Greg Valerio, ethical jeweller,

Greg Valerio on why retailers should boycott rubies from Greenland.

By Greg Valerio, ethical jeweller,

Apartheid is a strong word to apply to such a benign idea as rubies from Greenland. But unfortunately, and to the shame of both Denmark and Greenland, this is exactly what is happening.


Inuit and Greenlanders are being intentionally marginalised from prospecting, owning and selling ruby from the very island that is their home.

Greenland is a rich source of rubies, yet through institutional bureaucracy, corporate collusion and ethnic stereotyping, the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) responsible for the management of mineral resource activities in Greenland has prevented local people creating a livelihood for themselves.

Why? Well, let’s refer to the words of Lars Lund Sorensen of the BMP in July 2007: “We don’t want ‘those’ people making that kind of money.”

Until the documentation of valuable gem deposits in Greenland, Inuit were allowed to gather, polish and sell gem material freely but once exceptionally valuable ruby was documented by exploration company True North Gems, the BMP issued new mining laws and moved to exclude locals from the ruby deposits. Last month, the Greenland Ombudsman judged the BMP had acted outside its powers in ordering the confiscation of ruby gathered by local small-scale miners.

Indigenous Greenlanders had always been permitted to hunt, mine and fish according to traditional methods but when local people became empowered and broke out of the Danish colonial stereotype of using low-grade ruby for native ethnic carvings and wanted to cut and polish stones of gem quality value and sell to the world market, the Danish administration broke their own mining laws to stop them.

There is a serious moral disconnect with the current situation in Greenland. That bureaucrats can dictate, based on European colonial legislation, whether a local person can own a ruby picked up from the ground seems grounded in ignorance at best, and at worst a cynical piece of racial prejudice.

What this means for retail jewellers in the UK is that you cannot buy a Greenland Ruby from the hand of a local person. This story continues to define local politics in Greenland and responsible jewellers should boycott rubies from Greenland until local Greenlanders are allowed to make a living from the stones they love. What’s needed in this situation is for common sense to prevail over bureaucracy.