A natural gemstone's path from the mine to your bench is far from a straight line. For millennia, the gem trade has been famously secretive and shrouded in mystery. Even today, there are numerous steps in the production of gemstones that can be hard for jewelers to trace. Rio Grande wants to change that. Because we believe that jewelers deserve to know—and feel good—about the origins of the materials they use in their creations.
Our goal is to make each step in the gemstone's journey as transparent as possible. The more information we unearth along the way, the more we'll share with you—whether that knowledge comes from long-standing relationships with ethical vendors, meeting and exceeding certification standards, or developing new product lines that value the planet and the people who work upon it.
As we continue to learn and expand on what we know, we hope jewelers like you will take an interest. Join us as we work toward greater transparency in a gemstone's journey to your bench.
We know the exact mine sites for several of our gems, namely those found in our American Mined™ Collection. (And, in many cases, we've visited them; read our articles in the "Dig Deeper" section for a peek into the mines.) These mines are exemplary because they observe practices that have as minimal an impact on the earth as possible, all while safeguarding the well being of their mine workers and surrounding communities. Outside of these special product lines, we are in the midst of a large project to document the mine locations of the rest of our gemstones, by country or by region.
Once a rough stone is harvested from the earth, it's sent to a cutting center—sometimes half a world away—to be shaped and faceted by hand into the light-catching treasures we love to work with. Over the years, we've personally visited several of the cutting centers that produce the gemstones we sell. These visits have been part of a good faith effort to ensure that these facilities meet our standards, including proper safety protocols, fair wages and the absence of child labor. Rio Grande is also a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, which certifies our business practices. We will only do business with firms that follow best practices for humane and environmental responsible production. (Learn about these programs and take a virtual tour of cutting centers in the "Dig Deeper" section.)
Some gemstones come out of the ground requiring only faceting and polishing to achieve lapidary perfection. Others take some coaxing to get the signature color saturation that jewelers and jewelry owners recognize as the hallmark of that particular gemstone. These processes are known as "enhancements," and we strive to consistently capture and disclose this information using precise gemological terms maintained by the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA).
As a member of the AGTA and the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA), we benefit from the most up-to-date knowledge as advancements and changes are adapted by our colleagues all over the world. (Fun fact: Rio Grande's gemstone supply manager, Becky Scheffler, has the honor of representing the USA as the sole American ambassador to the ICA.)
By this point, your gemstone may have ping-ponged across the globe a few times before landing safely in the hands of a Rio associate. Inside our solar-powered facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, roughly 400 dedicated and empowered associates work together to ensure that exactly the right material gets to you in the correct condition at the proper time. And our Gem Source team is always ready to help you with more detailed gemological information or sourcing a special stone for your next design. (Read about Shannon and Chris from the Rio Grande Gem Source team, their years of experience and their professional qualifications in the "Dig Deeper" section below.)
At last! Your gemstone is ready to be turned into a wearable work of art—and we can't wait to see the design you make with it. On behalf of everyone at Rio Grande, thank you for being a #RioJeweler!