Why African Gemstones Will Make You Look Beautiful Inside and Out.

 A ring designed by San Francisco based designer,  Rebecca Overmann  for ANZA Gems with a natural unheated 3.67 carat pink sapphire from Tanzania in 14k gold. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Overmann and idazzle.

How do you feel when you look at a gorgeous piece of fine jewelry? Beautiful, well-made pieces have the power to captivate and inspire. They also have the potential to make us feel guilty (thank you, Leonardo DiCaprio.)

As a personal stylist for women, it's vital that I respect every client's values. Responsible sourcing comes up often and when discussing fine jewelry and there's a sizable population that feels it's off limits because of the human cost involved.

 Tea, french pastries and gemstones with the powerhouse behind idazzle &  Anza Gems , Monica Stephenson.

However, since meeting Adrienne Krieger, owner of Everling Fine Jewelry, I've learned so much about where stones and metals come from. Since that initial meeting, I've been interested in ways that a woman can adorn herself while still being true to her values. Enter Monica Stephenson, gem dealer, owner of Anza Gems and the force behind idazzle

In my mind, I'm convinced that Monica's work will inspire young adult novels about a strong, smart Seattle-based gem dealer who heads to Africa to source gems. While that isn't actually in the works, sitting with Monica and hearing her tales about her work and how it relates to the rest of us is riveting. Who knew that gems could make the world a better place?


5 Reasons African Gemstones Sourced by Anza Gems Are Your Next Piece of Jewelry

 Rough Rhodolite Garnets from Kenya.

1. They are stunning.

Let's face it, we're not buying jewelry if it isn't breathtaking. And Stephenson, who helped launched Amazon's first jewelry division in 2004 and was the first blogger nominated for an Award for Excellence in Media from the Women’s Jewelry Association in 2013, puts her years of expertise into choosing every gem from mines in Tanzania and Kenya. When I perused her current collection, each piece was lovely. Then, she shined a light on each stone highlighting the stunning vibrancy of each. The only place in the world that green garnets and Tanzanite are mined is in this part of the world. 

 Step 1: Rough: A rough Tsavorite garnet from Kenya.

 Step 2:  Faceting by a gem cutter: A Tanzanite trillion purchased rough from a Maasai warrior!

 Step 3: Integration into a piece by a jewelry designer. A ring designed by Vicente Agor for ANZA Gems with a natural unheated purple sapphire from Tanzania and diamonds in gold. Photo courtesy of  Vicente Agor .

2. They provide opportunity in Kenya, Tanzania and the USA.

In 2014 Stephenson traveled with the team making the documentary film Sharing the Rough, which explores the African mining trade. Apparently, this industry has only been around for 20–30 years. Because of this and the lack of local infrastructure, among other reasons, there is a shortage of individuals qualified to cut the gems properly. Stephenson seized on this opportunity to involve locals in the growth of the industry, offer work to US-based makers, and empower consumers to buy products they believe in. She travels to the mines of Tanzania and Kenya to select the stones and US-based makers use them in their one-of-a-kind designs. Consumers can then purchase pieces with confidence that the process is not riddled with corruption. 

 A small Kenyan mining village.

 A miner in Kenya.

3. No, really. They provide lots of opportunity in Kenya and Tanzania.

I could write on this topic all day. First of all, Monica travels to the mines to source the gems. It's highly probably that she is the only woman any of the workers have ever seen in a mine. She looks them in the eyes, negotiates and is undoubtedly one of a very small number of female gem dealers in this industry. Plus, she's committed to helping grow the local industry in a way that is advantageous to the miners. For instance, 10% of all proceeds support primary schools in Kenya and Tanzania that she is personally familiar with. The children of local miners attend these schools. 

There is also a trade school to help local individuals become skilled workers in the industry.  Stephenson is hoping to start a school in Kenya to teach miners who are interested how to properly cut gemstones. More skilled jobs, such as cutting gemstones, provide higher wages. Empowering local miners to learn to cut, for instance, means that they can move up in the gemstone industry and see their wages rise. Her goal for 2017 is to supply a cutting machine and space for the students who are graduating from the trade school. 

 A pendant by  Rebecca Overmann  with 4.13 ct custom cut pointed rhodolite garnet in 14k gold.

4. Anza's approach means higher quality gems.

Jewelry designers care a lot about the purity of a gem. The level of purity is the measure of how much that gem has been treated. Why does it matter? Because the level of purity can affect how the designer represents the stone and how he or she works with it. A small number of US-based jewelry designers use Anza gems in their finished jewelry. 

 A ring designed by Sonoma California designer,  Jennifer Dawes  for ANZA Gems with a 3.00 carat Kenyan Kiwi garnet scissor cut center gem and green diamonds in 18k gold.

5. Your personal style comes through when you wear them.

Yes, every woman has her own, authentic personal style. It's true. What I've discovered is that a large number of us are looking for something distinctive. We want to be noticed for who we are and how we present ourselves. When that is the case, a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry is an effective tool that lasts for a lifetime. Local makers can help you create a piece that is personal to you. Or, choose from a selection of breathtaking options that no one else has. It feels good to respond to compliments (that you will undoubtedly receive) with the story of the gem that is just as beautiful as the gem itself. 

Interested in learning more? Check out Anza gems online or contact Monica Stephenson for a viewing. Wondering if this is a sponsored post? It is not. I don't do sponsored posts. I'm just sharing what I love because I have a feeling that you, Dear Reader, will love it, too. 

P.S. Make sure you don't miss a thing from Poplin. You can see a video on Instagram of Monica shining light on gemstones and so much more. Find us on Instagram, Facebook and sign up for the Poplin newsletter for six weeks of free style tips to kick things off.