Moyo Gems expands gemstone offerings to reach new markets, increase impact for women miners

December 7, 2021
A Moyo Gems miner, Asha, second from right, with her crew. Credit: Michael Goima/Pact

Canadian jewelry maker Sarah Healey watched the Moyo Gems program from afar and wondered how she could get involved. She knew Moyo Gems was focused on the female gem miners of East Africa and creating consistent, fair trade markets and better prices. It was the first program of its kind in the world and was being overseen by the international nonprofit organization Pact.

Based near Toronto, Healey caters to the mid-point jewelry market through her company, luxe.zen, and wondered if she could work with the gemstones that Moyo Gems might be overlooking. Moyo Gems had been focused on the high-end luxury jewelry market, which its established gemstone trading partners were familiar with and which they serviced routinely.  

“It never really made sense to me that jewelry was made from only the finest stones, when imperfect stones still have so much beauty and character to be offered. Millennials are looking for pieces that are uniquely them, cracks, flaws and all,” says Healey. 

In February 2021, Healey sent a hopeful message to Pact’s social media account, which was quickly forwarded onto Pact’s international “Team Moyo.”

Team Moyo had been thinking about how the program could increase its local economic impact in Moyo Gems villages through the purchase of a larger variety of gems from the miners. Additionally, the team had been thinking about how Pact could further build the capacity of their national partner, the Tanzanian Women Miners Association (TAWOMA). Without success, the team had explored the ‘healing crystal’ market. Unfortunately, the gemstones that Moyo Gems miners produce are generally too small for the average metaphysical or healing crystal consumer, who is typically accustomed to more dramatic sizes and crystal shapes. The reality was that the Moyo miners’ diverse gems are perfectly sized for jewelry.

On the left, a Moyo Gems participant displays just-mined rough gemstones at her mine site in Tanzania's Umba Valley. Credit: Michael Goima/Pact. On the right, a teal sapphire ring that is part of luxe.zen's Moyo Gems collection.

Healey and Pact met by Zoom, and soon thereafter, Healey had signed up to join a pilot test effort to focus on mid-tier gemstones. In May 2021, TAWOMA representatives led the export of Moyo Gems’ first mid-market gem shipment from women miners to women exporters and onto Healey. They were supported in the process by Pact Tanzania’s Senior Mining Program Manager, Norbert Massay.

In July 2021, the gems shipment finally arrived in Healey’s patient and awaiting hands (after some time stuck in Canadian customs). For its work in sorting, purchasing and shipping, TAWOMA earns an export-fee based on the value of the order.  

"At luxe.zen we've always played in areas other jewelers wouldn't – raw and imperfect stones with simple styling. Our partnership with Moyo Gems allows us to offer ground-to-body transparency on our pieces at an affordable price point," Healey says.

"Our partnership with Moyo Gems allows us to offer ground-to-body transparency on our pieces at an affordable price point."

A Moyo Gems miner sells rough gemstones at a market day in 2019. Credit: Michael Goima/Pact

There are a few key differences in this new market offering being trialed through the luxe.zen partnership. This effort focuses on mid- and lower-value gemstones, which means that the gems have more of nature’s beauty within them. These are gorgeous, have difficult-to-see “inclusions” and are available at more affordable price points. Finally, traceability is guaranteed to Moyo Gems program villages and to the women therein. Part of the beauty of this new service offering is that it is only available to women miners (instead of the mix of women and men for high-end stones).

Salma Kundi, TAWOMA’s longtime Secretary General, sees a bright future with the potential market for the Moyo Gems-assured mid-value stones. “These purchases of mid-tier minerals helps Tanzanian women miners change their lives. We are so grateful for brands like luxe.zen that allow us to expand our direct impacts with their purchases of these truly beautiful gems.”

Norbert Massay comments, “We are bringing expanded opportunities to Tanzanian Moyo program miners through this new effort. These opportunities strengthen women-led households, whole communities and our national partner TAWOMA. This work also expands opportunities for responsible gemstone sourcing to new audiences at more affordable price points.”

For more information, visit Moyo Gems at