By Brecken Branstrator
A shot of rough rubies from the Longido area of Tanzania
Traveling to the sources of colored stones is an unmatched experience, not only for its ability to help understand the supply side, but also for the opportunity to meet and interact with the people who live in the gemstone mining communities and help to drive the business.

They perform such integral work—mining and selling the gems that end up in the finished pieces we see at jewelry trade shows and in display cases at stores—yet, most often, they are among those who have so little.

Many people and organizations in the jewelry industry work to give back to the communities so influenced by the gem trade.

Gemstone faceter Roger Dery has long been one of those, and now he wants to make his contribution even bigger.

On Tuesday, Dery, along with wife Ginger and daughter Rachel—all of whom are part of Roger Dery Gem Design—launched Gem Legacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting education, vocational training and the local economies of East Africa.

The introduction of the official 501(c)(3) is really just an extension of the work the Derys already had been doing in their many years of travel to the area, including supporting a cutting school in Arusha, Tanzania, and a Maasai school in Longido, Tanzania.

But the idea for formalizing their aid actually came from industry members who traveled with them to East Africa last summer—including Chris Clover-Field of Field’s Jewelers in California, Meredith Schlessinger of Byard F. Brogan and Katie Bisceglia from Stauer Jewelers, to name a few from the 21-person group—banding together with the intent of launching the Dery Trust.

“They wanted there to be a 501c3 that would … enable each of them to contribute to something that they had become passionate about after meeting the people and the good that can be done with so very little to people who need so very much,” Ginger Dery said.

They also wanted to create a fund that would allow the Derys to have money with them when it was needed for their various initiatives.

Eventually, the Derys took over the process of formalizing their aid in the form of a nonprofit and gave it a name that reflects the impact gems can create and the good they can do.

20180829 GemLegacy InsertProviding funds for the Arusha Gemmological & Jewelry Vocational Training Centre in Tanzania, which instructs students on how to facet gems, is one of the initiatives supported by Gem Legacy.
Gem Legacy funds projects and initiatives that are connected to the East African gem trade in one way or another.

“The heart behind it is that we believe that if more people get on board and more people are investing and giving, then we’re doing more good,” Rachel Dery said. “We believe that when we make a purchase of a gem, it has allowed somebody to have a job, it’s creating more industry for faceting and more mining in Africa. It’s a domino effect. If we believe that, then we believe that every time we purchase a gem or invest in gemstones, we’re personally leaving a legacy of change in East Africa.”

One hundred percent of every donation goes directly to the communities where gems are mined, with the Derys handling the distribution of the funds when they’re on the ground in East Africa.

Supporters can choose for themselves the initiative, or initiatives, to which their money will go—including things like gem faceting training, the Kitarini Primary School or gemological training—or they can simply ask that their money go to the area of greatest need.

The Derys also noted that they aren’t limiting donations to the projects currently listed on the Gem Legacy website; instead, they want to use the nonprofit as an umbrella, allowing others the opportunity to come forward with new ideas or opportunities of need.

Byard F. Brogan’s Schlessinger, who was on the trip last summer that sparked the launch of Gem Legacy, said: “When the Dery Trust was first talked about it gave me chills, knowing all the positive change they have brought to many communities and families throughout Eastern Africa. I’m filled with joy with the launch of Gem Legacy; this is a reflection of what passion, love and dedication is. This will continue to help so many people learn, live and grow.”

I had the privilege of traveling with Roger, Ginger and a few others to Tanzania and Kenya in early 2016, where I got to see firsthand how gemstone mining and brokering played such a big part in those communities. I also got to see some of these projects and the difference they are making.

There’s so much we, as an industry, can do to give back.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Derys’ nonprofit or would like to donate, visit

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