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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gemfields Emerald Auction in Zambia Raises $31.5 Million

Gemfields spokesperson Mila Kunis.

Maybe holding emerald auctions in Zambia isn’t such a bad idea. The ongoing tug of war between the Zambian government and colored gemstone mining and marketing company, Gemfields, over where to sell Zambian emeralds hasn’t dampened demand.

Gemfields’ most recent auction of higher quality rough emerald and beryl from the Kagem mine in Zambia resulted in revenues of $31.5 million, the second highest total to date for the company. The average price per carat reached $54, the highest unit value achieved at any auction and a 26 percent increase over the previous highest value achieved in July 2011. In addition, a 54-carat rough gem, offered as a single lot, set a new per carat record for prices achieved at a Gemfields auction.

A total of 40 companies were invited to the auction held July 15 - 19 in the Zambian capital city of Lusaka and 37 attended, with 36 attendees placing at least one bid, Gemfields said in a statement Tuesday. A total of 583,448 carats of emerald extracted from Kagem was placed on offer, with all lots being sold. The auction format is how Gemfields chooses to sell its Kagem emeralds, which account for nearly all of the company’s revenue.

The auction was held in Lusaka at the request of the Zambian Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development. The government first issued the directive in April, which appeared to be a surprise to Gemfields. Particularly since the two entities are business partners, with Zambia owns a 25 percent stake in the Kagem mine with Gemfields owning the remaining 25 percent.

The government in a statement said the directive is designed to promote transparency and accountability in the marketing of emeralds, stimulate local demand for emeralds, create more opportunities for small-scale miners to have access to colored gemstone markets, and increase tourism.

“Zambian gemstones have for a long time been sold on foreign markets, a situation that has contributed to capital flight and denied Zambians of the much needed benefits from the resource,” Yamfwa Mukanga, Zambia mining minister, said in the original statement.

This is the second auction of Kagem emeralds held in Lusaka. It was originally scheduled to be held in Singapore June 10-14, but was postponed and rescheduled to Lusaka due to government pressure.

Gemfields insists that it needs to sell Kagem emeralds at places that will likely get the most interest and the best price in order to compete with other emerald hubs, such as Colombia and Brazil. With the most recent sale showing such strong results the government seems to have the upper hand in this argument.

In a statement, Ian Harebottle, CEO of Gemfields, credited “favorable market conditions and particularly strong demand from our customers” for the strong results. “All indications show that demand for colored gemstones, and especially emeralds, will continue to increase at a steady pace over the coming year.”

Gemfields said its 13 auctions held since July 2009 have generated $207.3 million in aggregate revenues.

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