Fortieth Anniversary of the Belmont Mine


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Belmont emerald mine. Director Marcelo Ribeiro updated us on mining and cutting activities in Brazil and shared his thoughts on today’s dynamically changing market.

As in 2017, mining activities are still focused on underground mining below the original Belmont open-pit site and the newly developed Canaan mine about 2 km away. In the near term, underground mining will continue to dominate emerald production. Ribeiro shared some new geological study findings related to multiple deposits in the Belmont area. Detailed geological analysis proved that over the past 40 years, only about one-fifth of the deposit within the Belmont property has been mined. Some exciting mineralogical study results from a mining site nearby hint at even deeper extension of the emerald-bearing rocks. Belmont has better wall rock stability than some other famous emerald sources around the globe. This makes underground mining an ideal option in the foreseeable future.

Currently, all rough emerald with a value of more than $20 per carat is faceted by Belmont’s own cutters, while everything else is transported to Jaipur, India, for processing. The cutting facility at the Belmont mine now handles 1,500 to 2,000 carats of emerald per month. Ribeiro visited the factories in Jaipur in late 2017 and is very satisfied with the quality of goods produced from the rough he exports to India. In terms of adding value to the medium- to low-quality rough stones, cutters in Jaipur have more experience and expertise. According to Ribeiro, the company’s sales jumped about 15% each of the past three years. A 13 ct top-quality emerald recovered in 2017 from the underground mine at the original site (figure 1) and a 15.01 ct stone from the Canaan mine (figure 2) were brought in by Ribeiro. The stone from Canaan showed a very special color reminiscent of the electric bluish green color of some copper-bearing tourmalines. This stone also displayed quite strong green and blue pleochroism. Ribeiro informed us that this is a very rare color and only a very limited amount of rough can potentially produce stones of this color.

Figure 1. This 15.01 ct emerald from the Canaan mine had an unusual color, and many customers at the show thought it was a Paraíba tourmaline. Photo by Kevin Schumacher.

Belmont has exhibited in Tucson for the past 17 years, and Ribeiro pointed out that the way of doing business has changed dramatically in recent years. The booth at the GJX show once generated about 80% of the company’s sales. Now, 80% of the sales happen online. Ribeiro used to stay at the booth to sell stones, but nowadays he needs to spend most of his time walking around the show to talk to different people. When asked about the role of middlemen in the current and future marketplace, Ribeiro shared his opinion. When he first got into the trade, he envisioned that one day middlemen would be removed from the picture and he would market his stones directly to end consumers. With the industry experiencing dramatic changes these days, he has started to feel that middlemen will remain but must change their mindset to adapt to new ways of doing business.

The logistics network within the United States allows very fast, safe, and economically viable transportation of gemstones between dealers and jewelers. Overseas suppliers like Belmont do not have access to the same services, which makes it necessary to have an intermediary located in the States who can handle shipping, receiving, and securing stones between the supplier and the buyers. This person also works as a sales representative to connect the supplier and the buyers. Ribeiro pointed out that unlike the traditional middleman, this person does not do business by trying to hide the supplier from the buyers and vice versa. In fact, this representative should ideally make the supply chain even more transparent by letting the two ends easily see and connect with each other to build more solid trust, connections, and inventory in between.

For the past 40 years, the Belmont mine has practiced community building and empowered people through gemstone mining. Ribeiro feels that this is already embedded in the DNA of the company and will continue to guide their good work. He hopes that gemstone purchasing will remind younger buyers of the benefits these stones bring to the local people and their next generation.

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