I first met this source at the 2014 Tucson Gem Show. It was my first buying trip for my own store and I was nervous. Most lapidary owners were brisk and impatient with my questions, especially when I asked about the mines and the supply chains. But one man stood out to me as particularly patient and kind. He had been a wholeseller for over twenty years, yet he was happy to meet someone brand-new to the industry.
He took time to talk to me about the stones. They came from his home country of India and he was able to tell me exactly which state or territory each one came from and some of the conditions at the individual mines. When I told him that I wanted to source ethically, he said that it would be difficult, but that it was a worthwhile challenge. He made me feel like I could succeed, both at ethical sourcing and at being a business owner. I looked forward to a long business relationship with him. Sadly, he died suddenly in 2016.
I stayed in touch with his family and in 2017 met his wife, teenage daughter, and his father. This three-generation family has picked up the pieces and learned how to run the business. His wife had never worked before, but she gracefully stepped into her new role as a business owner. Her father-in-law offers practical and moral support, but makes sure that everyone knows that SHE is the boss and that checks should be written directly to her. The family continues to be supportive of my efforts to ethically source. More than any other lapidary, they are willing to speak openly with me about the difficult parts of the industry. They have invited me to visit them in India, to visit the mines and their lapidary. The daughter is now a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Graduate and is interested in reiki and other healing modalities. As she has grown up, she has become increasingly concerned about ethical issues.