GO FOR GREEN

Colombia 2019 | ENERGY & MINING | INTERVIEW

In a bid to see more Colombian emeralds in the market, CI Bogota Emerald Mart SAS has started to do its own mining.

Jonny Bazalel
BIOGRAPHY
Jonny Bazalel has served as International Sales Manager of CI Bogotá Emerald Mart SAS since 2006 and is currently the Vice President of Acodes, the Colombian Emeralds Exporters Association.

What markets does Bogota Emerald Mart reach?
JONNY BAZALEL We have clients from all over the world, including the US, India, China, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East. Our main markets currently are New York, Jaipur, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Many of our clients in Hong Kong do two or three shows a year. The two main shows are the February/March show, depending on the year, and the September show. Some do the June and November show, which is smaller, though we see many people doing such shows now.

How does Bogota Emerald Mart assist with the complications that buying emeralds from Colombia might entail?
JB Our clients have been with us for at least 10 years, some for 20-30 years. They know their markets extremely well; however, we bring to the table my father's 40 years of experience, my 15 years, and our competent and experienced sales associate who sit with our clients and ensure they are buying only the highest-quality Colombian emeralds. Our building is unique. We have a laboratory with an extremely qualified gemologist that checks the stones to make sure we are buying the best ones; the building also has a cutting facility to recut or re-polish stones and a laboratory to oil the stones.

What do your sales associates do to retain the loyalty of these important clients?
JB The most important factor is my father Benny, who has extensive experience in this field. Clients trust him, know him, and know we will not steer them down the wrong path. If we feel a stone is expensive or not for them, we will tell them, even if we might lose the sale. We want to make sure we build a lasting relationship with our clients. We want them to be satisfied with their purchases, and their own clients will then come back, as it is all a productive chain. We want our and their clients to be able to sell. Our sales associates sit down with them throughout the entire trip and help them check the stones by loop, clean, oil, and re-cut if needed, on top of whatever they need, especially providing the required advice.

What type of new buyers will come to Colombia in the coming years, and how do you plan to reach them?
BENNY BAZALEL We deal mainly with wholesalers because we are a wholesale company and operate with volume. There are many people who want to buy one stone, and we have to turn them down because I cannot technically sell in Colombia since I am an exporter. We look for someone who is trustworthy, has been in this business for a while, and has references. My clients will buy anywhere between USD100,000 and USD1.5 million per trip. On average, they buy USD300,000 per trip.

JB My personal plan was to come to Colombia, learn the business in six months to one year, and then move to New York and open an office there. However, I have been here for almost 15 years and am still learning. The business is a daily learning process. I hope that in the next few years, we will see more people involved in this, as there are now many hedge funds that are buying jewelry. Colombian emeralds have only been rising in price. There are many people who want to buy for holding power; gems are not like a car, which goes down in value, or a home that cannot be sold right away. Gems can be sold relatively quickly, and I hope people will start buying jewelry rather than new purses or smartphones because a phone loses 20-50% of its value depending on how old it is, and there is always something new coming out. Colombian emeralds are unique; there is nothing similar to it. Buyers can own something unique for themselves and their families can keep it for the rest of their lives.

What can we expect from Bogota Emerald Mart in 2019?
JB We will start 2019 strong, and we hope to see more Colombian emeralds in the market. I am pleased that there are many new mining companies coming in and bringing new technology that we did not know about, allowing us to find emeralds faster and with clean technology. There is currently a shortage of green technology. C.I. Bogota Emerald Mart SAS has been helping in the sense that we have started to do our own mining and have purchased shares in two different mines, the Empavas mine in Muzo and Calceteros in Coscuez, and are looking for a few more. These mines are two of the few mines in Colombia that have environmental licenses; of about 600 potential mines, only 15-20 have this license. We hope that moving forward, we will see an influx of merchandise. We are in negotiations with a company that wants to come in and drill with us. Bogotá Emerald Mart will handle all the commercial processing of cutting and selling emeralds. We used to buy around 200kg of rough to send to India, though that has since stopped, as we have been unable to buy in such large amounts. Mining is the future. If we can continue to find large companies that want to come in, invest, and do it properly, that would be ideal. We are currently working on getting the environmental license for another mine in the area of Muzo over 300 acres so that we can start producing and selling more Colombian emeralds. This will definitely be the future of Bogota Emerald Mart.