This Is What a Gemstone Dealer’s Daughter’s Engagement Ring Looks Like (Hint: Diamonds Only Play a Supporting Role)

New York City. Sept. 18, 2020. Rachel Dery, the daughter of Roger and Ginger Dery of Roger Dery Gem Design, organizers of retailer trips to East Africa, and the founders of nonprofit Gem Legacy, got engaged in June. To the surprise of probably no one, she is engaged to a gem cutter. What is fascinating about her engagement is how she met her beau, Björn, and, of course, which colored stone is set in her engagement ring. We’ll start with the story of the guy.

Eleven years ago, Roger Dery met an American geologist friend at a hotel in Arusha, Tanzania, for cappuccinos and to talk stones. Sitting across from them were two other men, both of whom spoke English and happened to be in the gem business as well. One of those men was Sune Merisheki. The men chatted and went their separate ways.

Over the next 10 days, Dery ran into Merisheki two more times. Dery learned that he was a tanzanite miner and had a family. Dery bought gems from him a few times over the next 11 years but stayed in touch.

On a 2013 trip to Arusha, Dery had dinner at the Merisheki home, where he met Sune’s son Björn, who was in high school. Dery spent the evening getting to know Sune and his wife, Pia, learning that they had a big heart for helping less-fortunate families in Tanzania. Björn spent most of his time doing homework.

Rachel had taken several trips to East Africa with her parents, but she didn’t meet Björn until a trip in 2018. He was home from school and, at his dad’s request, agreed to chauffeur the Derys around.

Rachel recalls their first meeting: “My dad sent me to go stand at this fuel station and look for a younger version of Sune.” Björn’s mother had given him Rachel’s cell phone number in advance of their meeting. They met and hit it off. Six months later they decided to date, long distance.

“My 94-year-old grandmother said, ‘How can you date someone from another continent?’” Rachel says, laughing. The answer: Talk. “That is your quality time and makes the time you are together in person more precious.”

Rachel learned that Björn was a gem cutter, like her dad, and had learned to cut by attending Gem Legacy’s cutting school in Arusha. Björn graduated three years ago and is now one of the school’s trainers.

“The ongoing joke is that this was an arranged marriage,” says Rachel.

It was not, but the couple learned they had more in common than just gems. They have a shared value of living a life of service to others, and that whatever is given is for the purpose of giving back and sharing with others.

“His dream is to go around to churches in east Africa and make sure they have Bibles,” she says. “My dream is what Gem Legacy is doing.” (Rachel is employed by her dad and handles marketing and communications for Roger Dery Gem Design and Gem Legacy.)

So, after spending a lot of virtual time connecting, Rachel was dead set on returning to Tanzania. “I had to get back to Arusha for that date!” she says of their first actual live get-together as a couple.

Rachel and her parents eventually returned to East Africa. While at their hotel, Roger got the shock of a lifetime when Björn asked him if he could take his daughter out for coffee.

“I wasn’t prepared for that,” says Dery. “I didn’t realize he had an interest in my daughter, though it didn’t bother me because I knew how they lived their lives.”

Over the next two years, the pair took turns spending time in Tanzania and in Michigan, where the Derys reside.

Two weeks after this year’s Tucson gems shows, Rachel flew back to Tanzania, intending to stay five weeks. Then the Coronavirus made landfall in the U.S. with hurricane-like force. Rachel’s trip kept getting extended because of borders closing. She spent a lot of time meeting with miners and learning about their needs. On June 13, Rachel learned that Björn had a specific request of his own. Would Rachel marry him?

Roger knew it was coming. “He knew all along I approved,” he says. Covid-19 interfered with cultural traditions; normally, Björn, Roger, and Sune would have had an in-person meeting with a village elder to cement a formal marriage proposal, but that wasn’t possible.

Instead, the Merisheki family (Björn, Pia, Sune, and a sister named Linda) planned an elaborate trip to make the proposal special.

The family told Rachel they had to drive five hours to the edge of the Usambara Mountains, where Pia was born, to talk to a neighbor about a boundary line dispute. “His dad owns land there and I was not thinking he was going to propose,” says Rachel.

When they reached a certain scenic point, Björn’s sister, the self-appointed family photographer, insisted the group stop for a break and take in the scenery. “It was so in character for her, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Rachel continues. But things got weird quickly when Sune, Pia, and Linda were all holding cameras pointed at Rachel. A lightbulb moment transpired and Björn dropped to one knee. He was proposing! “I started crying,” says Rachel.

Tears of joy, mind you, over the moment and the ring: a 6.32 ct. cushion-cut tanzanite that Björn cut from rough and heated himself. “He did such a good job,” Rachel adds. The gem is flanked by diamond side stones and set in rhodium-plated silver, which is commonly used in jewelry in that part of the world.

Most important to Rachel was the symbolism of the stone. The gem was from Björn’s home country and the place where her parents had established roots through their gem-cutting business. Her dad had a hand in Björn’s stone-cutting education, and Sune, Björn’s dad, was a tanzanite miner.

Roger and Ginger received a call at home shortly afterwards. “It was an emotional, intimate moment of celebration,” says Roger.

And while planning a live wedding is tricky now, Roger is confident about one aspect of the union: the ring. “That tanzanite looks like I cut it.”

The ring: a 6.32 ct. cushion-cut tanzanite that Björn cut from rough and heated himself.

The ring: a 6.32 ct. cushion-cut tanzanite that Björn cut from rough and heated himself.

Rachel Dery being proposed to by gem-cutter fiancé Björn Merisheki

Rachel Dery being proposed to by gem-cutter fiancé Björn Merisheki

The happy couple, Rachel Dery and fiancé Björn Merisheki

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Elisabetta Molina of Garavelli on the Pandemic Lockdown, Ponies, and Direct-to-Consumer Sales

Valenza, Italy. Sept. 16, 2020. Elisabetta Molina of Garavelli didn’t participate in the recently held Vicenzaoro VOICE fair, Sept. 12–14, but she connected with JH to let us know how the brand passed the time and to discuss future plans. Below, she shares highlights of her quarantine experience in Italy and news of how the brand will commemorate a centennial.

On her lockdown experience in Italy

The feeling was strange, like at the beginning of the summer holidays: at first you feel lost, with nothing to do, but you know this state is just for a short time. Then, sleeping, cleaning—putting every angle of the house in order—gardening. The pandemic period probably allowed us to have the beautiful flowers we did in the late spring and summer!

I have a daughter who teaches pony riding to kids; she took home 10 ponies during the lockdown! So we raised fences and organized for vacationers to ride ponies. They really helped to keep the spring grass down!

We are also working since the lockdown to strengthen our social media and prepare a brand-new website with e-commerce. Consumers will be able to choose if they want to purchase online or to visit the Garavelli retailer nearest to them. We are working closely to our retailers to offer the best possible service for fans.

On the Garavelli Centennial

Last year I started to write a book with my aunt, who is a historian, an expert in the history of jewelry, and of course, the history of Valenza. I spent lots of time doing research in our archives, looking at old family photos, and exchanging long phone calls with our elderly relatives to learn of their memories. I am very excited about this book that we will present in 2021! It is not only the history of our company, but the history of our family and the jewelry in Valenza, from the end of the 19th Century till now, with a vision of the future years. The book will be available in 2021.

On Stateside Sales

My U.S. customers are really brave and strong. Everyone was virtually always in contact to their customers during the lockdown, and since they reopened they could serve very well their clientele. We had a very nice collection in the U.S. this past summer and the result has been good. In the fall we will support them with a new collection that will arrive in the U.S. soon.

On Christmas Sales in Italy and the U.S.

Who knows what sales will be like! I hope we will be able to recover the rest of the year, but for sure we are working very hard for 2021, when we hope we will be able to celebrate with our clients. Personally, I think it might be a strong season since consumers want to please themselves and move past the current situation.

A bracelet in 18k yellow gold with diamonds from the Drago collection by Garavelli

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You Know About Sierra Leone’s Diamond Diggers, But Do You Know About Its Diamond Divers?

New York City. Sept. 15, 2020. It was 2007 when Laurent Cartier the student was backpacking through Sierra Leone and heard about the diamond divers of the Sewa River. While not specifically interested in diamonds at that time—he was getting his master’s degree in Geological and Earth Sciences from the University of Basel, Switzerland—his curiosity was piqued. He stayed in touch with new friends who knew of the diamond divers of the Sewa River and in April 2019 returned to the country once ravaged by civil war.

artisanal and small-scale mining

Diamond divers in Sierra Leone in the short film “The Divers of Sewa” by Laurent Cartier and Justin Badenhorst

By this time, Cartier had earned his doctorate in Philosophy and Geosciences and a Fellowship of Gem-A gemology diploma, as well as firmly establishing himself in the international gemology community as a project manager for the Swiss Gemological Institute, or SSEF. Cartier returned to Sierra Leone with a South African photographer named Justin Badenhorst and a goal: to film these artisanal diamond divers and share their story—a human side to the diamond industry. The pair unveiled “The Divers of Sewa,” a nine-minute 21-second short film that debuted earlier this year during the Tucson gem shows and at the Münich Inhorgenta fair.

“I became aware that there were a few thousand diamond divers worldwide—some in Brazil, Ghana, and Angola as well—and I thought that’s a pretty small number compared to artisanal diamond miners,” he says.

Umaru and Ibrahim on a canoe with recovered gravel from the Sewa river.

Diamond divers Umaru and Ibrahim on a canoe with recovered gravel from the Sewa river.

Cartier, his wife, and the photographer stayed six days to film and get to know the divers. What they learned was fascinating. The divers (Cartier met 10) doubled as farmers for most of the year, diving only from January to May; the rainy season is from May to November. The men work in teams, diving upwards of 10 meters, or nearly 33 feet, at a time for an hour, filling up buckets of gravel from the bottom of the river. A tube attached to a compressor on a canoe pumps air into the diver’s mouth. The river bottom is cold, with zero visibility. Back on land, they dump the buckets and sift through in search of diamonds.

“There is a tradition of looking for diamonds there,” says Cartier. “Their fathers have done the same, looking for ways to feed their families.”

The divers know what to look for, including a certain type of gravel—a remnant of an older riverbed. “There are places in the river where minerals get concentrated,” Cartier adds. During the search, a feeling of excitement overwhelms. Will they find something?

Diamond divers Dauda and Ibrahim working on a canoe on the river.

Diamond divers Dauda and Ibrahim working on a canoe on the river.

They didn’t during Cartier’s stay, but hope was ever present. “It might take weeks to find a few small diamonds,” he says. “A gold miner has better options to find a little bit of gold every day.”

And when the divers do find stones—some have found diamonds upwards of 50 carats in weight—the payday can be healthy. Divers routinely sell to local supporters who fund their efforts by way of daily food, a salary, paying for equipment and canoe rental, or government fees; it depends on the agreement negotiated. Once a payment is made to a diver, saving that money or spending it wisely can be difficult. Most divers don’t have bank accounts, and entire villages can be dependent on them once they find out. While touring a village where the divers lived, Cartier saw a Mercedes Jeep owned by a diver who had found a sizable stone. Two years after selling his find and acquiring the vehicle, the owner could no longer afford petrol to drive it.

And do diamond buyers—consumers and jewelry store owners—ever hear about these special diamonds or sell them with the story of where they came from? Not that Cartier knows.

Diamond divers sifting through gravel on the river.

Diamond divers sifting through gravel on the river.

“These goods can go anywhere, but they should be tracked outside of having a Kimberly Process certificate,” he says. “It’s pretty sad, actually; with stories like this, industry could move the needle a little bit to inspire demand. People tend to forget that there are humans behind these stones. At all the sustainability conferences that take place in industry, how many bring an artisanal miner to talk? These men are proud of the work they do.”

Patricia Syvrud of the Minerals, Materials and Society program at the University of Delaware saw the film and was understandably impressed. Syvrud is a well-known participant in sustainability discussions industrywide and knows the struggles in educating buyers about supply chains.

Diamond divers in Sierra Leone shot in the short film "The Divers of Sewa" by Laurent Cartier and Justin Badenhorst

Diamond divers in Sierra Leone in the short film “The Divers of Sewa” by Laurent Cartier and Justin Badenhorst

“Having people not understand the lives upstream in the supply chain is not unique to the diamond industry,” she says. “There are so many misconceptions about the artisanal and small-scale mining industry, that it means illegal activity and conflict diamonds. It doesn’t! To these divers, diamonds are so incredibly important to their lives.”

And while the film doesn’t necessarily issue a call to action, it should firmly implant a human image of whom you are helping when you buy diamonds. The stones found by the divers of Sewa may get sucked into the bigger supply chain and sold anonymously, without their rich backstory, but these stories are important to share because they are part of the larger responsible sourcing landscape.

“This movie should be running on a loop in retail stores!” says Syvrud. “It’s powerful.”

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Italian Exhibition Group’s Marco Carniello Weighs in on the Live VOICE Jewelry Show Happening This Week in Italy

New York City. Sept. 8, 2020. As American jewelry businesses try to reconvene—sans trade shows, given that most have postponed events until 2021—the industry in Europe is gearing up for a comeback. The Vicenza-based VOICE show, organized by the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG), which organizes Vicenzaoro, is slated to occur Sept. 12–14, 2020. This event will be the first major live jewelry trade fair of the year since the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry fair, Feb. 25–29, 2020. (VOICE will also have a digital component for those who can’t attend.) What can be expected? It’s tough to predict, but IEG’s Marco Carniello, group brand director, jewelry and fashion, talks to us about his expectations and conversations with exhibitors and attendees.

Jennifer Heebner: What are your expectations on business for VOICE?

Marco Carniello: VOICE (Vicenzaoro International Community Event) by the Italian Exhibition Group, which organizes Vicenzaoro and is one of the main trade fair operators in the industry, is launching an event to reunite the gold and jewelry sector and aims to relaunch business and export activities around the world after months of standstill. It is impossible to expect reaching business of a standard event, but with VOICE we get as close to it as the current situation allows. We are very excited to have over 350 brands and producers showcasing their products and designs at the Vicenza Expo Centre as well as B2B professionals joining us on site. And for those who may not be able to travel to Italy, a live-streaming and a buyer virtual room for business meetings will be set up.

Voice by VicenzaOro

JH: In 2019, the September edition of the VicenzaOro fair experienced incredible growth, with a 10 percent increase in foreign trade members from 117 nations. To date, what do the registration numbers look like for VOICE attendees? What three countries will account for the bulk of visitors and why do you think this is the case?

MC: Due to the pandemic, we are expecting participants mainly from Italy and Europe (in particular from Germany, Belgium, France, and Austria) visiting the event on site. Unfortunately, we are still facing a difficult context in terms of traveling—reduced flight schedules, quarantine arrangements in some countries, and different government regulations are making it very difficult for trade members to travel to Vicenza.

This is why we have prepared a “phygital” event that, thanks to technology and digitization—a process that we had already started in IEG and on which we have pressed the accelerator in recent months—adds to the live experience at the fair for all kinds of opportunities for visibility, communication, and online meetings.

JH: Your show team has worked hard to ensure that both exhibitors and attendees will be safe during the fair. What were some of the most challenging aspects of setting up safety protocols?

MC: The event will take place guaranteeing full health protection of companies and visitors in compliance with IEG’s #SAFEBUSINESS project, providing more than 50 guidelines, from the digitalization of tickets and payments, to temperature controls, to a sanitization route. We have also chosen the GBAC STARTM program of facility accreditation to reach the international standards of hygiene for the Vicenza fairgrounds. The most challenging part of implementing this protocol was adapting continuously our procedures to a changing environment, still very uncertain, with periodically new regulations from our local and national government. But we were among the first to start a working table on this topic, and the #SAFEBUSINESS project has been a reference point and a fundamental contribution for all districts and congress centers at the international level. IEG took charge of each step, without burdening companies and visitors, who can live a safe experience at the fair simply following the diligence of the “new normal” we are all getting used to.

JH: Show communications drive home the importance of “listening to the market.” What have clients been telling you leading up to the fair? About business and their concerns, and about how VicenzaOro can help?

MC: The idea of VOICE comes precisely from listening to the companies and their willingness to resume relations with the national and international supply chain. The trade fair is a key tool for their commercial development—especially in a difficult moment like this. That is why also the World Jewelry Confederation CIBJO, together with all the main gold and jewelry industry associations, have unanimously endorsed VOICE as a support for the gold and jewelry industry’s restart in the world.

JH: Emotionality linked to the stories behind the jewelry is important for brands and sellers. Give one specific example or anecdote of how you see emotionality playing out now in the market.

MC: I would love to see people buying a piece of jewelry—of any value—at the end of this pandemic, to celebrate it being over. In the end, that is where the value of jewelry lies; it connects us to a story, to an emotion that will stay with us for life.

JH: The VOICE September show will include both offline and online experiences. How will your online experience differ, if at all, from other recent online virtual show formats?

MC: The virtual setting of VOICE includes live streaming of the events dedicated to sustainability, trends, and technological innovation across streaming platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. The most advanced broadcasting systems will ensure high-quality broadcasting viewable all over the world. Italian Exhibition Group has also developed a truly sophisticated digital platform, buyer virtual rooms for business meetings with potential suppliers, fixed through the I-MOP (IEG Meeting Omnichannel Platform). This is an area where exhibitors can connect with the buyers, with optimal lighting and connection conditions using a special digital technology that will allow them to show their products in every detail. What could differentiate us is the fact that I-MOP is a proprietary technology of IEG, consolidated and used for over 10 years for sectors such as tourism and introduced for the first time in the jewelry-goldsmith world by IEG.

For more information about VOICE, log onto its website or email Lara Hesse at

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