Nairobi, Kenya–based Porini Gems hosted the first annual Gem Affair conference in both the capital city and in Voi, Kenya.
Porini Gems’ owner, Diana Atieno, organized the two-part event last week with the full support of the Kenyan goverment in an effort to “drive more awareness and earning equity to Kenya’s miners and stone dealers,” she tells the press. (Porini is a four-year-old firm headquartered in Nairobi and owns tsavorite and tourmaline mines.) The theme of the affair was Romancing the Stone, and program speakers focused on value addition to Kenyan gems and better cutting methods. Two days of speeches took place, the first in Voi on Nov. 2, where many miners are located, and the second took place in Nairobi on Nov. 6.
Atieno was joined in both cities by master gem cutter Jean-Noel Soni of Top Notch Faceting in San Francisco, who spoke about value addition and gave cutting demonstrations. In Voi, geologist for the ministry of mining, Edward Omito, also spoke about fair compensation for miners. Then in Nairobi, the director of the ministry of mining, Jennifer Halwenge, served as the chief guest and government-nominated representative and gave opening remarks on establishing Kenya as a world-renowned destination for its gems—particularly the tsavorite or green garnet. Tsavorite was discovered by Tiffany & Co. officials in 1970 at Tsavo National Park near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Because the gem bears a Kenyan name, Halwenge urged her mining peers to market it as such for the benefit of the country.
Atieno, meanwhile, addressed specific steps that she would like to see industry take in order to propel the Kenyan stone industry forward, including regulating Kenyan gemstones and their value, better educating African miners about their stones, creating equitable wealth distribution from the source to market, providing proper care for miners and their families, opening a cutting school in Nairobi to give women more job opportunities, among others. A cutting demonstration occurred thanks to Soni and Kenyan cutter Marvin Wambua, and other Kenyan industry members took part in the Nairobi event as well.
“We want to give gem buyers from all over the world an opportunity to come and buy gems directly from the source,” Atieno tells the press. “I want to see more recognition for Africa’s contribution to the jewelry world, and I want more rewards for the efforts of the miners.”
The next conference is tentatively scheduled to occur in early April 2016, and a Nairobi Gem Show is also planned for Nov. 4–7, 2016. For further information, contact Atieno at Datieno@porinigems.com.