Gemstone Journeys: From the Mine to Your Bench

Our goal is to make the origins of our gemstones as transparent as possible. Learn each step a gemstone takes on its journey from the mine to your bench.

Last edited: 2/18/2020
Gemstone Journeys: From the Mine to Your Bench

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.

 

Mines

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.

 
Track Your Treasure:

You can see the area where a faceted gem was mined by looking at the "Mineral Source" listed on its riogrande.com product page. We are committed to adding this information to more of our gemstones as time as goes on.

Dig Deeper:
  1. Learn how American Mined™ Savannah Sunstone is produced.
  2. Read about mining Lake Country Fire Opal for the American Mined™ Collection.
Sketch of a gemstone map
 

Cutting Centers

Photos of workers and workstations in a Thai gemstone cutting center

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.)

 
Track Your Treasure:

You can see where a gemstone was cut by looking for the "Cutting Center" information that's listed on its product page on riogrande.com.

Dig Deeper:
  1. Take a virtual tour of some of the cutting centers that shape Rio's gemstones.
 

Gem Enhancements

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.)

 
Track Your Treasure:

If your gemstone has undergone any enhancements, you'll see them listed as "Enhancements" on its product page on riogrande.com. This information is also included in our Gems & Findings catalogs.

Dig Deeper:
  1. Learn the definitions of the various enhancement terms endorsed by the AGTA.
Color gemstones and an illustration of a list of gem enhancements
 

Rio Grande

Rio gem experts and an artist's rendering of Rio's solar-powered facility in Albuquerque.

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.)

 
Track Your Treasure:

If you need any help with any other topic concerning your Rio Grande order, try searching our helpful Knowledge Base; or just pick up the phone and call us at 800.545.6566.

Dig Deeper:
  1. Read about Rio's 15 Principles and our legacy of serving jewelers.
  2. Meet Shannon Demoulin and Chris Hoffman of the Rio Grande Gem Source team.
  3. Hear stories from jewelers who've used our Gem Source service.
 

Your Bench

Photos of bench jewelers

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!

 
Dig Deeper:

Give even more meaning to your pieces: Share the story of these gemstones with your customers and your fellow jewelers.

  1. Use the #RioJeweler hashtag in your social media posts.
  2. Add your favorite photos to the #RioJeweler Gallery.
  3. Working with American Mined™ gemstones? Tag your mine-to-bench photos with #AmericanMined on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and let the world know that source matters to you.