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Retailers Team with Roger Dery to Help Educate East Africans

The program is called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

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Chrysa Cohen’s clients support her fund-raising efforts for East African mining communities.

SINCE 2010, GEM CUTTER Roger Dery has led jewelry retailers on dozens of trips to East Africa to visit mines, lapidary schools and orphanages through a program called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

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Amid the adventures, education and elephant spotting, retailers couldn’t help but notice that Dery, president of Roger Dery Gem Design, tried to help everyone he encountered, whether by delivering food or water, tipping drivers or bringing resources and education to gem-cutting areas. Says David McConnell of the King’s Jewelers in Walnut Creek, CA: “One of the things that struck me the most was that he always strove to leave almost every individual that he interacted with better than when he started. He really cares.”

Alumni of Gemstone Adventure Travel say going to the source has benefited their businesses by adding transparency to their gemstone sales and by demonstrating a social consciousness that is valued by today’s consumers.

Dery was featured in Sharing the Rough, a 2014 documentary about the journey of gems from mine to market, directed by filmmaker and jeweler Orin Mazzoni. Dery’s myriad retail fans have hosted viewings of the film to educate their customers while enhancing their colored-stone business.

McConnell says his experience in East Africa adds to his credibility and confidence when he’s selling gemstones in his store. He has a positive first-person story to tell about where gems come from — mine to market — and how they can change people’s lives. His store’s most popular event is a gemstone roundtable with Dery.

“How many jewelers can say they’ve been to the mines in East Africa and bought gems from the miners?” McConnell says. “The good I saw being done with schools built for miners’ kids is phenomenal and encouraging. It helps me address concerns when people come into the stores with questions about child miners. Governments are beginning to step in to make sure mines are built correctly so they are safe. Having photos and videos in the store from my trips gives me a level of transparency that most stores can never have.”

Christina Clover-Field of Field’s Jewelers in Redding, CA, says her experience in East Africa motivated her, deepened her understanding of gemstones and made her work more meaningful than she had imagined it could be when she left her position as a hospice nurse to join the family jewelry business. And Chrysa Cohen of Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, DE, donates a percentage of gem sales to Esther, a miner’s widow who took over the business to support her family.

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In August 2018, encouraged by a group led by Clover-Field, the Derys launched Gem Legacy, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to education, vocational training and local economies in East African mining communities. A Gem Legacy breakfast and panel discussion is scheduled 8:30 to 10 a.m., Feb. 8, at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, AZ, during the JCK Tucson show.

Roger says he is humbled by the support he has received for what had been an informal, personal project. “Only in retrospect can we say that we were showing them how a small amount of money can make a big difference in people’s lives. We have met thousands of people in East Africa’s remote villages and bush mines where gems have had a remarkable influence on their lives.”

For more information, email [email protected] or visit gemlegacy.org.

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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