2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 206-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


CARTIER, Laurent E., Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF, Aeschengraben 26, Basel, 4051, Switzerland; Institute of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland, laurent.cartier@ssef.ch

Gemstones have been considered culturally significant in many different cultures since antiquity. Gemstones have been used for trade, personal adornment or symbolic reasons. The cultural and symbolic value of gemstones is today frequently overlooked as the trade focuses on the monetary or investment values of emeralds, rubies, sapphires and other gems. At the same time, many gemstone producing regions are experiencing unsustainable social, economic and environmental pressures. The heritage of regions such as Mogok (Burma), a source of the world's finest rubies and sapphires for the past 500 years, is at risk.

Giving heritage-worthy gemstones and gemstone regions a heritage status would raise awareness and be a way of preserving their cultural and geological contribution to humanity. Criteria for such gemstones and regions must be clearly defined and Global Heritage Stone Resource (GHSR) criteria offer a sound basis for this.

Although the limitations of heritage status and the possible inclusion of gemstones in GHSR have already been discussed through the example of Australian opal (Cooper, 2015), this abstract presents arguments for a heritage status that covers not only specific gemstone(s) but more so for historically and culturally important gemstone producing regions. This could include rubies and sapphires from Mogok (Burma), sapphires from Ratnapura (Sri Lanka), emeralds from Muzo (Colombia) or spinels from Kuh-i-lal (Tajikistan) for example. These have all been sources of exceptional gemstones for centuries.

GHSR is a good forum to discuss and learn how to best preserve the heritage of these regions and resources. Other options may include UNESCO World Heritage Status (granted e.g. to Diamantina, Brazil in 1999) or to develop criteria and a model that is unique to gemstones (e.g. Cartier and Pardieu, 2013).

It is important to discuss of what value such a wider designation could be to specific types of gemstones, along with the potential of integrating this into a GHSR framework and the advantages and disadvantages of potentially doing so.