By Jennifer Heebner
Once a year, Jewelry Television, or JTV, hosts a multiday event for gem lovers and jewelry makers at its headquarters, and demantoid Garnet miner John Ferry got to share his passion for a rare green variety at its most recent affair.
Held in mid-October 2022, The JTV Experience invites enthusiasts to attend lectures and workshops in its Knoxville, Tenn., headquarters. Ferry, owner of Prosperity Earth (PE) in Madagascar, was invited to talk about his mine, from which demantoid Garnets are mined and cut (PE has a 10-person cutting team in the capital city of Antananarivo) before being shipped to his U.S. office for loose and finished jewelry sales. Here are takeaways from his presentation, the entirety of which can be viewed by clicking here.
Ferry & Madagascar
Towards the end of a 10-year period spent working on Wall Street, Ferry met an entrepreneur with ties to the African nation. Also around that time, he had tired of his career in investment banking, deciding to swap it out for a new venture.
He moved to Madagascar for five years, living in the country sourcing vanilla and chocolate and striving to be successful with an ethos he still stands by: prosperity for all.
“To be successful in business and life, you have to be a mission-led, values-driven person who is hard working,” he explained.
By about 2014, his interests shifted to gemstones, and he founded PE—a demantoid Garnet mining and gemstone jewelry business based in Madagascar and Greenwich, Conn. The green to bluish-green to yellowish-green gem was renowned for large clean crystals with the highest dispersion rate of all gemstones suitable for jewelry. Plus, demantoid Garnet was largely untreated, fierier than Diamonds, a 6.5–7.5 on the Mohs scale, and could also be found in other locales, like Russia, Brazil, and Persia.
Ferry’s mine is adjacent to the Indian Ocean and had been discovered decades previously. It experienced a rush of unregulated miners who wreaked havoc on the landscape and locals. Mangroves had been cut and taxes not paid. Flooding in the pits ultimately drove away prospectors before Ferry secured permits from the Ministry of Mines to set up a proper operation.
Heavy equipment helps excavate pockets, while the real extraction of specimens and rough takes place by hand. “It’s a delicate process that lacks a straightforward path,” explained Ferry. “There are always equipment problems or weather or team organizational issues.”
Fortunately, his deposits are focused, allowing his team to keep its “footprint minimal.”
Operations & Ethos
Ferry employs 50 Malagasy people at his mine. His strategy? “To profitably and sustainably mine colored gems in Madagascar using techniques and process innovation while participating in value-added activities along the supply chain,” he told JTV Experience participants.
“We want to be vertically integrated—combining mining and the value added, which is the gem-cutting business—so, bringing that all together so we can present great product and great service with an unbelievable underlying ethos that we’re proud of. We want to bring prosperity to the communities in which we operate.”
Of course, investors alone can be profitable and not improve the lives of the people around the mine, which further reinforces the significance of the PE name. “It’s all encompassing, taking care of the people, the planet, and presenting a great product,” Ferry said.
Having a year-round team in Madagascar aids in issues that double as hot topics today.
“Being on the ground in Madagascar all the time is important because it’s a check on accountability,” he added. “When you’re not just parachuting in and out—it means you are accountable to the local communities and doing business the right way.”
This translates to today’s conversations on sustainability, traceability, and ethical sourcing—terms that are still not clearly defined. While there is no single “best way” to handle situations, PE feels that endeavoring to bring prosperity to communities is the ideal.
“Prosperity is that all-encompassing ideal of being sustainable, which is not just an environmental concept, it’s also a business concept—can you continue operations the next year?” remarked Ferry. “Being traceable and why that’s important, because you the customer want to know what product you’re getting and who you’re getting it from and that the people and the planet are not being harmed.”
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