Colombian emeralds to make the case for receiving coveted ‘appellation of origin’ status

By November 12, 2018

Colombia is seeking to bring the country’s emeralds within the coveted status of appellation of origin, a status conferred to products associated with unique territories like Italy’s parma ham and Grana Padano parmesan cheese. Cognac, champagne and darjeeling all belong to this exclusive club of products that are afforded a certain “heritage status” if accepted.

Colombia recently applied for their precious emeralds to be considered and will now wait for a decision to be made at the end of this year. What’s interesting is that the move to have emeralds listed was mooted by the miners themselves

Considered among the finest emeralds in the world, the precious stones account for a trade worth US$150 million, according to Oscar Banquero, head of the National Federation of Emeralds (Fedesmeraldas). The major mining areas in the country are in the departments of Boyacá and Cundinamarca. The major mines remain Muzo, Coscuez and Maripi are responsible for thousands of jobs in their respective regions.

Emerald mining has had a darker past in Colombia, embedded with the country’s illegal narcotrafficking and mining activities. The industry has since modernised, however, and the hope is that greater benefits would flow onto the miners themselves if they were to achieve the status.

Dubbed “the Lisbon system”, countries are permitted to register their unique product, which would then afford them unique protections including protection of intellectual property rights and preventing similar products from passing off as coming from a different region.

As listed on their website, the protections have the power to protect consumers, manufacturers and promote the economic interests of the country as a whole.

The AO list usually involves food or beverages and, according to The Financial Times, Colombian emeralds would be the first precious stones to be accepted within the illustrious list if successful. In making their case the miners will have to show why stones of that quality are unique to the regions where they are found and will be marked accordingly to show its origin as a sign of quality.

Although many Latin American nations have had their products branded with AO status–including Pisco in Peru and Tequila in Mexico–this application also marks the first for a product out of Colombia.


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