Fuli Gemstones Banks On Sustainability With Zero-Waste Peridot Mine

Fuli Gemstones Banks On Sustainability With Zero-Waste Peridot Mine

In North-Eastern China, near the lush Changbai Mountains, Fuli Gemstones is working on what it hopes will be the first zero-waste mine for colored gemstones, in the world. Set to open in 2024, the mine is the largest-known deposit of grass green peridot, a stone whose significance goes back to the Ancient world and which Fuli is helping to bring back into vogue through a series of collaborations with contemporary designers and new- talent. According to Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Director, Pia Tonna, it’s all part of the Anglo-Chinese mining company’s drive to be a force for “positive change’ in the mining industry.

“Mining, whether it’s for gemstones or precious metals, is the start of the funnel for the majority of the jewelery industry,” says Pia. “Any company operating, and supplying key components such as gemstones and metals should be part of the responsible jewelery industry discussion for positive change.” She believes the conversation should cover more than just the hole in the ground from which the material is extracted; social impact, environmental footprint and future-proofing the site against the challenges to come from climate change, must all be included. In July, Fuli brought a group of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) and jewelry industry experts and advisors out to China, to visit the site.

One of the few gemstones that have only been found in a single color, peridot is a version of the mineral olivine. With olivine and basalt as the key by-products of peridot mining — both strikingly visible in the mine walls — Fuli has carefully researched ways to re-use both materials, a strategy that underpins the zero-waste target.

Olivine can absorb its own mass in carbon dioxide — carbon sequestration — and the olivine removed from will be crushed into sand and used to reduce carbon in the environment. Meanwhile, the nutrient-rich basalt will be used in construction and also by farmers to increase their crop yield and remove carbon dioxide from the air: “We are fortunate that the mine’s two by-products can be put to good use – olivine and basalt both have amazing properties, and will be used in the construction of the processing plant and housing at the mine site,” continues Pia.

The mine’s mountain location, in the middle of a forest, means that the threat to the surrounding environment is real. “Many of the trees nearby are considered rare species and are nationally protected. We have been working alongside the regional government to maintain the forest, as well as external ESG advisors,” she says. The local community was consulted before ground was broken, and the site will provide significant employment opportunities when it opens next year: “We have finished the main geoscience, construction and infrastructure and are mid-way on the project now,” explains Pia. “We expect the mine to begin commercial operations the first half of 2024.”

Alongside climate change as a key concern for the jewelry industry, traceability is a familiar and complex issue for mining companies, as both gemstones and precious metals can pass through countless hands between mine and shop floor. To ensure supply chain transparency, Fuli is partnering with Everledger on a blockchain traceability program powered by its Providence Proof solution, citing expertise developed with other minerals like pearls and lithium, as key in helping Fuli to identify where process improvements can be made.

The tech company’s holistic view of the jewelry supply chain was also appealing. In demanding greater accountability from suppliers, solutions like Providence Proof enables the end consumer to buy more safely, as Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp explains: “we view the impact of traceability as going beyond the materials themselves, to include reporting on the authenticity of the actions undertaken along the way — from solar panels on the roof of a workshop, to trust surrounding provenance”.

Peridot can be traced back 3,500 years to the first known deposit in Egypt, and used in jewelry since the 1300s. It has been found as far away as Mars and in meteorites, and has been worn by royalty, rising to particular prominence during the Art Deco period. In recent years, Boucheron, Chanel and Van Cleef & Arpels have all created collections using peridot, a rare stone, prized for its intense color that needs no treatment.

“Peridot is formed in the earth’s mantel, just like a diamond and the peridot from our mine is far more vivid green than those from elsewhere, because it has a slightly lower iron content, and is harder.” The Fuli Gemstones mine is well-placed to provide a consistent supply of good quality peridot and a good proportion of high-carat stones, and its comparatively reasonable price point makes it attractive to both jewelry houses and designers.

Since 2020, the mining company has been working with independent designers and small houses including Liv Luttrell, Annoushka and Maison Tournaire, to raise the profile of this unusual gem. “Supporting the next generation of designers is imperative – if we do not nurture the next generation, we won’t attract talent to our industry,” says Pia, “which would mean a loss of innovative ideas, a loss of skills and knowledge in gems & jewellery”. Joy Bonfield-Colombara, a London-based jewelry artist who recently created the Medusa comb brooch and Sekhmet ring with Fuli, was drawn to the project for “The intense luminous color of Fuli Peridot. It’s really saturated and unusual. At the time I was working on two pieces which needed gemstones relating to the sun and the color green, and snakes. So this was perfect! The connection to its use in ancient Egyptian jewelry also added value for me.”

Without mining, the jewelry industry cannot fully function, but with its innovative – yet seemingly straightforward – solutions, Fuli Gemstones proves that lowering their environmental and social impact need not be out of reach. “We need boots on the ground — not just words, actions. Not all gemstone deposits are the same, but the industry can learn from new methods and technology.” And as the jewelry industry works together towards greater responsibility, Fuli Gemstones is poised to be the most important peridot mine in the industry, leading the way in sustainable colored gemstone mining.

Fuli Gemstones is supporting the Peridot, Hope for the Future exhibition at Shenzhen Jewelery Museumon until October 9, 2023.

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