By now it’s official: Greenland isn’t for sale. “But it’s rubies are,” says Hayley Henning, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Greenland Ruby.

In the midst of the is-it-or-isn’t-it-for-sale news frenzy, I happened to meet Hayley at an AGTA Spectrum Awards event. Until then, I had no idea that Greenland was home to one of the oldest gem-quality ruby and pink sapphire deposits in the world, formed millions of years ago in the geological evolution of the island. Though the deposits were discovered in the 1960s, it’s taken this long to mine and bring them to market.

Not only are the gemstones valued by top jewelry designers for their deep, saturated crimson hue, but equally appealing — to designers and consumers alike — is the ethical practices in which they are mined. “Our gems can be tracked along every step of the journey,” says Hayley, who told us much more about the stones and Greenland Ruby’s ethical mining practices in a recent interview.

Judging from the beautiful ruby ring Hayley was wearing the day I met her (shown below), I will never again think of Greenland as a remote, desolate, icy expanse, but as the purveyor of one of the most coveted and vibrant gemstones in the world. And after reading Hayley’s interview, I think you’ll feel the same. — Sue Perry

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 Talk about a conversation starter! This is the ring Hayley was wearing that sparked this interview.

DPA: You spend a lot of time in Greenland, what is it like?

HH: Coming from New York, the contrast couldn’t be more incredible — and fun. It’s a pristine wilderness, pretty much covered in ice. Even in the summer months, temperatures don’t get that high. And there are only about 56,000 inhabitants on the entire island — a great contrast to my life in New York. There are no superhighways connecting towns; we get around by plane and helicopter. In our mining operation, everything goes in and out by helicopter, especially in the winter.

DPA: We think of rubies coming out of the ground in warmer places like Burma and India. What makes Greenland so geologically special to produce these stones?

HH: That’s the million dollar question. There’s no rhyme or reason why the deposit is there. Greenland is one of the first land formations on earth, thought to be about three billion years old. Rubies are formed by the presence of corundrum and other minerals and we don’t really know why this happened in this location. It’s a random deposit to be honest.

DPA: For such an old deposit, why has it taken so long to mine the gemstones?

HH: A geological survey only identified the deposit in 1966 and it took many years to actually get a mine operation up and running in that location. Greenland Ruby officially started operating in 2016. So yes, it’s the oldest deposit on earth, but one of the most recent mining operations, only now bringing the gems to market.

DPA: Are there any differences in the rubies and sapphires mined in Greenland than gemstones from other parts of the world?

HH: To the average eye, there is no difference. The colors are excellent ranging from deep dark pigeon blood reds to pastel icy-pink tones. The chemical makeup is the same as other minerals in the corundum family. It’s the inclusions — any material trapped within the gems when they are forming — being nearly three billion years old, that are unique and tell the story of their Greenland origins.

DPA: The stones are ethically sourced. Can you briefly tell us what that means for gemstone consumers?

HH: What it means to be ethical and responsible is in our company DNA. We adhere to the strictest and highest of standards. How we measure that is by tracking each gemstone from the mine to the sorting house to cutting and polishing and finally to the hands of the consumer. Very few mines are able to that. Our gemstones also come with a certificate of origin guaranteeing that the stones are mined in an environmentally responsible way from a country with an excellent safety and human rights record. The Greenland government requires that.

DPA: Greenland Ruby’s ethical consciousness also extends to protecting the Polar environment. Can you tell us about that?

HH: Yes. As we remove material from the earth, we also want to give something back. We’re a member of The Pink Polar Bear Organization, an initiative by Greenland Ruby and other partners to contribute to climate change awareness by protecting and supporting the Polar regions – home not to just bears, but seals, whales and other high-latitude animal life that are being affected by change.

DPA: Now that Greenland rubies are making their way to exquisite jewelry, can you tell us which designers are working with the gems?

HH: Rubies are still extremely rare so the availability, consistency and ethical mining practices of Greenland Ruby are appealing to more brands and top designers. Currently, Victor Velyan partners with us in a new collection. You will also start to see Diedre Feathersone, Marina B and Marla Aaron work with our gems.

Victory Velyan Ruby Ring

This ring is from Victor Velyan’s Greenland Ruby collection.

DPA: As a sort of cheerleader for Greenland-mined stones, what’s the best part of your job?

HH: I could talk all day about what I love about my job. It’s very exciting for the industry. It’s not everyday that one comes across a new deposit of gemstones. There’s only so much material in the earth. It’s an amazing opportunity to tell this story.