Sharing the Rough: A Jewelry Dream Unfolds

Working at Randy Cooper’s, I had the opportunity to attend Conclave, an annual networking conference dedicated to ethics and continuing education in the jewelry industry. AGS is a top-notch organization and where studied the science and methodology of jewelry appraising. I’ll be re-joining AGS this year so I can continue feel it is so beneficial to staying on top of current events, gemological news, business tips, and networking with the established and the trailblazers. It’s a very exciting time in jewelry.  The industry is changing…. 

It was at a 2015 Conclave that I saw the documentary Sharing the Rough.  This movie documents the journey of a gemstone from mine to market.  Up until this point I knew very little about the colored stone supply chain.  I didn’t connect a piece of jewelry to people, communities, hard work, dreams, hope, or anything really.  Jewelry was more of a finished product, an adornment that I captured my love of beauty of and design. But, Orin Mazzoni, the producer and director of the film, captured something deeper that changed the way I thought about jewelry.  He gave faces to the men working in the mines, and their families. He showed each step in the journey of a particularly special piece of garnet rough as it was passed from the earth to the mine owner, to keen eye and artistry of the gem-cutter, to artistic interpretation of the jewelry designer Mark Schneider, to the delighted buyer.  This documentary moved the needle for me and I felt called to action. The next day, when I crossed paths with Roger Dery, the award winning gem-cutter and movie’s central character, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say hello. As I write this article, I’m about to depart on my third trip to Kenya and Tanzania with Roger and his wife Ginger.  I’ll be buying gemstones I hand select from ethically mined sources, many of which I am able to visit in person.  I already have a vision for how I want to bring color into my line. The actual designs will take shape depending on what is coming out of the ground at that time.  I expect to see tourmaline, sapphire, scapolite, tanzanite, garnet including tsavorite, Merelani mint, and the rare soft pinks from Mahenge.  Not only will we contribute to the economy of these mining communities, but I’ll contribute a portion of the sales of these pieces to the Devon Foundation, bringing gemology and lapidary education to gem mining communities in East Africa.  Local people who live in gemstone mining areas still lack the skills to participate in the gem industry.  These schools teach them to cut, facet and polish gems so they can get good paying jobs and support their families. It’s exciting to work along with Roger and Ginger Dery, and others like them, who value what’s happening at the source of gemstones as much or more than the gems themselves.  Simply put, they value people.

At the same time, I’m preparing to launch the Barefoot Collection. This collection is my foundation and the source from which everything else will grow.  I use 18K recycled gold and natural colored diamonds. I’m doing so much work behind the scenes and am looking forward to sharing the collection in person.  Details coming soon.  Follow me on Instagram or Facebook @debranavarro.jewelry to follow my journey in pictures.  Read Splurge! next month to see new developments. I want to share the change that is happening in the jewelry industry, bring transparency to the supply chain, and give you a new reason to enjoy fine jewelry.

-Deb