In the build up to the Gem-A Conference 2018 this November, we are sharing exclusive interviews with this year's line-up as we anticipate their presentations in London. Here, Gem-A chats to 2018 speaker Rui Galopim de Carvalho FGA DGA ahead of his talk on 'Precious Coral and Sustainability'.
Q. Having specialised in the historical use of gemstones, your talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference now looks to the future and sustainability. What led to your current focus on precious coral?
Sustainability and ethical sourcing have always interested me, particularly when I served as Executive Liaison Ambassador for ICA, an organisation that has been quite involved in this matter for some time.
The study of historical jewellery with Mediterranean coral got me hooked on precious corals. something that I knew very little about to be honest, and led me into further reading, studying and talking to knowledgeable people to learn more.
I then met Vicenzo Liverino, a world renowned precious coral expert who not only helped me on the historical and stylistic aspects of the coral industry, but also with his passioned commitment to address coral sustainability to guarantee the health of the coral industry, and the preservation of cultural heritage in several parts of the world, namely in Torre del Greco, his home town and the capital of precious coral.
My long-time involvement with CIBJO (The World Jewellery Confederation), where sustainable development is a key subject, and after a while I found myself involved with these important issues for our future. We can say that the past took me to the future.
Q. Without giving too much away before your talk, what is the difference between coral and precious coral and why is it important for the industry to observe this?
That is one of the most important questions that every consumer and dealer should address when considering precious coral jewellery. For now, let’s just say that there are far more than 7000 species of animals that are collectively termed “corals” (and continuous research has been finding new ones) and that less than 0.2% are considered precious coral species.
Furthermore, these precious coral species do not live in the same ecosystems as the Great Barrier Reef and other similar places where reef building corals have been a serious concern due to climate change. There is a big difference and I’ll explore it in my talk at the Gem-A Conference.
Q. As the vice-president of the Coral Commission for CIBJO, have you noticed any trends is the industry towards coral and organic sustainability?
As a citizen, as a parent, and as a consumer I feel a growing concern in ethical and sustainable sourcing in every industry. The gem and jewellery industries, in general, and the coral industry in particular are no exception. Serving on the Coral CIBJO commission has made me even more aware of this.
Underlining this is the fact that more science and knowledge is needed to better understand the issues at stake, and to take adequate measures.
While this is currently being fostered by the coral industry, the confusion among consumers that precious corals in jewellery are the same as the endangered reef corals has created a concern that needs to be properly addressed with information and education.
Q. What’s the one thing you’d like the 2018 delegates to take away from your talk at this year’s conference?
Apart from trying to inspire in them a passion for gems and gemmology, a truly fascinating world in both retail and intellectual levels, I’ll try my best to show the different varieties of precious corals and their occurrences.
I will also focus on the current status of the fishing regulations and other legislation on coral trade, and what is currently being studied and explored by the coral industry (under the banner of CIBJO) to tackle the sustainability issues related to precious corals to guarantee long and healthy life to this sector with economic, cultural and artistic importance.
Q. As a familiar face to so many at Gem-A, what are you most looking forward to when you visit London this November?
Seeing old friends and colleagues that share the same passion of gems and gemmology, meeting new ones, to learn from them all and share views, opinions and thoughts and, last but not least, have a great time with lots of laughs and memorable fun with gem geeks just myself.
The dinner and entertainment aboard the Elizabethan along the River Thames sounds like the perfect time to do so. I would even risk the cultural blasphemy of saying that the magnificent gem and jewellery collections on display in London, as well as the old books shops and the usual fish-and-chips, will have to come in second place.
About Rui Galopim de Carvalho
Co-author and contributor to various publications, Rui Galopim de Carvalho FGA DGA is the founder and editor of Portugal Gemas, a gems and jewellery digital educational platform, and collaborates with several national trade associations, jewellery schools, retail jewellers and universities in gemmological training, and is currently overseeing gemmology education at the Portuguese Assay Office (INCM).
As a lecturer on various aspects of gemmology, particularly on the historic use of gems, Galopim de Carvalho is a member of scientific committees and speaks at a number of international gemmological events.
A former executive liaison ambassador of the ICA (International Coloured Gemstone Association), he is also an associate editor of Gem-A’s The Journal of Gemmology and currently also serves as vice-president of Sector A and vice-president of the Coral Commission for CIBJO – The World Jewellery Confederation.
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Cover Image: Rui Galopim de Carvalho © Gem-A
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