond engagement ring
The traditional diamond engagement ring favoured by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers is being shunned by Millennials

Zambian gemstones: emeralds reign supreme

Zambia is located in a rich geological belt known as the Great Rift Valley which stretches from the Equator to South Africa where it is believed the gemstone formation started millions of years ago. Even though the country is blessed with a wide range of gemstones such as tourmalines, amethyst and aquamarine, it was emeralds that really put the Zambia on the gemstones map.

Emeralds
Zambia has arguably the finest quality emeralds in the world

Zambia produces 25% of the world’s emeralds. The emeralds are mined by Gemfields, the London-based natural resources company that owns 75% of Kagem mine with the government owning the remaining 25%. Kagem mine hit a major milestone when it became the first emeralds mine to be assessed against Eco-Age’s Green Carpet Challenge (GCC) Principles of Sustainable Excellence.

Kagem mine produces 25% of emeralds in the world. The mine increased the total depth of the pit from 60 meters to 105 meters. The pit’s length is roughly 1 km. Photo by Vincent Pardieu/GIA.

Emeralds
Zambian emeralds are auctioned in Lusaka and international locations such as Singapore

Gemfields has done an exceptional job at marketing Zambian emeralds which are arguably more superior in quality than Colombian emeralds, though the Latin American variant are better known commercially. Zambian emeralds have greater clarity and offer a variety of undertones from bluish to yellow, depending on the chromium, vanadium and iron content.

Zambian emeralds started gaining popularity when Gemfields selected Hollywood actress, Mila Kunis, as the face of the brand. In recent times, Zambian emeralds have featured on a signet ring worn by Mahershala Ali when he accepted his Golden Globe and earrings worn on the red carpet by Dame Helen Mirren.

Emeralds have now grown in value and could be out of reach for younger consumers but there are lots of options. That’s why it is important to seek expert advice.

Eleora Gems: bespoke, handcrafted, natural gemstones 

Eleora Founder & CEO, Mukosha Mulenga
Eleora Founder & CEO, Mukosha Mulenga

In an exclusive interview with Ongolo.com, Mukosha Mulenga, the CEO and Founder of Eleora Gems to learn more about the gemstones business in Zambia. Eleora Gems was founded in 2018 when Mukosha decided to leave a career in IT to pursue his passion for collecting gemstones. His first client was a Chinese friend of his wife who liked one of his gemstones but was only willing to buy it if he made a piece of jewellery. This inspired him to turn his hobby into a business which has grown thanks to word of mouth and social media advertising.

Eleora is a Hebrew name that means God’s light. Mukosha chose this name because he turned his life to God and wanted a name that reflected who he was and his purpose in life, which is to bring light into lives of others by creating beautiful jewellery.

Tanzanite engagement ring
Eleora-designed Tanzanite engagement ring

Eleora Gems offers clients a jewellery experience that is different from an ordinary shopping experience. They create bespoke pieces and the process begins by taking time to truly understand their clients tastes in order to create exactly what they want. They know them so well that repeat clients have become like family. Eleora Gems uses only natural gemstones sourced from small-scale miners around Zambia and imports diamonds from Botswana.

The gemstones are set in pure silver or gold in three shades (yellow, rose and white). They will soon expand the range to include platinum settings. The silver is mined and 99.99% pure unlike sterling silver which has an added alloy. 

Eleora-designed 9 carat gold Ankh ring set with a Citrine stone

Each piece takes an average of 3-5 days to make though complex designs take longer as every piece is cut to perfection. Other services they provide include ring resizing and appraisal services. Mukosha is certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in coloured gemstones.

Eleora Gems’ main client base is in Zambia and they have clients in the US, UK and Japan who were introduced via word of mouth. Business has boomed as they have a reputation for delivering quality products and have built trust with their clients. The average client spends between $500-2,000 which has made quality jewellery affordable, especially for Millennials.

Eleora Gems makes a wide selection of engagement rings to suit their clients’ tastes. 

Peridot ring
Eleora-designed Peridot ring set in white gold

Eleora Gems is now a well-established business that is changing the perception that products made in Zambia and from Africa are of an inferior quality compared to products made in the developed world. To prove this promise, Muloongo Muchelemba commissioned a special piece to mark her mother’s 70th birthday in October 2020 and was not disappointed with the results.

Ulupwa necklace
Ongolo.com Founder, Muloongo Muchelemba, commissioned this necklace for her mother’s 70th birthday. Each stone represents the birthstones for her father, mother and siblings hence the name Ulupwa, which means Family

Eleora Gems has a website and a social media presence on  Instagram or Facebook. They accept PayPal payments and ship globally.

Do you know the gemstone for your birth month?

  • January: Red garnet
  • February: Amethyst
  • March: Aquamarine, Bloodstone
  • April: Diamond
  • May: Emerald
  • June: Moonstone, Pearl, Alexandrite
  • July: Ruby
  • August: Peridot
  • September: Sapphire
  • October: Pink Tourmaline, Opal
  • November: Citrine, Yellow Topaz
  • December: Tanzanite, Blue Zircon, Turquoise

© 2020 Muloongo Muchelemba. All Rights Reserved

 

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