Enjoy beautiful gems
while supporting artisanal miners.
Monican Stephenson, founder of ANZA Gems, has created a business model that provides fair-trade prices for gems, invests back into education, and helps East African mining communities engage in the market.
Monica Stephenson & Anza Gems' Background
Monica Stephenson is a jewelry industry veteran of 25+ years. She's originally from Iowa, but she has called Seattle home for the past 20 years.
Monica started her jewelry career in retail, working for an independent jewelry store while in college. That turned out to be the beginning of a love affair with all things sparkly, and she's occupied a number of different roles in jewelry over the years. Most recently, Monica has focused on gemstones with her company, ANZA Gems, after a trip to East Africa with a documentary film.
Learn more about Monica Stephenson and ANZA Gems by clicking below.
I began writing about jewelry—trends, influences, artisanal designers—on the idazzle.com blog back in 2008 when my kids were little. I found myself drawn to stories and interviews with people who were working with responsible and transparent sources and practices. I wanted to go beyond the sparkle and really dig into the responsible jewelry movement.
I ended up going as a journalist behind the scenes of Sharing the Rough, a documentary tracing the journey of a gemstone from the mine to market. That trip changed my life. When visiting the mines in Tanzania and Kenya, I found people working so hard to find gemstones, but not fully participating in the global gem trade. I came back and created a circular business model that provides fair-trade prices for their gems, but also invests back into education and initiatives in the mining communities to help them engage in the market.
I’m always inspired by the colors and landscape of East Africa when I travel several times a year to purchase gemstones. I truly can’t believe the gems that come out of the ground there: the variety, the colors, the stories behind the gems! I never know what I’m going to find, so I see as much as I can and buy as much as I am able.
Some of the rough gems are faceted by artisan cutters in the U.S. who coax incredible beauty out of the rough crystals. And increasingly, jewelers are creating designs around the rough gems, which have an inherent beauty in their natural state. I am humbled by the finished jewelry using these gems, where the ultimate creation reflects its meaningful journey.
When I see the ANZA Gems collection spread out in front of me, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to work with the bounty of the earth and the equally beautiful people who find, mine, and facet the gems.
The process of taking a gem through this journey is complicated, and at times, the challenges can seem almost insurmountable. To know that people truly benefit from this journey at every step, from the mine, to faceting, to the artisan who cuts the gem, to transforming it to a finished piece using responsible materials, then contributing to schools and orphanages and women’s mining groups — that makes all the hard work worth it.
I hope that the customer who takes home this piece of jewelry can feel the good that this jewelry does. Not only does it represent rare and natural beauty (gotta have the sparkle!), but it also represents a virtuous circle fueling a positive future.
I first heard about Robert Goodman Jewelers from Jennifer Dawes, a designer who has had sustainability at the heart of her work for many years. Then I met Bob and Rose-Marie at the IAC Gold Conference in NYC, on a panel about responsibility in jewelry. Our relationship developed over time, and now I feel like I’ve come full circle with designers like Jennifer Dawes using ANZA Gems selected by Bob and Rose-Marie in a collection that will benefit East African mining communities. This closes the circle in such a meaningful way!