By Brecken Branstrator
Since COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the Africa Gem Exhibition and Conference in Zambia this year, which would’ve helped connect artisanal miners with gem dealers and jewelers from around the world, Gichuhi says she knew they needed to find a way to bring the market to them.
She worked with Susan Wheeler, a jewelry designer and founder of The Responsible Jewelry Transformative, as well as the Federation of Small Scale Mining Associations of Zambia and other partners to launch a digital platform for rough stones called Virtu Gem.
Several larger traditional dealers have been skeptical—and critical—about doing business online.
“But instead of doubting each other,” Gichuhi says, “we are hoping we can form partner collaborations that can eliminate doubt and create trust in the supply chain to really reinforce this way of doing business. If it’s going to take more than one year for people to travel and do business, this might be how [the miners] will get back to trade.”