Those alluring mineral crystals, also known as gems or precious stones, have been popular for ages, as they are largely used to make jewelry or other adornments. The global gemstone and jewelry market is currently worth about US$300 billion, and the market is expected to grow by at least 4.7% to US$443billion by 2023.
While India is the global leader, with exports estimated at US$60billion, Nigeria is endowed with some of the world’s scarce precious gems like Sapphire, Emerald, Aquamarine, Tourmaline and others, and they are available in large commercial quantities.
Nigeria has huge deposits of Paraiba Tourmaline which can generate at least $5 milion per annum, if well exploited. Precious gems like Beryl, Aquamarine, Sapphires, Zircon in bubble-gum, pink and water melon Tourmaline grades, from green to red, can only be sourced from Tibet, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Brazil.
However, the Nigerian gemstones market is largely undeveloped. There are no gemological labs in Nigeria that can test and issue certificates, and this is a basic structure that would help standardize products in the market. Information, statistics, infrastructure, legal framework and technological know-how are also major draw backs for the industry. Despite these setbacks, entrepreneurs, especially foreign nationals, have been making money over the years, from the unstructured industry.
If you want to earn millions in the gemstone business, you have to first of all get information and study the market before you start. You can start by buying and selling small quantities of gems and learn about the different types of gems, and their destinations, as you go along.
You will also need to learn how to verify the quality of the gems. Since we do not have labs to test and issue certificates in Nigeria, you have to send your products to nearby countries for certificates to be issued and the certification will build customers’ confidence in your products. Part of what you have to learn is that gemstones are typically graded by both the quality and quantity.
The quality is guided by 4Cs, namely: color, cut, carat weight and clarity. Colour is normally the most important value-setting component for gemstones. All precious stones have a favoured shading or a generally little range of favored hues. The more the shading deviates from this range – lighter or darker, clearer or less – the less valuable the stone. Color is made out of three measurements: hue, tone, and saturation. Hue has to do with the level of clarity or dimness of an object, while saturation characterizes the level of immaculateness of a hue.
The third indicator is the cut, which has to do with the shape or plan of a stone, arrangement of facets, and additionally, the accuracy of the stone’s proportion and finish. The cutting procedure uncovers the magnificence of a stone. Gemstones can be cut into popular shapes like oval, emerald, pear, round and marquise. A cut gem will be more valuable when the elements are even (color, clarity, carat weight).
Another way of going into the business is by buying raw or uncut precious stones and processing them to finish. If you are creative, you can make tweaks out of popular precious stones and the more unique and appealing the finished product, the higher the price you can sell for.
But you will always need a wide array of gemstones to give your customers more options to choose from, and also to build confidence in your products. You will also require a good cutter to bring out the best from your products.
The shape and finishing is always important, so the best cuts usually take the shape of the stone in its very unique outlines. To get people to part with good money to pay for your efforts, you will still need to get your products certified. So you can send samples outside the country for certification, which will enable you to standardize and export.
Mining precious stones is another way to make money from the value chain, but it is capital intensive and licensing will be required from the Ministry of Solid Minerals. Investors in mining may be required to demonstrate technical expertise and experience, or provide requisite technical partnership before license may be granted.
There are tons of precious gems discovered in some sites in Nigeria. One of the pits in Annwan Doka, in Kokona Local Government Area of Nassarawa State, produces many tons of Paraiba green.
Miners have agreed that sites in Nassarawa and Oyo States have capacity to individually produce 20 tons of top grade Tourmaline valued at about N100billion within 1-3 years. Apart from the lack of financial resources to set up sites to mine these precious gems, there is also a dearth of statistical information to guide investors. Plus, a lack of political will to support investors and to provide necessary infrastructure and know-how.
For entrepreneurs wishing to buy raw or finished products, there are several popular centres in Nigeria where you can buy gemstones in large quantities and these include Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Osun, Oyo, Taraba, Plateau States.
The gemstone industry presents opportunities to create wealth and employment and with self-development and market awareness, entrepreneurs can be part of the developing industry.