GEMFIELDS' inaugural ruby auction in June. Photo: the GIA

GEMFIELDS' inaugural ruby auction in June. Photo: the GIA

Gemstones on Jermyn Street: White is a Colour

Issue 104, October 2014

Adrian Banks, Gemfields’ global head of sales, is readying the company for its second ruby auction by sitting in a pristine Lacoste white shirt under a large south-facing window on the top floor of Gemfields’ Jermyn Street office.

A boardroom table in front of him is covered in large sheets of blank white paper, each loaded with piles of vivid red stones. Kaung Sai, the group’s chief grader in Mozambique, sits at one end of the table rapidly sorting rubies into different grades. Gemfields’ India director, Yogesh Khatoria, sits opposite, texting on his phone.

A bodyguard stands in one corner, looking at no-one. Philippe Ressigeac, a young French gemologist who spends his time off touring Cambodia, shows the journalist around, whilst Ian Harebottle, the company’s beaming chief executive who looks happiest next to a Hollywood actress such as brand ambassador Mila Kunis, presses his hand into a pile of gemstones.

“Mila had her baby last night,” he says with a mischievous smile. “I’m hoping they’ll call her Ruby.”

A Unique Filing

Gemfields is unlike other mining businesses.

For one, it is backed by Brian Gilbertson, whose aptitude for deals turned a struggling South African aluminium producer into BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining group. Unlike most mining companies, hoping to survive the next cycle with board salaries intact, Gemfields also has a coherent strategy.

Only five years ago, none of Bank’s team were in place: Khatoria was trading emeralds in Jaipur, whilst Ressigeac was smoking cigarettes at gemstone markets in Vietnam. But as early as 2007, before the company owned a single mine, Gemfields’ strategy was already stated.

“Despite being a fragmented and undercapitalised industry, the coloured gemstone industry has been largely overlooked by mining investors,” Gilbertson outlined in an interim filing in 2008 for Pallinghurst Res., then a Guernsey-registered holding company listed on the Bermuda...

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“Mila had her baby last night.”

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