GEMFIELDS' 40-carat "Rhino Ruby", recovered from its Montepuez mine in Mozambique. The company announced auction results this morning totalling $43m, a new record for the company. Photo: Gemfields

GEMFIELDS' 40-carat "Rhino Ruby", recovered from its Montepuez mine in Mozambique. The company announced auction results this morning totalling $43m, a new record for the company. Photo: Gemfields

Merging Fabergé & Coloured Gemstones

Issue 109, December 2014

Continued from Issue 109 

In 2002, with Gilbertson at its helm, BHP Billiton was debating how best to sell diamonds from its Ekati mine in Canada, pondering a break from the De Beers cartel, to market them independently under the “Ekati” trademark.

Within 6 months of leaving the group, Gilbertson approached Unilever, requesting a license to use its “Fabergé” trademark to market coloured gemstones. Unilever resisted, but after a 3-year trademark tussle, relented and sold the brand name to his Guernsey-based investment vehicle, Pallinghurst Resources.

Fabergé was folded into London-listed Gemfields in 2012, which counts Pallinghurst as its largest investor. In trademark Gilbertson consolidation-mode and led by chief executive Ian Harebottle, the company has rapidly rolled up gemstone production in Zambia and Mozambique, making it the largest producer of both emeralds and rubies globally. “It's already an elephant in this industry,” Gilbertson says.

Shares rose to within 5 per cent of an all-time high this morning on results from its latest ruby auction in Singapore, lending weight to the company's thesis that because coloured gemstones have been under-marketed relative to diamonds and the De Beers ad-campaigns of the 20th-century, there is greater scope for rising prices.

Average per carat prices rose to $689 per carat, generating $43m, two new records for the company. The auction included a 40-carat ruby recently recovered at its Montpuez mine in Mozambique. “Customer response has been overwhelming,” Harebottle said.

The coloured gemstone sector resembles the diamond trade of the early 1900’s, Gilbertson believes, with hundreds of unlicensed miners competing over hand-dug pits. “Everyone's looking for one large stone, but the real business lies in the reliable volume supply of ethically sourced gemstones of all qualities.”

Fabergé famously used platinum in many of its Tsarist eggs and Pallinghurst also holds sizable platinum interests, but Gilbertson sees no logic in combining the two.

“Everyone’s looking for one large stone.”

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