Colored Stones / Podcasts

The Jewelry District, Episode 38: Guest John Ferry


In This Episode
In this edition of The Jewelry District, you’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates talk with John Ferry, the founder and CEO of Prosperity Earth. He’ll tell us all about his mining efforts in Madagascar and the beautiful demantoid garnets found there.

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Show Notes
00:30 Introducing John Ferry, founder and CEO of Prosperity Earth.
06:51 John explains how Prosperity Earth tries to give back to the local community
08:17 Victoria asks John to explain the significance of demantoids.
12:31 John tells us all about the mine.
15:39 Rob questions if mining can have a positive impact on the community in which it occurs.
19:03 A few more fun facts about Madagascar.

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Editor: Olivia Briley
Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet

Show Recap

Introducing John Ferry
With most of the Tucson gem shows canceled, Victoria and Rob will be bringing a little bit of the gem world to you as they introduce guest John Ferry, the founder and CEO of Prosperity Earth. John is based in Greenwich, Conn., while his mining company is based in Madagascar. Originally working on Wall Street, John later turned his entrepreneurial spirit to Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, which he’s now visited around 65 times. Starting out with a chocolate and vanilla business, he soon turned his endeavors in Madagascar to mining.

A Prosperity Earth demantoid garnet
A Prosperity Earth demantoid garnet

All About Giving Back
John says creating prosperity is his No. 1 goal, hence the name of the company. And with that comes a component of giving back to the community. That’s done by reinvesting in the people who work for his company and the community in which they work. But giving back also includes an environmental factor. There’s a high level of interdependency between the people of Madagascar, the planet, community relations, and environmental development.

Demantoid crystals
Demantoid crystals

What Are Demantoids?
Victoria tells us that she’s holding a demantoid garnet of John’s and asks him to explain why it’s so special. He tells us a demantoid garnet is 10,000 times rarer than a diamond. Its signature features are its fire and brilliance, which John believes make it the most beautiful of all the colored gems. Comparing Madagascan demantoids to ones from Russia, John believes his are better because of their sharp and clean crystallization. Victoria asks John about his deposit supplies in the mine, and Rob asks him about how he plans to get the word out about demantoids.

Rough demantoid
Rough demantoid

Origins Of Madagascan Demantoids
Rob asks John how he found out about the mine, how long it took him to get set up, and how deep it is. The mine has been around for about 10 years. John explains how he knew an Italian geologist, Dr. Federico Pezzotta, who stuck with the deposit to study it and establish the potential of the location. Right now, Prosperity Earth is only mining down about 15 to 18 meters—but it should eventually go down to around 200 to 300 meters. Madagascan demantoid is anywhere from 30 to 50% the cost of Russian demantoid. John says he wants to democratize demantoid, making it accessible to designers.

Madagascar demantoid mine
The Madagascar demantoid mine in March 2020

The Impact Of Mining
Beyond the mining level, Prosperity Earth has a 10-plus-person gem-cutting team that does precision faceting. The gem-cutting process is responsible for job creation, making Madagascar not just the origin of the rough gem crystal, but also where the value addition takes place. Rob plays devil’s advocate and asks if mining can really have a positive impact on local economies. John says yes. But he also differentiates between various types of mining operations. Colored stone mining is a small-scale business, which he says works to give back to the community.

Madagascar demantoid mine
The Madagascar demantoid mine

A Little More About Madagascar
Rob asks about Madagascar as a developing country, and John explains how per capita GDP works. Victoria then asks where the mine actually is, and we learn that it’s in northern Madagascar, across from the famous tourist island of Nosy Be. While John doesn’t speak the local language, because it has over 10 dialects, he’s been able to pick up some phrases and sentiments. John says it takes him 24 hours door-to-door to travel there. In the U.S., Prosperity Earth is focused on wholesale and marketing of demantoids—and he says the company will be present at upcoming trade shows.

Top: John Ferry at Prosperity Earth’s demantoid garnet mine in Madagascar (all photos courtesy of John Ferry)

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