Thanks and disclaimer:


Important Note: The author: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok . GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.


About FieldGemology. org

This website is home for "Shameless Travel Addicted Gemologist" Vincent Pardieu (B.Sc., GGA, G.G.). Vincent is "Supervisor, Field Gemology" at GIA Laboratory Bangkok. He is a gemologist specialized on "origin determination of gemstones".
This is also home for Vincent's regular traveling companions: David Bright, Jean Baptiste Senoble, Richard W. Hughes, Guillaume Soubiraa, Walter Balmer, Michael Rogers, Kham Vannaxay and many others like recently: Philippe Ressigeac, Oliver Segura , Flavie Isatelle and Lou Pierre Bryl.

We are gemologists (gemmologists) sharing a passion for gemstones, gemolology (gemmology), gem people and traveling.

You will find in this website gemological expedition reports and some studies of gemological interest.

Visiting many gem mining areas we saw that people in remote mining and trading areas have difficulties to access to gemological publications. As today the Internet can be accessed in most of these gem mining areas and trading centers, the author started to build this website to give gem people living there the opportunity to see the result of the gemological expeditions they were associated in. It is a way to thanks them for their time and collaboration and to help them to get access to more gemological information.

At the same time the author hope that these expedition reports will please the people from consuming countries interested in gemstones and fascinated by their mysterious origins. Our purpose here is to help people facing difficulties to get quality first hand information about gems and their origins to get the information they need through this website and its links.

With our field expeditions to gemstone mines and gem markets around the world, we intend also here to share our passion for photography, gems and our fascination for the work of the "Gem People" bringing gemstones from the ground to magnificent jewelry.

From the gems external beauty to the intimate beauty of gemstone inclusions, from gem lore to the mines, the people and the landscapes gems origin from, we expect to share with you our passion for gemstone beauty.

We also invite you to join us on some gemological forums we are active in as they are convenient tools to get rapid answers to your questions as they are regularly visited by many other passionate gemologists, jewelers, hobbyists and professionals willing to learn more and share their knowledge about gemstones.


Website Map


Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog

About the Author

About me : How did a countryside Frenchman became a "Shameless travel addicted gemologist"? ( Under construction)


Contact the author:


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Popular Articles

"Tsavorite, an Untamed Gem" with R.W.Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Winter 2008)
"Working the blue seam" The Tanzanite mines of Merelani with R.W.Hughes first published on
"Spinel, the resurection of a Classic" with R.W. Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Summer 2008)

Gemological studies

(Apr. 2009) "Sapphires reportedly from Batakundi / Basil area" a preliminary study about unusual sapphires we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
(Mar. 2009) "Rubies from Niassa province, Mozambique" a preliminary study about rubies we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
"Lead glass filled rubies" :
First published on AIGS Lab Website (Feb 2005)

Expedition Reports

Autumn. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE09: Rubies from Mozambique. (pdf file)

May. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE08: Melos and their pearls in Vietnam. (pdf file)

Dec. 2008 and Feb-Mar. 2009: GIA Field Expeditions FE01 and FE04: Rubies and sapphires from Pailin, Cambodia. (pdf file)

Aug. 2008: Sapphires and Tsavorite from the south of Madagascar with the AFG (Association francaise de Gemmologie) : Available soon...

Apr. 2008: Expedition to the new Winza ruby deposit in central Tanzania with Jean Baptiste Senoble and the support of the Gubelin Gem Lab

October 2007: Gemological expedition to East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) with Richard W. Hughes, Mike Rogers, Guillaume Soubiraa, Warne and Monty Chitty and Philippe Bruno:

Summer 2006: Expeditions to Central Asia gem wealth with Guillaume Soubiraa and the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:

Oct. 2005: Colombia by J.B. Senoble

Sep. 2005: Madagascar with Richard W. Hughes and Dana Schorr (Will be available one of these days...)

Summer 2005: Gemological expeditions to South East Asia (Vietnam) South Asia (Sri Lanka) and East Africa (Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania) with J.B. Senoble and Tanguy Lagache with the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:

- Feb. 2005: A visit to Thailand, Cambodia with the AFG (Association Francaise de Gemmologie) (under construction)

- 2002-2007: Expeditions to Pailin (Cambodia), Chanthaburi Kanchanaburi (Thailand) Houay Xai (Laos) Mogok, Namya (Burma) (under construction)

- 2001: Expeditions to Namya, Hpakant and then Mogok with Ted and Angelo Themelis and Hemi Englisher (under construction)

Find our blogs using the following Keywords:

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Find our photos using the following Keywords:

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Discover fieldgemology newsletter:
(Currently under "hibernation status"...)

Number 01: Sept 2006
(I know: it was long time ago...)



THANKS for their support
for our field expeditions since 2005:


about gems, gemology, field expeditions, studying gemology, minerals, jade, pearls or jewelry?
We recommend these FORUMS
where the author is contributing:

Do you want to

Here are some recommended institutes where the author studied gemology in Thailand ... and was happy about his investment!

For those willing to go further after their gemological studies: Recommended Advanced Gemological Courses:

To finish here are some BOOKS about gemology
the author have read and appreciated and would like to recommend to people willing to learn more about gemstones, gemology and the places where gemstones are found:




Creative Commons License

The photos and articles on are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Feel free to use the photos and articles with links and credits. No commercial use without permission.
All the best,

May 11th, 2010 | Blog Keywords:mozambique , ruby , treatment , flux , glass Travel |
Blog Title: flux assisted heat treated rubies from Mozambique with partial fissure healing and filling.

May 10th 2010: GIA Laboratory Bangkok a new study on the heat treatment of rubies from Mozambique is now online on


Here is a link to the Mozambique special issue where you can find this study: "FAPFH/GFF Treated Ruby from Mozambique, a preliminary report" by V. Pardieu, N. Sturman, S. Saesaew, G. Du Toit and K. Thirangoon released May 11, 2010.


The ruby deposit in Montepuez was discovered during spring 2009 (see our GIA Mozambique expedition report). Rapidly many rubies from that new location were seen in Bangkok, Thailand. First we saw at GIA Lab Bangkok many unheated rubies but then more and more heated rubies. Unlike rubies from the Niassa deposit that were commonly seen treated using lead glass, these rubies were treated using some flux assisted heat process.


Dont get us wrong: It is not what we can really call a new treatment:


Flux healing using borax and silica is going on for nearly 20 years with rubies from Mong Hsu (Burma) and rubies from other deposits (usually marble type like Vietnam, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kenya, Tanzania,...) But the treatment is now performed also on rubies from the new deposit in Montepuez, Mozambique (which is not a marble type deposit). Usually what lab gemologists used to see with flux healed Mong Hsu rubies where healed fissures and sometimes glass filled cavities, but most of the time the stones were cleaned with acid before to be send to the lab and thus there was no glass filled cavities.
The new thing is that most of the flux heated rubies from Mozambique which were submitted to the GIA labs recently in Carlsbad, New York and Bangkok were obviously not cleaned with acid and has some large fissures filled with glass or partially healed and partially filled with glass (as the healing was obviouly far to be complete):


"Glass filled and healed fissure in Mozambique ruby"

On the right part of the photo taken using a microcope under 40x magnification and using dark field illumination, we can see a curved vertical line on the right side of the photo, on the top. It is the area where the fissure reaches the surface of the ruby. Note that this line is continuous. It means that the fissure is not healed. Close to the surface, the fissure is filled and it is possible to see inside the fissure some strait lines that are in fact devitrification features and small round features (in fact gas bubbles). Deeper inside the fissure (on the left side of the photo) we can see some fingerprint like designs first something like honey combs, then something more like a fingerprint design. It is the area deep inside the fissure where some healing was taking place.

Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


To illustrate the fact that we are not really facing a new treatment, it is interesting and useful to remind and study carefully the excellent diagram published in 1998 by Prof. H.A.Hänni (reproduced with permission). Prof. H.A.Hänni was trying to explained what was going on inside these fissures during the flux-assisted heat treatment process:


"Flux assisted healing process by H.A.Hänni (Reproduced with permission)"


It is interesting to see that Prof. Hänny already saw devitrification features in surface reaching lass filled fissures during the 1990's in the case of rubies heated with flux (nothing really new in this treatment then...):


- In "D. after possible devitrification" we can see that the surface reaching area is filled with glass, with gas bubbles and devitrification features (it is exactly what you see on the inclusion photo in this blog) but we can see also that after D, there is E (logic...):


- "E. after cleaning by surface-etching": Flux healed rubies were usually cleaned and the glass was removed before the stones to be released in the market.


This last step in the process was obviously not performed in the case of the stones which were recently submitted at the GIA labs as we saw commonly that glass was still present in some surface reaching fissures. This is the new thing and the issue here:


- If the fissure is healed, then it is closed by recrystalization of ruby (synthetic ruby) and thus the final product is stable.


- Now if it is just filled, the durability of the final product will depend on the durability of the filler...


As such stones with healed and also glass filled fissures were becoming more commonly submitted at the GIA labs, at the end of March 2010, the GIA gemological laboratories in Carlsbad, New York, and Bangkok started to issue reports disclosing clearly the presence of these filled fissures in addition to the healed fissures. The reason is that glass (with lead or without lead) is much less durable than ruby and glass as a filler is likely to get damaged by chemicals, heat or abbrasion dparticularly during the stting or jewelry repairing process.


Thus it is important that the presence of such filler is disclosed to the consumer.


To get more details about this issue and the research we dit at GIA, please read the following report:



Here is a link to the Mozambique special issue where you can find this study: "FAPFH/GFF Treated Ruby from Mozambique, a preliminary report" by V. Pardieu, N. Sturman, S. Saesaew, G. Du Toit and K. Thirangoon released May 11, 2010.


Hoping that you will find all that interesting and useful!


All the best,




April 6th, 2010 | Blog Keywords:Cambodia , Pailin , sapphire , ruby Travel |
Blog Title: GIA FE15: Apr. 03 - Apr. 04, 2010: Pailin, Cambodia

GIA FE15 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 15): Apr. 03, 2010 - Apr. 04, 2010:


Each last Wednesday of the month, the GIA Laboratory Bangkok and the GIA Thailand School join their forces to organize events called the GIA Gemstone Gatherings at the Pan Pacific hotel on Rama IV road in Bangkok. The hotel is conveniently located just half way between the GIA Thailand School on Thanon Sap and the GIA Laboratory Bangkok on Rama IV road. It is each time a great occasion to attend a presentation of gemological interest and also to meet people active within the Bangkok gem trade, foreign gem merchants visiting Thailand, gemology students, etc. For the author it is all the time a good place to meet new people and old friends and to find good traveling companions for weekend expeditions to gem mining areas around Bangkok.


For more information about the GIA Gemstone Gatherings please visit the "news" page on GIA Laboratory Bangkok website. There you will find, details about the next event. Using the calendar at the bottom of the page you will also find written reports and photos of the previous GIA gemstone gatherings.


For the 34th edition of these GIA Gemstone Gatherings, the speaker was Vichian Veerasaksri, who spoke about CIBJO and its role within the gem industry. There I met again Jonathan Muyal, a young French gemologist who graduated last year from GIA Thailand. Jonathan was regularly attending the GIA Gemstone Gatherings since then and we had the occasion to exchange some words at different occasions. Jonathan Muyal has an incredible background as a former Thai boxing champion and a true gift for learning languages: He is fluent in French, English, Spanish, Thai and Japanese and has good basic in more than 5 other languages. As many others (including myself) he became interested in gemstones after spending nearly 10 years in another field (Professional Thai boxing for Jonathan, tour guide for me). Living in Thailand for few years, he came to logically to GIA Thailand to study gemology, get a diploma with a large international recognition and try to start something in relation with gemology. Jonathan was preparing a visit to Japan but had no plans for the weekend. We decided to visit Pailin in Cambodia for our first expedition together. A classic.


We left Bangkok early in the morning on April 4th with the bus while thousands of red shirts protesters were entering the city. First as usual we travelled to Chanthaburi, the gem city of Thailand we reached in about 4 hours. From there using a small songtaew we took the road to the Thai Cambodian border distant of about 50 additional kilometers. Pailin city is located 23 kilometers from the border. Nearly seven hours after leaving Bangkok we arrived in Pailin welcomed by some heavy rains... The region around the small city was green. Such a big contrast compared to 2 weeks ago where everything was dry and brown. Then gem mining was nearly reduced to zero due to the lack of water. Ruby and sapphire deposits around Pailin are secondary deposits. Gems are found from gem rich gravels that are washed. No water, no gem mining! Obviously during the last week rain was back and thus we had then good chance to be able to witness again some gem mining operation around Pailin. We nevertheless had to wait for Sunday to witness gem mining as on Saturday the author local contact and guide Votha Un was as many people in Pailin busy farming red corn. If gem mining can wait, in agriculture there is no time to waste when the rain has come... We met Votha for diner in our usual diner spot. There we could discuss about the next expedition we were planning to in few months to remote ruby mining areas located in the jungle south of Pailin. Of course we also discussed about the program for the next day: The visit at the morning gem market was looking promising!


On Sunday morning at 7 am we visited the gem market in order to take our breakfast, to get some fresh news about who was mining and where and of course to see some gems. For Jonathan it was a great occasion to study some interesting small rough sapphires and discover their inclusions.

(Gemologist Jonathan Muyal studying a parcel of sapphires in Pailin morning gem market that takes place each morning down the Phnum Yat temple.)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

As local gem dealers started to gather around us we saw as usual some interesting stones both rough and faceted. Most of the stones we saw were small in size as it is common in Pailin. Nevertheless it seems that the 2010 gem mining season had a good start as we could see some interesting stones that, reportedly, have been mined recently.


(Votha presenting to the author a very fine Pailin blue sapphire about 5 carats and a nice ruby about 2 carats. The sapphire was reportedly mined few years ago around Phnum Yat while the ruby was very recently mined near O Beng village, few kilometers north of Pailin city)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


The author could see that once again the best way to see some good stones is to show some money buying a fine gem... Local gem dealers then realize two important things: You know what a good gem is and you can afford them. At that point some merchants might invite you to their place where they might show you some fine gems they usually don't bring to the market. To your surprise you might then find out that some people you were feeling that you knew well were in fact keeping some fine gems secret and for some reason that day they feel good to let you look at them and even take some photos of them... Funny!


Of course the inverse is also true: Start your day buying a synthetic or a piece of glass in front of everybody for the price of a natural gem at the Pailin gem market, then be sure that for the rest of the day and probably also for several weeks, you will see mainly glass and synthetics as nobody will dare to show you anything good.


That weekend we were lucky to experience the first case: After spending about one hour at the gem market we were invited by some of the most serious gem miners and merchant in Pailin to visit them. We had then the great opportunity to see some stones of a quality so far never presented in Pailin to the author since 2004. That was really an interesting day!

Of course that was not meaning that production had been recently excellent: Most of the stones we saw were old stones they were treasuring possibly for years. Studying their internal world with the author GIA Dark field loupe, we found out that there was nothing that would enable to sustpect that the gems were not indeed rubies and sapphires mined in Pailin as those with visible inclusions under 10x loupe had classic inclusions for pailin gems.

(Details on the same fine ruby and sapphire presented on the previous photo. Note in the background an interesting pear shape zircon that was also mined around Pailin.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

The author did not missed the opportunity to practice macro photography with his new camera. Things were obviously not really perfect particularly regarding colors. Anyway, it has to be expected and the author will have obviously to practice a little bit with this new camera before to get back the quality expected with the old one.


Most of the fine rubies and sapphires we saw were small in size compared to fine gems from other mining areas. Fine large gemstones are truly rare in Pailin but nevertheless there were some noticeable truly beautiful little gems: We could see a very fine and clean emerald cut blue sapphire about 5 carats displaying an even rich blue color. The stone was presented an unheated. Besides this fine gem, we could see many nice small rubies between 1 and 3 carats. Most of the rubies we saw were either heated displaying a deep red color, or unheated with then a distinct purplish secondary color. Besides these fines rubies and sapphire we could also see few interesting brown zircons.

(Rough and faceted Pailin rubies and sapphires. The rubies were reportedly mined near Bang Pra Lat village few kilometers from Pailin in the direction of the Thai border while the sapphires were mined around Phnum Yat volcano in the south of Pailin city. The largest faceted ruby is a little bit less than 3 carats. Most of the faceted rubies were probably heated while the rough stones still have the common purplish color of unheated stones.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

But we did not spent our week end just visiting gem merchant, after few hours we learned that one of the most important gem miners, known usually to mine rubies near bang pra Lat village had started few days ago a sapphire mining operation few hundred meters from Pailin city on the North of the Phnum Yat volcano.


We took the road to visit that mine and found out that he was working in partnership with a local farmer. The miner was providing the machines, was financing the whole mining operation including the rehabilitation of the land in exchange of 80% of the stones produced. The farmer was getting 20% of the stones produced. He told us that he was expecting that mining will be finished within 3 months and hopefully he will have enough stones to provide the capital he will need to turn the land into a fruit plantation and get enough to be able to wait for his trees to start producing something. In fact such practices where a gem miners and a farmer collaborate are very conservation friendly practices, as the land mined today will not became a wasteland. To the contrary gem mining can then provide to a poor farmer enough capital to improve his farm.

(Sapphire mining near Pailin using high-pressure water to turn the gem rich gravels into mud. The mud will be then processed using the fact that gems like sapphires, rubies and zircons have a higher specific gravity compared to non-gem material.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

The mine was similar to those we saw in the past: a team of about 10 miners was working on a hole about 6 to 8 meters deep which had been dig using an excavator in order to remove the overburden, the miners were then using high pressure water to turn the gem and gravel rich layer into mud. This gem bearing mud is aspirated to the jig where, using gravitation to his advantage, the miner was concentrating the sapphires in traps while lighter stones were taken away bu the water flow. At the end of the day the production will be carefully collected by the miner, his team and his partner (the farmer). That day sadly we had no time to wait to see the harvest. We had to return to Bangkok in order to be there in time for Jonathan to fly to Japan and for me to be at the GIA Lab Bangkok for a new week referencing the stones collected in the field and preparing the next field expeditions.


It was a again an interesting week end in the field. Full of surprises particularly for Jonathan but also even for the author even after nearly 20 visits to Pailin.

March 30th, 2010 | Blog Keywords:Thailand , Chanthaburi , Kho Laem Sing , Cambodia , Pailin , sapphire , MJP Travel |
Blog Title: blog GIA FE14: Chanthaburi, Pailin and meeting the MJP.

GIA FE14 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 14): March. 19, 2009 - Feb. 21, 2010:


Last week end with Tracy Lindwall, a gemology student from California sharing with the author a keen interest for both gemological and conservation fields, we decided to leave Bangkok to travel to Cambodia to meet in Battembang Stephen Bognard, the CEO of MJP, the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, a conservation and community development organization with a special focus on the Cardamom Mountains, the moutainous region along the Thai border linking Pailin to lSamlaut. On the way to Battembang, we decided to spend as usual some time in Chanthaburi and in Pailin in order to continue discovering these fascinating gem mining areas and their rich historical background. It was a week end full of surprises.


We left Bangkok to Chanthaburi on Friday evening and spent the night in Chanthaburi.


Chanthaburi (Thailand): The lion and my camera: On Saturday 20th 2010, early in the morning we left of guesthouse near the river to travel to Khao Laem Sing, the mountain located at the mouth of the Chanthaburi river. There we first found the scenic jungle covered Phairee Phinat fort, the small ruin that was more than 100 years ago a small fort defending the entrance of Chanthaboon port with two canons. There we found an old jungle chedi that was built after 1908 during the reign of Rama V as an independence monument to celebrate the end of the 10 years of French occupation of Chanthaburi. The area was desert, it was nice...


Down the fort is a small shipyard. We went to visit it in order to enquiry about our main goal: The famous lion rock which, like a majestic sphinx, seems on the drawings of Henri Mouhot a French traveller who visited the region in 1859 to keep the entrance of the Chanthaburi River. The rock was famous worldwide during the past centuries as before using planes to arrive in Thailand most travelers visiting the country then known as Siam where arriving by sea. Chanthaburi was known then as "Chantaboun" or "Chantaboon". The Chanthaboon lion rock was then a common and well-known symbol of the country. The region from Chanthaburi to Pailin was of some particular gemological interest. It was reported by several famous authors (Streeter, Bauer) as the world's most important sapphire mining area, both for the quantity and the quality of the gems produced at the end of the XIX century and probably a consequent number of sapphire of the jewelry from that period were mined in the region then called "Siam".


We could imagine that most of these sapphires, left probably the region and the country they were mined sailing on the Chanthaburi River and passing then near the majestic Chanthaburi lion of Khao Leam Sing before to leave Siam.


The lion was our objective on that Saturday morning. At the Shipyard we met its owner: Mr. Nuu a very friendly man who run a nice and remote home stay between the shipyard and the old jungle covered fort. He welcomed us, told us very interesting things the area and provided us a small canoe to be able to sail up to the famous rock. The water was quiet, but nevertheless the entrance of a river is not without dangers when you sail on a small canoe with a camera: While I was taking photos of the rock as small wave surprised me. I lost partially my balance and dropped my camera. My Nikon D300 felt into the sea. I had just the reflex to grab it before it to sink too deep in the salted water. Hopefully only the camera felt into the water and our 2 other cameras survived the short but hazardous marine expedition...

(Here is the last photo of my Nikon D300 camera associated with a drawing by Henri Mouhot, A French traveller who visited Chantaboun in 1859)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010

Back on land we took the road to the Thai Cambodian border where our friend and local contact in Pailin Votha Un was waiting us. We drove then to together to Pailin. As usual in March, at the end of the dry season, the whole region was suffering from the lack of water the hills once covered by green jungle during the rainy season were now covered with ashes. The destruction of the jungle and the forest is a major problem in Pailin region. In the south the Cardamon mountains were still green, but here or there we could see from the road several columns of smoke...


Pailin (Cambodia): Update about gem mining (March 20, 2010): We tried to find the ruby miner we met few weeks ago near Bang Pra Lat village but he was not working as there was not enough water to wash the gem rich ground. Votha took us then to the only place where we could possibly find gem miners during the dry season: Near the river. It was getting late in the afternoon and in all the areas we inspected we found the stream deserted. At the end of the afternoon as we were not hoping to find any gem miner, on the way to Pailin city between the river and Ta Ngan Krom, we saw a mining pit. A miner was digging less than 5 meters from a house just near the dirt road we were driving on. Inside the vertical mining pit, which was less than two meters deep, we found a former Khmer rouge soldier. The man was over 45 years old and one of his legs was missing under the knee. Outside of the hole his wood leg was placed near the tree dominating the mining pit. Seated in the deep hole he was nevertheless very actively mining, filling baskets of river pebbles which were then taken out of the hole by another, yet younger, miner. Both of them were friendly and we started discussing about their work and their life mining gems near Pailin. The old war veteran working as miner explained that he lost his leg on a land mine during the war more about 20 years ago. As a former Khmer rouge soldier, he said that he was not receiving any money from the Cambodian government and had then no other choice than working hard to be able to survive. With only one leg, digging for gems was the best way he found to make some money to survive.

Few minutes after our arrival, a local Pailin gem dealer arrived at the mining site, obviously to buy the production of the day. Today was a different story, I was already there and the production of the old soldier was already in my pocket to become GIA reference samples. There was no problem, it was only about few small stones and the dealer and I knew each other for many years. We spent the end of the afternoon together around the mining pit looking at the production of the day, at what the dealer had collected during the past days and discussing about the life of the people mining sapphires around Pailin.

It was a nice. Then as suddently a heavy rain started we all left in a hurry.


(V. Pardieu discussing about sapphire near a mining pit with a Khmer miner and some local people farmer including the gem dealer financing the small mining operation (with the cap and the sun glasses)
Photo: Tracy Lindwall, 2010

We then drove to Pailin. We found that the small city was dusty with road works. Hundreds of workers were building around and inside Pailin the major road that will link Phnom Phen to Battembang and the Thai border through Pailin. Pailin will then probably not be anymore a small and remote village close to the Thai border but a small boomtown on a major communication axis.


On Sunday 21st 2010, as usual we started our day visiting the small gem market located down Phum Yat temple. There, around some tea and noodle soups each morning between 7 and 9 am most of Pailin gem dealers are gathering to discuss and trade gems. About ten dealers, gem cutters, and gem burners were present. After few minutes an important gem dealer of the region came to meet us. During the French colonial times his grand father and then his father were already gem cutters and gem merchants in Battembang.


On an old traditional brass plateau he presented us a very interesting faceted sapphire:


Sapphires of interest seen in Pailin: The blue sapphire we saw that day is an attractive dark blue coussin weighting around 10 carats. Its color could be described as an even deep dark blue with nevertheless the typical grey overcast commonly found on most large basalt related blue sapphires. The stone was very clean with as inclusions just few tiny crystals, their aspect suggest that the onwer was probably right to say that the stone was not heated. Something very rare in Pailin, where several gem burners are working.


If that sapphire was not the best blue sapphire I was given to see, it was far to be a bad looking stone and taking in consideration all its different aspects including its large size and exceptional clarity, it was probably the best stone the author saw in Pailin after nearly twenty week end expeditions since his first visit in 2004: In Pailin, fine sapphires over 10 carats are extremely rare, so rare that so far I never saw one. The largest fine Pailin sapphire I was told about from reliable source was a fine stone reportedly about 15 carats, but I could not get any details except that it was nice.

(A fine blue sapphire from Pailin associated with small pailin rough I collected the day before at the mines. The faceted stone, probably unheated, is about 10 carats and is the best faceted blue sapphire the author ever saw visiting Pailin since 2004)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


Back home I was thinking that if I had seen the same stone at the Bangkok Gem Show in a classic booth from a dealer in the middle of hundred other stones, I would have seen the gem in a very different way. I was not just enjoying a lovely stone, but it was also about the moment, the place, the people and the whole story. Enquiring about the origin of the stone with its owner, Votha and the crowd of dealers who gathered around us, I was told that the stone was found few days ago on the ground at the back of Phnum Yat, the pagoda covered volcano, dominating Pailin. Later I heard another story about another recent find on Phnum Yat volcano: A large sapphire was reportedly found in a piece of basalt weighting about two kilos. A 20 carats rough sapphire was reportedly broken from the basalt and sold separately. Nevertheless a large broken piece of sapphire crystal, weighting probably still around 10 carats, was still present in the piece of basalt (see following photo)


Was the 10 carats faceted sapphire the author saw in the morning the piece that was broken from the basalt? It seems that they were found at the same place at the same period... That would be a lovely story. The author was nevertheless not able get confirmation about it. Nevertheless, the following week end, on March 28th the author returned to see the stones and was then able to see them together and document them. The sapphire in the basalt has, like the faceted stone, a large milky area in its center. Their dark blue color was also quite similar but only a serious study in the laboratory will be able to find out if the faceted stone and the sapphire still in the basalt could have been in the past a single sapphire crystal. Even if we don't know yet if this could be the case, the following photo might nevertheless be of interest for readers.

"Sapphires reportedly from Pailin as faceted stone and as xenocryst in basalt"

(Another photo of the same faceted sapphire in association with the sapphire xenocryst in Phnum Yat basalt. The Phnum Yat volcano is known to be the source of Pailin blue sapphires. Such pieces of sapphire taken in basalt are not commonly found as in Pailin most sapphire mining is performed from secondary deposits resulting from the weathering of the basalts. This sapphire in basalt was the third the author was able to study in Pailin since 2004.)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


For more information about Pailin, please visit the GIA Laboratory Bangkok, "Lab Ongoing research - Field Reports Page" where you will find, among several other gemological expedition reports and gemological research pdfs, the following expedition report to Pailin:

Concise Field Report Vol. 01: Pailin, Cambodia: (Dec. 2008 - Feb. 2009) by V. Pardieu
"The Pailin gem mining area in Cambodia. It is a known source of basalt related rubies and blue sapphires since the end of the XIX century. This report provides an update about the current mining there and illustrates the way GIA field gemologists collect specimens at the source."


Meeting the MJP (Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation): After visiting the market we took the road to Battembang in order to meet Stephen Bognard from the MJP Foundation, it was the first time we met and we had a very pleasant lunch exchanging ideas and experiences. We spoke of course about conservation and gem mining. It was interesting to listen what was their experience in the region. In Pailin as in East Africa I was able to see that conservationists have some very similar problems. The main issue, there as in Pailin is the destruction of the habitats. Around pailin and samlot the region is still beautiful in the south of Pailin but in the north it is mainly dust and ashes. the whole are is as we could see at each of our visits is facing many threads. For more details, a visit to MJP website might be a good idea:


In 2003, Ms. Angelina Jolie created the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (MJP) an organization for the conservation of Cambodia’s endangered Cardamom Mountains. Its initial focus of its conservation work was on the protection of Samlaut National Park (Samlaut Protected Area), an area that contains most of the region’s biodiversity: forests, freshwater ecosystems, and endangered species...


We will meet again in the future and try to see if there is a way for Pailin and Samlaut rubies and sapphire to help to protect the gem that are the Cardamon mountains one of the last natural area in the whole South East Asia.


After lunch we left Battembang to return by road to Pailin, then Chanthaburi and finally we returned to Bangkok around midnight in order to be fit to return to work at the GIA Lab on monday morning. Back in Bangkok I got the confirmation that my camera and my lenses were beyond repair. I got also the confirmation that my insurance was useless in that case. That was a very costly week end but well, I will survive!

February 22th, 2010 | Blog Keywords:Thailand , Chanthaburi , sapphire , Khao ploy Waen Travel |
Blog Title: FE12, Thailand: A visit to Chanthaburi sapphire mines

GIA FE12 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 12): Feb. 19, 2009 - Feb. 21, 2010:


Last week end with Richard W. Hughes and two gemology students: Tracy Lindwall (USA) and Jazmin Amira Weissgarber Crespo (Germany) we decided to leave Bangkok to return to Chanthaburi in order to visit sapphire mines around Khao Ploy Waen. It was also an occasion to visit again the recently renovated Roman Catholic Cathedral of Chanthaburi. I was informed by French gem dealer Didier Frediani, a true Chanthaburi lover, that it was now hosting a pure wonder: A beautiful new statue of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, the mother of Christ. A beauty of gemological interest...

(A detailed view of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception statue in the Chanthaburi Roman Catholic Cathedral.)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

The statue is special as it is a gift to the church from the Chanthaburi Christian gems dealers and goldsmiths community. It is one of the older communities in Chanthaburi composed mostly of people Vietnamese origin. Their ancestors were coming from Vietnam in several waves: The first one was about 200 years ago when Vietnamese Catholics were trying to escape the religious persecutions of the Vietnamese emperors. The second was during the French colonial times when Vietnamese people fled the French controlled Indochina and came to settle in Thailand and finally after 1975 and the Communist victory in Vietnam.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the largest church in Thailand. It was built in Chanthaburi during the nearly 10 years of French occupation of Chanthabun (now Chanthaburi) from 1893 to 1904. It was completed in 1909 after Chanthaburi to have been returned to Siam (1904) by the French III republic.


The statue of the Virgin Mary is nearly completely covered with gold, gemstones and enamels... The blue of her cloak is composed of several thousand blue sapphires originating from Thailand (Chanthaburi and Kanchanaburi). Her white dress is made of hundreds of white sapphires from Sri Lanka. Here of there her clothes are also decorated with several rubies from Thailand, gold and green enamels. She is standing on a green globe where the oceans are again a mosaic of blue sapphires from Thailand while the land masses are composed of hundreds of yellow and orange (probably beryllium treated...) sapphires from Songea (Tanzania) and few yellow and orange sapphires from Chanthaburi highly appreciated here as "butsarakam".


The result is a truly beautiful statue that I really invite you to visit if you happen to visit Chanthaburi... Now with the old Bouddhist temple on the top of Khao Ploy Waen volcano, here is another spot of gemological and cultural interest in Chanthaburi for people not willing just to go there only to guy gems and have some good food...

For more info, I invite you to visit the photo gallery on Didier Frediani website about Chanthaburi and its sapphire covered "Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception".


Thanks Fred for the info, it was worth a visit!


Of course we were not visiting Chanthaburi only to visit the cathedral and its beautiful statue, our main goal was to visit the sapphire mines around Khao Ploy Waen volcano.


(A Thai miner with mythological tatoos is presenting us the sapphire rich lateritic ground of Khao Ploy Waen.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

The weather in Chanthaburi region that week end was very cloudy and rainy, Chanthaburi is one of the most wet regions of Thailand and commonly the Chanthaburi river is flooding the whole gem city.

We started again our expedition by a visit at the temple on the top of the jungle covered volcano. The night had been rainy. The smell of the jungle was pleasant and the whole region was very appealing with the distant misty hills and mountains surrounding the plain. The air was pure and birds were singing all around us. The weather was cloudy but clear enough for us to study the area around the old volcano. We could find the location of two mechanized mines in production about 1 kilometer on the north of the volcano and spend some time to enjoy the nature and the atmosphere.

We could hear that at least another mine was in operation in the south of the volcano but could not locate it due to the numerous fruit plantations covering the area. After leaving the temple we started our visit by the large mining operation we visited in January, the mine was not in production as the miners were working on the maintenance of the operation and were moving the machinery. It was still very interesting to see that they had been very active during the past 2 months as was indicating the enlarged size of the mining pit. It was not surprising as we were now in the main mining season around Chanthaburi.


(Sapphire mine near Khao Ploy Waen, Chanthaburi...

Over the mine is floating the old battle flag of the King of Siam of the XIX century.)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

After visiting this large mine we went to visit one of the mines we saw in operation from the top of the volcano. The miners were very friendly and we decided to spend some time there looking at stones, taking photos and discussing with the miners. The miner happened to be a shrimp farmer from the south of Ban Ka Cha. As the price for shrimps were not very high and as there was not much work in his farm, he was using his machinery to mine sapphire in the land of one of his friends. Sapphire mining was for him and his family a way to get some additional income and, he admitted, some fun... We left the miners for lunch and returned later to witness the harvest and collect some reference samples for the GIA Gemological Laboratory reference collection.

That day spent with Thai miners was also a great occasion for Tracy Lindwall and Jasmin Amira Weissgarber Crespo to discover the variety of the production of these interesting mines: Blue, green and yellow sapphires but also black star sapphires with 6 rays golden or white stars depending if the stone is a yellow or a blue sapphire and the rare 12 rays star sapphires. Besides that they could see that the mine was producing also zircons, red garnets, augite (pyroxene), some old rusted objects and even few used gun bullets...


It was a nice week end, interesting and full of surprises.

One thing is sure: We will return to Chanthaburi...

February 16th, 2010 | Blog Keywords:Book , diamond , Richard Wise Travel |
Blog Title: The French Blue

February 16th 2009: "The French Blue"!

I wanted to find the time and the place to start reading the first novel of Richard Wise: "The French Blue". I took then the road to one of my favorite week end destination when it is not about traveling to gem mining area: The River Kwai in Kanchanaburi province.

There the nature lover can find some beautiful hotels with no electricity, no mobile phone network, but the jungle, fresh water, a cozy wooden room, good food, nice people, and a hammock.

A perfect place to enjoy nature and a good book.


"The author enjoying reading "The French Blue" by Richard Wise on the River Kwai near Kanchanaburi "

Photo: Jean Marc Calmet, 2010


"The French Blue" is the new book from Richard Wise, author of the excellent "Secrets of the Gem Trade". This time it is a novel based on the life of the famous French gem dealer of the 17th century: Jean Baptiste Tavernier who sold to the Sun King Louis XIV the large blue diamond known for many years as "the French Blue", but which is now world famous a the Hope Diamond.

It is another book that I'm happy to recommend to all people interested by gems, history and traveling. In fact I would like to recommend it to all people interested by gemology.



So how is that new novel?

Well, I'm still reading it but I can already say that I love it. The first part of the book is very interesting for the gem lover as the descriptions related to buying and selling gemstones are obviously based on the extensive experience of the author. Richard Wise as Tavernier spent his life buying and selling gems. It is obviously a book written by a connoisseur. Furthermore I find the book really interesting as it brings something often forgotten in modern gemology:

Gemology is not just about chemistry and spectroscopy but also about history, people and art. Gemology would not exist if gemstones were not fascinating people. It is about dreams and passions as much as spectra or trace elements.

Today in modern gemology, with the arrival of new treatments and synthetics, most of the focus is put on the scientific aspect of gemology as the trade needs gemologists to identify properly the nature of gems. It is something that I understand and approve, nevertheless the other aspects of gemology like history and art should not be disregarded as gemology is perhaps more than any other science truly a human science.

So this book is a novel, the author took some ease with the historical reality for his pleasure and our: If Tavernier never went to my knowledge to Ava, or had a role into Wallenstein assassination, the fiction proposed by Richard Wise is not unpleasant.

The real interest of the book is in my opinion in the numerous descriptions of the way Tavernier was buying or selling gems: The result will be entertaining for some but, I'm sure, highly interesting for those willing to discover and understand some of the secrets of the gem trade.

As I wrote these lines I've read one third of the book and I know already that I will recommend it to all the young people willing to study gemology...


Like "Secret of the Gem trade", but in a completely different style, jeweler Richard Wise, truly a gem connoisseur, gave once again to all people with a passion for gems and the gem trade a very pleasant, tasty, surprising but also interesting and educative book.


Something to keep like a good old cognac for a good quiet week end or a long cruise...

Love it!

All the best,




February 4th, 2010 | Blog Keywords:glass , star ruby , treatment Travel |
Blog Title: New study on GIA website: Lead glass filled star rubies.

February 02nd 2010: GIA Laboratory Bangkok "Lead Glass Filled Star Rubies" is now online on!

It is a new study about the lead glass filled rubies. This time it is a specific study about lead glass filled star rubies.


"Lead glass filled Star rubies"

A selection of 34 lead glass filled star rubies showing the color range of the new material from pink to red and to near black. The stones presented weight from approximately 1 to 20 carats. The photograph was taken using a slightly diffused natural sunlight in Bangkok, Thailand. The background used is page 17 of “Gemstone Enhancement” by Kurt Nassau (1984).

Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


Recently we were contacted by Mr. Mahiton Thongdeesuk, the burner who allowed me to witness his lead glass treatment process in 2004 in Chanthaburi :


lead glass filled rubies pardieu

lead glass filled rubies McClure

lead glass filled rubies McClure

Here are links to the article "Lead glass filled/repaired rubies" by V. Pardieu, then Director of the AIGS Laboratory in Bangkok published in February 2005 and its 2 updates published in "Gem Market News, a Supplement to The Guide" in July 2006 and September 2006.

This time Mr. Thongdeesuk told us that was about to release in the market some important quantities of lead glass filled star rubies and he would be interested us to study his material and inform the public about it as some stones were very much looking like fine unheated star rubies. So we studied these stones. It was a good occasion to show that gem burners and gemological laboratories like the GIA Laboratory Bangkok can work together. This update will we hope help to inform the market and the final consumer about these stones which if they are not a gemological issue are a serious problem for the trade.


Note about Lead glass filled star rubies: Lead glass filled star rubies are not a completly new thing, if fact the author saw some of them already in 2004 in Bangkok. They were first reported in the gemological literature by the GAAJ on their Jan 2005 update of the lab alert they did about this treatment on April 15th 2004. Recently an interesting study was also published by Thomas Hainschwang in his Gemlab Research Newsletter 06/2009 about lead glass filled star rubies looking quite similar to the lower quality material we saw at Mr. Thongdeesuk office. Is it the material studied by Thomas Hainschwang the same as the stones we studied? Difficult to say as many companies are producing lead glass treated stones nowadays on stones from different origins and using glass of slightly different compositions as the author already explained in his study published in February 2005. In fact there is not one treatment but at least as many treatments as you have companies. Furthermore sometimes the glass used by this or that company for this or that specific customer does not even contain lead but instead it is rich in bismuth or barium creating some terminology issues with the use of "lead glass filled rubies" in the case where lead is not detected. And of course it is clear that the treatment will continue to change as experimentation is still going on.


Summary about the whole "lead glass filled ruby" issue:


On the Gem lab side:

Lead glass filled rubies are very easy to identify for gemological laboratories. They were studied in details and a proper common nomenclature has been established by the gemological laboratories members of the LMHC group to identify them properly:


Here is a link to "A discussion on Ruby-Glass Composites & Their Potential Impact on the Nomenclature in use for Fracture-Filled or Clarity Enhanced stones in General" by K. Scarratt:
"(April 01, 2009), this study about Ruby-Glass Composites was first released as limited LMHC (Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee) distribution in Feb. 2008)"


Here is a link to the LMHC Information Sheet number 3, presenting the current nomenclature use by the six gemological laboratories members of the LMHC (listed by alphabetical order): CISGEM (Italy), GAAJ Laboratory (Japan), GIA Laboratory (USA), GIT-Gem Testing Laboratory (Thailand), Gübelin Gem Lab (Switzerland), SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute (Switzerland).


On the market side:

Since 2004 when these stones arrived in mass in the market, many stones were sold without proper disclosure. If it was about heated vs unheated, that would have been without consequences but, unlike traditionaly heated stones, lead glass filled rubies present some serious durability issues:


lead glass filled rubies McClure

Here is a link to the article "Identification and durability of lead glass filled rubies" by S.F. McClure, C.P. Smith, W. Wang, and M. Hall published in Gems & Gemology (Spring 2006)


Many stones were damaged particularly when jewelers were trying to use them in jewelry like if they were normal rubies. As the lead rich glass filling the fissures and the cavities can easily be damaged by chemicals like acids or caustic soda, by the heat of a jeweler torch and is also very brittle, many stones were severely damaged in the process. In consuming countries particularly where people are less aware of treatments, people feel to have been cheated. It created a bad name for the product.

Nevertheless as Tom Chatham said: “Gems do not cheat people, people cheat people”.

Sadly very often people buying or selling gemstones do not have enough gemological training to identify properly the stones they deal with. When in addition to that the stones are bought or sold without being properly identified by a gemological laboratory and without proper disclosure then this might not be without some serious consequences for the final customer and the trade when the stone present some durability problems like it is the case with filled gemstones.


That's the whole issue.


With proper disclosure and appropriate pricing, this material has its place in the market for the budget minded buyer who will never be able to afford unheated or traditional heated rubies. With lead glass filled rubies in fact such buyers have now an alternative to synthetics and imitations. Complete and accurate disclosure is the key to protect the buyer, and to build a healthy industry. So what to do?

Some people suggest that we should stigmatize this treatment and change the nomenclature on lab reports. Well, to the author understanding, the issue is not with the stones properly identified by gem labs, it is with the others. So changing the name on lab reports will not solve the trade problem, instead in the author opinion it might just add confusion. So in this case why to put all the gemological terminalogy upside down and take the risk to have a global confusion if it will not solve the main issue for the trade?


In the author opinion the terminology adopted by the gemological laboratories members of the LMHC and presented in the LMHC Information Sheet Number 3 is perfectly adapted to the current situation. With this this solid nomenclautre, what can lab gemologist do more to help the trade in this issue? Probably do our best to inform people about the treatment, publish informative studies like those the author recommend on this blog, remind people willing to buy gemstones that learning gemology can be useful, and if they don't want or cannot, then remind them that there are gemological laboratories who can do the identification work for them.


Hoping that you will find all that interesting and useful!

All the best,




January 24th, 2010 | Blog Keywords:Thailand , Kanchanaburi , sapphire Travel |
Blog Title: FE11 Thailand, A visit to Kanchanaburi

GIA FE11 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 11): Jan. 22, 2009 - Jan. 24, 2010:


With two gemology students: Tracy Lindwall (USA) and Jazmin Amira Weissgarber Crespo (Germany) we decided to have a week end field expedition to the SAP sapphire mine in Kanchanaburi. The purpose of the field expedition was to get an update about sapphire mining around Bo Phloi in Kanchanaburi and for Tracy Lindwall to advance on her personal project regarding "conservation gemology".

(The SAP sapphire mine main washing plant in 2005, it was then still in operation with more than 100 trucks bringing gem gravels to wash every day.)
Photo: V. Pardieu / AIGS, 2005)

The interest about the SAP sapphire mine in Kanchanaburi is that it was a large scale sapphire mining operation believed to be for years the world largest sapphire mine. The SAP investors were former tin mining entrepreneurs from Kanchanaburi region. Due to the low prices for tin at the end of the 1980's and the new sapphire finding near Bo Phloi in Kanchanaburi in 1978, they decided to move from tin mining to sapphire mining as they could use for sapphire the same equipment they were using for tin.


SAP Mining Co. Ltd started its operations in September 1987. The deposit is located in the Lum Ta Phoen Basin which was covered by lavas coming from the fault zone in Ma Kah Creek about 3 million years ago. There sapphires, black spinel, pyroxene, red garnet and zircons were mined under 7 to nearly 20 meters of overburden.


What was interesting at SAP is that from the beginning of the sapphire mining was planned in order for the land to find a use after sapphire mining will be finished in the area. The water used at the mine was processed with several sedimentation basins before to be released and a several projects including agriculture, fish farms, golf and resort were put in place for the day sapphire mining will not be anymore profitable.


During our last visit in Jan 2010 we were informed by the SAP staff there that sapphire mining had completely stopped in 2009. Now the only mining activity remaining is for construction and decoration material and the company is focusing on the extension of its "Blue sapphire" golf resort. A clever way to use the former mine landscape with its numerous deep lakes and hills.


(The remaining mining activity at SAP mining construction material. At the back a bouddhist temple and its crematorium and the basalt rich hills from which the sapphire rich lava once flowed several millions years ago.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

We went to visit the former mining area. We could see that the former washing plant, which was still in use in 2009 when the author last visited the area, was now abandoned and that there were some important works all around the area in order to develop it into new directions. The area was still beautiful and green with many birds looking to enjoy the lakes and the water.

(An Indochina tiger at Kanchanaburi tiger temple... What future for them there and in the wild?
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

Finally after lunch we decided to return to Kanchanaburi and as we still had few hours we decided to visit what has become one of the most famous attractions in Kanchanaburi the Indochina Tiger conservation project at Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno.


It was a way to prepare ourselves for the coming Year of the Tiger and finally see with our own eye this temple and its tigers. With its growing success entrance fees had become much higher and the project is now becoming quite controversial. As usual the best way to get an idea was to go there and see with our own eyes. The difficulties the monks are facing seem to be very important: How to feed the tigers and to keep them healthy? To give them a decent place to stay? But may be most of all: How to handle the success of the temple? How to give to the hundreds of tourists visiting the temple everyday what they want? Most of them have no idea about how to get close to a tiger and see them as big cute teddy bears... It is obviously not easy to get enough experienced and trained staff to do that, and of course obviously the temple needs new infrastructures to handle its success: Entrance fees are going up and at the same time controversies about greedy monks making money with tigers... Not easy. Not much about gemology here but it was an interesting visit nevertheless...


So to all of you, happy "Chinese New Year" and have a great year of the Tiger!

January 3rd, 21st0 | Blog Keywords:Chanthaburi , Khao Ploy Waen , Thailand , Pailin , Cambodia , sapphire , ruby Travel |
Blog Title: FE10, Thailand and Cambodia: New Year's Day visiting ruby and sapphire mines near Chanthaburi and Pailin.

GIA FE10 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 10): Dec. 30, 2009 - Jan. 02, 2010:


With two veterans of the recent expedition to East Africa: gemologists Jean Baptiste Senoble (France) and Lou Pierre Bryl (Canada) we decided to celebrate 2010 New Year's Day far away from the party crowds and close to both gems and nature. On December 30th 2009 we left Bangkok to travel to Chanthaburi, the former Chantabun of the XIX explorers and one of the most active gem trading centers in Asia.

The idea for that short week end field expedition was to get an update about sapphire mining around Chanthaburi and about ruby and sapphire mining around Pailin in Cambodia, at the same time it was a good occasion to travel with some new "padawans": Tracy Lindwall from USA and Neil Doohan from Switzerland, two fans of who contacted me after deciding to study gemology in Thailand as I did also few years ago.

Tracy was looking very motivated to help me on the "Conservation Gemology" project and during the next expeditions around Bangkok she will focus on such issues as ethical and conservation gem mining.

On December 31st we visited the sapphire mining area near Khao Ploy Waen and Ban Ka Cha few kilometers from Chanthaburi. The area was quiet but around ten mechanized sapphire mining operations were visible around the lovely jungle covered volcano and its old pagoda. If most operations were stopped during the New Year weekend, we could nevertheless see two mines in operation and speak with several miners. All the mines in the area are working to produce black star sapphires, some blue sapphires but the main production is yellow and green sapphires, which are later turned into bright yellow/orange sapphires (Locally called "Butsarakam") after heat treatment usually using the "beryllium" technology.

After visiting the lovely area around Khao Ploy rich not only with sapphire mines but also lovely houses and fruit plantations, we were joined in the evening by Neil Doohan, a young Swiss American studying gemology in Bangkok. After a great diner near Chanthaburi River, we decided to return to Khao Ploy Waen volcano to reach the old pagoda on its top and wait there for midnight to come.

At midnight, standing on the top of the volcano, which is the source of all the sapphires in the area, we could enjoy the fireworks all around in the plain... Simply nice!

(Sapphire mine near Khao Ploy Waen volcano, Chanthaburi, Thailand.

Note the different bassins built in order to return to the river only clean water.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

On January 01 2010 we left Chanthaburi and Thailand by road to Pailin in Cambodia, a small Cambodian city we like to visit regularly despite its bad reputation for land mines and malaria (July 2009 and more recent) as it is an interesting ruby and sapphire mining area not very far from Bangkok. Pailin is located just north of the Cardamon Mountains one of the most interesting and endangered ecoregion of South East Asia. For some background information about Pailin and its gems, please download the "Concise Field Report Vol. 01: Pailin, Cambodia" on

In Pailin we met our Cambodian friend and guide: Votha. With his help, we visited several small ruby and sapphire mining operations around the city. Mining was quiet as most of Pailin population was busy with maize harvests:

Near Bang Pra Lat, we could meet a team of five miners we met last year at O Beng. As last year they were mining rubies with a small old jig and some high-pressure water. During the last month they produced few small rubies including an interesting stone about 3 carats rough.

In another area near Suan Umpal we met two groups of old men mining sapphires with iron sticks in holes in an area that was mined by Thai companies during the "Khmer Rouge" period. Finally near O Ta Prang we met a man and his wife mining in the river for sapphires. Near them an 83 years old Cambodian woman living usually in California, and currently spending some holidays with her family in Pailin, was also enjoying searching for zircons and sapphires in the stream with one of her grand sons.

The visit was interesting as we could add to the GIA reference collection the daily production of the miners composed of several small rubies and blue sapphires.

Our main surprise was to see how the city had changed in just few months as the new road built by a Chinese company linking Battembang to the Thai border had reached Pailin. The new road and the fact that Pailin is became a full Cambodian province since December 28th, 2008 has turned the small sleepy village into a small boomtown.


(A Cambodian sapphire miner searching gems in a stream near Pailin.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

On Jan 02nd, 2010 we visited Pailin gem market near the Phnum Yat pagoda were we met again all the usual traders and miners. Very few stones were visible at the market as the dealers said that there was very few mining during the past days.

(A small parcel of rough blue sapphires seen at the Pailin gem market on January 02nd, 2010
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

Around noon, after a short lunch at Samaki market, we returned to Chanthaburi where we could see that the traditional weekend gem market was very slow. Nevertheless we could see many rubies reportedly from Mozambique including numerous large "paw mai" (lead glass treated) and several parcels of small-unheated attractive faceted stones. We returned then to Bangkok in the afternoon.


It was a short visit but it was interesting to visit again Pailin and Chanthaburi after several months away in East Africa and it was a great occasion to meet and spend some time with Tracy and Neil.

December 16th, 2009 | Blog Keywords:Field Report GIA , Mozambique , ruby Travel |
Blog Title: Special Issue on Mozambique Rubies on

December 16th 2009: GIA Laboratory Bangkok "Special Issue on Rubies from Mozambique" is now online!

I'm now back from the field...

Back at the GIA lab in Bangkok, Thailand.

Back after nearly three month running all around East Africa.

Back home but not on holidays... as after the field there is the lab and a lot of work to do: Reports, publications, presentations and of course many stones to reference and then study!

All started quite toughly: I returned from Mozambique on Friday 11th, the day after my return instead of resting during the week end, I had a return trip to Chanthaburi to attend the ICA (International Colored stone Association) Thailand group Gathering and give a presentation about rubies from Mozambique.

That was nice and it attracted a lot of interest.

Then next week on December 23rd, 2009 with several of my fellow gemologists at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok we will give a presentation about the rubies from these two new deposits at the "31th GIA Gemstone Gathering" at hotel Tawana, on Surawong road in Bangkok. For more information, please follow the link and visit the lab website.


We still have a lot of work to do to be ready but the team at the GIA Lab is really great and very motivated. We will do opur best to give a presentation you will we hope find interesting.

Now today we just put online a special issue on Mozambique rubies on the Ongoing Research page of the GIA laboratory bangkok website:



"GIA laboratory Bangkok special issue on Mozambique rubies is located inside the "On going Research" folder:

Nothing fancy in the design, but a lot of interesting pdfs..."

Photo:GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

You will find there in the same folder:"Special Issue on Mozambique rubies"


- The study on the "Rubies reportedly from Mozambique" we published in March after getting stones from the market in Bangkok and Chanthaburi just after my arrival at the GIA Lab Bangkok in Bangkok in December 2008 (Exactly one year ago! Time is passing rapidly...)


- Our complete field expedition report: "Expedition report to ruby mining sites in Northern Mozambique" including the description of the two new ruby deposit in Northern Mozambique we could visit near Lichinga in the Niassa province and near Montepuez in the Cabo Delgado province.


Now the next step with my colleagues we will be to focus on doing some good work on the samples we collected from the field. The result of this research will be of course published later in the special issue about Mozambique rubies on and


Hoping that you will find all that interesting!


All the best,




December 11th, 2009 | Blog Keywords:Mozambique , ruby , Montepuez , Niassa Travel |
Blog Title: FE09 Part 8, Mozambique Part 3: Dec. 2009

GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 08: Dec. 02- Dec. 10, 2009: Mozambique:

This is the last part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa; I was leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok during autumn 2009: After visiting Mozambique two times in Sept and November 2009, I was not successful in my attempts to visit the new ruby mining areas near Montepuez in Cabo Delgado province. The fact is that to get the right contacts and build good relations takes time. After my return in Bangkok middle November, I was in direct contact with the manager of Mwiriti Ltd, the company owning the mining rights on that area and we were discussing about the possibility to visit the mining area.

As I was invited by the Niassa National Reserve for their annual congress to give a presentation aboput the ruby trade in Pemba, Mozambique on December 04 and 05th 2009, we decided to take this opportunity to try again to visit the new ruby mining area near Montepuez before the rainy season to really start there.


On that expedition I was traveling with two American friends: gemologists Richard W. Hughes and Mark Smith working in Bangkok, Thailand.

The congress went very fine, it was a great occasion to meet many people involved in hunting and conservation.

After two meetings with the manager of Mwiriti, who was also attending the Mozambique National Reserves congress, and with the support of Mozambique National Director for mines, we were finally given the possibility to be the first foreigners to be allowed to visit this very promising new deposit located near the city of Montepuez about 200 kilometers west of Pemba.



"Visiting Montepuez ruby mining site on December 07, 2009 "

Photo: R.W.Hughes, 2009

On December 07th and 08th 2009, we were able to visit the new mining area. More information will be available very soon on this blog and on


All the best,




November 21th, 2009 | Blog Keywords:Mozambique , ruby , Niassa , Msawize , Montepuez , conservation Travel |
Blog Title: FE09 Part 7, Return to Mozambique: Nov. 2009

GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 07: Oct. 28 - Nov. 10, 2009: Mozambique:

This is the seventh part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa; I'm leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok during summer and autumn 2009: After visiting Mozambique in Sept 2009, I could not visit the new ruby mining areas in Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces. In Niassa province we even spent 3 days and 2 nights under arrest in the bush. This adventure turned to be a great chance to get in contact with the management of the Niassa National Reserve and the tourist operator working in the M'sawize area.

After several emails while I was traveling in Tanzania, I was finally invited by the people from the Niassa National Reserve to return in Mozambique, visit their headquarters in Maputo and return to Niassa to visit the mining site with one of the senior officials from the National Reserve.


I arrived in Maputo on Oct. 27th 2009, just the day before the elections in Mozambique for the presidency and the parliament. For the first time during that expedition, I was alone. That was a serious breach to the "Field Gemology Security Rule Number 1":

- Never travel alone...

But well again, we have to expect the unexpected..


For The following day I was able to meet Mr. Vernon Booth, advisor to Dr. Annabella Rodriques, the National Reserve Director who was traveling. The meeting was very interesting particularly from a French "Travel Addicted Gemologist" who had, since his childhood hunting with his family in countryside France, a keen interest in nature and conservation.

Vernon Booth provided me a lot of information about the different challenges they were facing in the Niassa National Reserve regarding conservation. On the other side I was able to provide him some information about the ruby trade. It was really a very interesting day and in fact the more I was speaking with the people from the reserve, the more I was feeling that the best thing that happened to me during that FE09 Field Expedition to East Africa were these three days under arrest in the Niassa bush.


Before that expedition, I was regularly speaking with Jean Baptiste Senoble about our commonm passions for Nature and gemstones. On field expeditions we were of course focussing on gemstones... But we still love nature and to get the possibility to see wild animals. To find a way to combine Nature and gemology was not that obvious... at least until our adventures in Niassa!


But let me introduce you first the Niassa National Reserve:


The Niassa National Reserve is covering 42,400 km2 including a buffer zone. It is one of the largest Natural Reserve in Africa. Its website is currently under maintenance but this will change in a close future. The reserve was first established in 1964, but was abandoned during the colonial war before Mozambique independence from Portugal and during the civil war which followed it. After the peace returned in 1992, like in many other areas in the country, the Niassa reserve was devastated, nevertheless as it was very remote, losses were far less than in other protected areas. Today the Niassa National Reserve hosts the largest wildlife population in Mozambique. It is particularly famous for its elephants (over 12,000) sable antelopes (9,000+), buffaloes and one of the largest African Wild dogs populations. It also has one of the largest lion populations in Africa with an estimated 900 lions and more than 400 different bird species.

Since assuming responsibility for the reserve in 1998, the SGDRN (Sociedade para a Gestão e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa), together with is partners at Flora & Fauna International, has made great progress in putting Niassa back on the map, with some highly progressive policies on adaptive environmental management and community-centered sustainable development.


"Two waterbucks and the scenic Lugenda river, the pristine source of life for Niassa"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

The SGDRN achievements regarding conservation were recognized by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) with the prestigious "Award for Excellent Performance Markhor Conservation" in 2008. Unfortunately, the awards do not guarantee the financing of the reserve which remains one of the biggest challenges of SGDRN. The fact that the Reserve is very remote and difficult to access has good and bad point regarding conservation: The good thing when a reserve is as remote and inaccessible as Niassa is that it is quite intact and largely undisturbed. The difficulty is that with such a remote situation it is difficult for the reserve to get revenue from traditional tourism. Thus an important part of the reserve income depends on hunting tourism, an activity more suitable for difficult to access areas with nearly no road or hotel infrastructure and in which millions of tse tse flies are a burden for most tourists.


For some the idea to associate hunting with conservation sounds weird, but the basic fact is that hunters need Nature and animals to be able to hunt, and thus many hunters have a real interest in conservation: Like lions need zebras, buffaloes and antelopes, hunters need wildlife.


Now what about gemstones, gemstone mining and gemology in all that?


Well visiting East Africa during summer and Autumn 2009, from my adventures related to ruby mining in the Niassa national Reserve (Mozambique), to Garnet mining near the Tarangire National Park (Tanzania), Emerald and Alexandrite mining in Manyara National Park (Tanzania) and the issues regarding Campbell Bridges murder and our failed visit to region around Tsavo national park where ruby and tsavorite are mined and my days in Nairobi with Dr. Cedric Simonet. It became rapidly obvious that I had to do something regarding gemstones from East Africa and conservation.


"Gemstones from East Africa: A chance for conservation?"
An idea worth thinking about for the colored gemstone industry and also for conservationists.

In order to try to do some good about that I decided to create a new website: (currently under contruction... But not for long!)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009


Well, if hunting activity can support and finance conservation, I do believe that gemstone mining could find a way to do the same. It is the same story:

Poaching is a serious problem but well managed hunting can help to protect wildlife, biodiversity and habitats. Illegal gem mining is also a problem as often even if only affect small areas it can be associated with poaching (to feed miners) and destruction of the local environment around the mining area. But if well managed, and done following some environment friendly practices, I do believe that gemstone mining could become an ally for conservationists.


Even more, I do believe that "Conservation rubies" or "Eco-rubies" could be much more sexy to the final consumer than "Blood rubies" or "Blood diamonds" and thus such gemstones could help to finance conservation.


When we consider Origin Determination of Gemstones, would it be a bad idea to find a way for gemstones to be used for an effective protection of the areas where they are coming from?

I'm sure that there are a lot of very good projects which could result from such an idea.


So to dig a little bit more about this subject which appeal to me as much a gemology and traveling, I decided with the support of friends like Jean Baptiste Senoble to create a new website dedicated to conservation and gemology:


This website is currently under construction. It will be very similar to but there I will focus on the promoting gemology as an ally for conservation.


Gems are gifts from Nature as are the region where they were born.

Visiting gem mining areas around the world I've been touched by the beauty of gem producing areas and I feel that it would be nice if gems could help at least a little bit to protect the areas where they are coming from...


If a gem is by definition: beautiful, rare and durable, so could be these areas. Sadly, in most of the cases, it is not the like that. Often their "durability" is at stake and often gem mining instead to help is in fact one more thread for the survival of a Natural reserve. Natural reserves like the Niassa National Reserve are facing a lot of threads, sometimes durability. One of them is gemstone mining and particularly illegal gemstone mining. It is very sad, because I believe that gemstone mining and natural reserve could help each other. It may sound difficult to believe, but if hunting can be an ally how come gem mining could not?

I feel that it would be sad if people in love with the natural beauty of gemstones would not do something to protect the beauty of the places where these gemstones are coming from... Because there are solutions which could produce exactly the inverse: Gemstone mining could help to protect the beauty of gem producing areas and gemstones could even become a symbol for reserve like Niassa.

I'm sure that the people ready to pay $100,000 to hunt a lion in Niassa would have no problem to add to their trophy a "Conservation-ruby", while the eco-tourist would also probably buy a more affordable but equally beautiful "Eco-ruby" filled with lead glass coming from Niassa if they could be certain that the gem was properly mined and that buying such a gemstone would also support financially conservation projects in Niassa.

At the end when we see the difference in price between a two equally beautiful rubies one of Burmese origin and one of Mozambique origin, It seems likely that untreated "Conservation rubies" and treated "Eco-rubies" from Niassa could find a market.


These were some of the points I was presenting to the people from the Niassa National Reserve during the two days I spent with them in Maputo. They told me that they would be very happy to study such proposals because currently they are searching for a solution to the problem of illegal mining inside the Niassa Reserve. And if the solution could be the arrival of a gemstone mining and trading company with a good project which could benefit to the reserve and the local communities, then why not?


They are conservationists searching efficient practical solutions not eco-integrists.


For more information about the problems the Niassa National Reserve faced with illegal ruby mining from Oct. 2008 to Sep. 2009, here is a link to "Illegal Mining in Niassa National Reserve" a PowerPoint presentation given by Dr. Anabela Rodrigues, Director General of the SGDRN (Sociedade para a Gestão e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa) during the 9th CASM (Communities and Small Scale Mining) Conference on September 8th 2009 in Maputo.


That was the day before our arrest 3 kilometers from the ruby mining site in Niassa! (See our previous report)


"Arriving at the ruby mining site"
Nov. 06th 2009: The author, the Niassa rangers and several policemen approaching the ruby mining site 50km in the bush South East of M'sawize village. Suddenly on the right of the track, I noticed a first digging on the ground...
Photo: D. Chambal/ Niassa National Reserve, 2009

On November 5th, 2009, I took the plane to Lichinga where I was welcome by David Chambal. The following day we left early in the morning (5.00 AM) to Sable camp located in the Niassa Reserve. After 7 hours driving we reached the camp, had a short lunch and continued to "Lilasse Camp", the camp located near the mines about 100 meters of the place we were arrested on Sept 8th. It was fun to see again some of the rangers and the policemen who arrested us two months before. They were surprised and very friendly. After few minutes we left to the mining site.

After about half an hour walking through the bush following the deep track which was created by the numerous motorbikes traveling from M'sawize to the mining site for about a year, we reached the mining site. That was a great moment... I was thinking about J.B. Senoble, S. Jacquat and L.P. Bryl who did not had the chance to reach the mines despite their great attitude during our September adventure.

The visit was interesting as I could get the confirmation that the site was composed as in many cases of two types of deposit:

(1) An eluvial ruby-rich soil corresponding to the weathering of the in situ ruby deposit;
(2) A primary deposit in which ruby is associated mainly with white feldspar, dark green amphibole and mica.


The following day after a new night in the Niassa bush with the rangers, we returned at the mining site and continue to study it and to collect some interesting reference specimens for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok reference collection.

"Niassa ruby "
A Niassa Ranger is presenting me a ruby in matrix he just found on the ground on the mining site.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

After that visit we returned to the "Lilasse Camp" just on time before rain to visit Niassa. For nearly an hour we had the feeling that the deluge was on us and minute after minute we had more and more concerns about our return to sable camp and to Lichinga... The facts was that we had many deep, but so far dry river beds, to drive through. With such heavy rains things turned to be much more difficult. Just to take our car on the other side of the first one, it took us nearly two hours... The dry river bed turned to a muddy one and thanks to the help of the 10 policemen and rangers we could dig our way on the other side...


"Niassa rain"
Getting on the other side of the Lilasse river bed was not an easy task. It took us two hours to help our car to climb out of the muddy river bed.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

Arriving at Sable camp I could meet the manager of the tourism operator in charge of the area and had some very interesting discussion with him. The more I was speaking and listening, the more it was obvious that something had to be done in order for gemstone deposits located in such National Reserve to be a chance for the reserve and not a curse...

The enthusiasm of these people about Niassa was very contagious and I was thinking that probably the best thing that happened to me during that expedition to East Africa was to have been arrested in Niassa as thanks to it I was able to find the missing link between my childhood passion for wildlife and hunting and my current passion for traveling and then gemology...

I would like then to thanks all the people I met in the field in Niassa and at the Reserve headquarters in Maputo without to forget Dr. Anabela Rodrigues for the support and the trust they provided us, to have allow us to visit the ruby mining site and for the time I had the pleasure to share with them. The whole adventure was for us a real pleasure and as I wrote these words I truly miss Niassa. I do wish that in the future gems from Niassa will be seen finally as a chance for the reserve and not as a thread.


Montepuez Rubies: This new expedition about Mozambique was not only about Niassa and its ruby deposit. I also tried again to visit the new ruby deposit located between Montepuez and Pemba, in the Cabo Delgado province.

In September the Pemba mining officer told me to return after the elections, so I did but that time again, as after our first attempt to visit the deposit in Niassa, I had to meditate about the meaning of the word "pacientia" meaning "be patient" in Portuguese.

Among us in the team, we started to speak about Mozambique rubies as "Patiencia rubies" and so far this is a good nickname for Montepuez stones: While visiting Maputo, besides visiting the people from the Niassa Reserve, I also visited the Mozambique geological survey and got an appointment with the Director of Mines and an advisor to the Minister of Mines.

There I learned that several mining licenses were obtained by the owner of the private game reserve on which is located the ruby deposit. It seems also that the company owning the licenses has also contracted a Bangkok based Thai company to work the deposit (or just a part of it?). The good news during that new expedition is that if I could not visit the mines (because I was told the "local situation there was not suitable for such a visit") I was able to get a direct contact with the sons of one of the partners of the company called: Mwririti Lda. owning the mining rights there and we could discuss about a possible visit to the mining area beginning December.

Spending few days in Nampula from Nov 01 to Nov 04, as I could not visit the mines near Montepuez, I spent some of my time meeting dealers and studying the parcels of rubies reportedly from Montepuez.

It was interesting but of course this could not replace a visit on site which is the only way following the GIA laboratory Bangkok protocols to collect reference specimens.


"Montepuez rubies"
A large silky ruby from Montepuez. The stone was nearly 40 grams.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

Finally I left Mozambique to return to Bangkok on Nov. 12th 2009. At the end of the expedition I got the nice surprise to receive an invitation for the Niassa National Reserve congress in Pemba at the beginning of December 2009. The people from the reserve are inviting me to share with them the result of that successful visit to Niassa. That will be probably very interesting and it might be a new opportunity to visit the Montepuez ruby deposit located not that far from Pemba...


Patientia rubies? Well so far looks to be...


All the best,

November 11th, 2009 | Blog Keywords:Richard W. Hughes , award Travel |
Blog Title: Richard W. Hughes to receive 2010 Antonio Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology

Richard W. Hughes to receive the 2010 Antonio Bonanno Award for Excellence in gemology :

This post is not about one of my expeditions but about one person who was a constant source of inspiration for me since the day I bough and read his book "Ruby and Sapphire". I mean American gemologist Richard W. Hughes the author of Ruby and sapphire and the webmaster of

After returning from an expedition near Mogok in Burma, I found that book and after reading it I discovered a true passion for gemology as "gemology is not just about science but it is also about art, history, culture, people, language, traditions..."


I got in contact with Richard for the first time through an Internet gemological forum and few months after we met in Bangkok during the ICA congress in February 2005. We became instant friends and Richard was since then one of the best friend a young gemologist could have: His priceless advises, his permanent support were all the time very useful to me in order to make the right choices. In many aspects Richard W. Hughes is a key founderand one of the driving forces behind field

Richard hired me as a tour guide to take him to Madagascar in September 2005 and during that two weeks expedition to Ilakaka and Andilamena we had the time to brainstorm about many different subjects including this website.

Without Richard I would probably not be the gemologist I'm today, traveling around the world to visit gemstone mining areas and collect reference samples for the GIA. Without Richard this website would not be what it is now and also I would probably not have been able to visit some of the mining areas I visited since 2005. The fact is that one of the most important thing while traveling to gem mining areas is to have a good, motivated, enjoyable and reliable travel buddy. In fact traveling together and writting articles together as we did about spinel, tsavorite and tanzanite is a way to motivate each other to continue doing some good work.


Thanks to Richard constructive comments, Field looks better, my photos are also better and it is a pleasure to continue working on this concept.



"Congratulations Mister Hughes!!!"

Richard W. Hughes getting a happy birthday congrats from some sparkling travel buddies (left Mike Rogers, right "Guji" Soubiraa) just returning from an underground visit in Merelani Bloc D Tanzanite mining tunnels in October 2007.

Photo: V. Pardieu, 2007

So well done Richard! Congratulations for all your efforts to promote gemology, and gemological research, to disseminate useful information through all your publications on paper and on the Internet.


You are the man!


I'm hoping that this award will give you even more motivation to continue all the good work you are doing... and (lets be selfish a little bit...) that we will see soon a new edition of your masterpiece: Ruby and Sapphire!


All the best!




October 31th, 2009 | Blog Keywords:Kenya Travel |
Blog Title: FE09, Part 06: Kenya

GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 08: Oct. 18 - Oct. 27, 2009: Kenya:

Field Gemology is not all the time about success stories: Sometimes we do our best but it is not enough. If success stories are nice to tell, the others can also be useful to share and sadly the Oct. 2009 expedition was one of them. It was a waste of time for most of the people involved but sadly these are things that happen...


In Oct. 2009 despite the support of the different Tsavorite and ruby miners from the Tsavo area who were expecting our group to visit their mines, we were not allowed to visit the gem mines near Tsavo. I have the feeling that it had something to do with Campbell Bridges murder which was still under investigation in Tsavo area at the time we intended to visit the region. It is sad as we came with the idea to do some good work which could have been useful for the Kenyan miners.


Our group was composed of four people: Myself, Dr. Stephanos Karempelas, a research gemologist from the Gübelin Gem Lab and two of the world most famous geologists working on gemstone and their deposits: Dr. Gaston Giuliani and Dr. Daniel Ohnenstetter from Nancy University in France.

Our project was to visit the tsavorite mines in Tsavo area as Dr. Giuliani and Dr. Ohnenstetter have the project to organize in Nairobi in July 2010 a workshop about tsavorite. Something similar to the successful one they had in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) beginning Oct. 2009.

To prepare this workshop, as they did in Tanzania, they wanted to visit the different miners and tsavorite mines in Kenya to identify where to focus their studies and get some material to work on. As I already visited the area twice (in 2005 and 2007), I offered them to introduce them to the miners and organize this expedition in Kenya in Oct. 2009.

For that I was in contact with different miners and the current and former ICA Ambassador to Kenya for several months.


The main reason of failure was that two days before our arrival in Nairobi, Dr. Bernard Rop, the Kenyan Commissioner of Mines, asked us to get first an official research permit from the Kenyan National Council for Science and Technology in order to get his support to visit the miners in Tsavo.


I was very surprised about this demand as while visiting Kenya in 2005 and 2007, the previous commissioner never asked me to get through such process. Even more: I've to say that this was the first time (in Africa, Europe or Asia) that while trying to visit gem mining areas at the invitation of local miners, I'm asked to go through such heavy administrative process... Even in countries like Burma, things were easier! I was not expecting that from Kenya.

It was also quite a bad surprise to be informed about this only two days before our arrival in Kenya as we could have probably do something if we were informed earlier, but under such a short notice, while all the team was already in East Africa, things turned to be very difficult.


To get a research permit in Kenya it is usually a 3 months long administrative process and you need to be in collaboration with a local university (see for details the form to fill on the Kenyan National Council for Science and Technology website).


Instead to go directly to the mines and try to do some good work there, we started to visit ministries in Nairobi and, of course, to disturb people there (and friends outside) in order to try to get through this process in 1 or 2 days instead of 3 months. During 4 days we did our best to get all the documents they were asking us. The people there were very nice, but well finally we found out that it could not be done in such a short time. We decided then that it was better to accept that it could not be done properly that time and postpone out project to visit the mines in Tsavo in 2010.

Of course we could have decided to go nevertheless to Tsavo like tourists and try to do our work without the support of the new commissioner for mines. But we were not willing to give a bad impression to the Kenyan authorities that could create problems on the long term for further collaboration, even if it was very frustrating, we decided to leave Kenya without having succeeded to visit the Tsavo mining area.


Nevertheless we did not give up on our projects to do some good work about Kenyan gemstones:


In July 2010, Dr. Giuliani and Dr. Ohnenstetter from Nancy University (France) will do their best to organize in Nairobi a workshop about Tsavorite as they did this year with a lot of success in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

For them this missed opportunity was nevertheless not a complete waste of time as they could meet in Nairobi several key people in order to start seriously working on that project. The workshop will cover tsavorite from Tanzania, Madagascar and also gems from Kenya, even if we could not visit the mines, as I've provided Dr. Giuliani many samples from my private reference collection that I collected on site in Tsavo when I visited the tsavorite mines in 2005 and 2007.


On my side I spent my remaining days in Nairobi with Dr. Cedric Simonet, one of the best field geologists I know currently working in East Africa. Cedric was the former Director of Rockland Kenya mining the "John Saul Ruby Mine" in Tsavo National Park. We had some good discussions about rubies, geology, gemmology and also conservation as beside a common interest for gemology, we also have a deep love for the places were gemstones are mined. It was useful to rest and brainstorm a little... Thanks to Cedric (and his lovely family) these few days in Nairobi were not for me only a "frustrating complete waste of time and energy"...


Finally I would like to thanks to all the Kenyan ruby and tsavorite miners who were ready to welcome us in Kenya and were expecting our visit and who were disappointed by the fact we could not visit them and help them. I would like also to apologize to the people from the Nairobi University and at the Kenyan National Council for Science and Technology we have bothered during these days trying to speed up our case. I have the feeling that it was a complete waste of time for all these people. And I'm sorry for that.


I just hope that in the future things will turn better and that the Kenyan authorities will not continue to ask people willing simply to visit gem mines to get through such heavy administrative process in order to try to do some good and useful work in collaboration with the miners who invite them to visit their mines.


All the best,



"Tsavorite from Kenya"

Tsavorite porphyroblasts, rough and faceted stones.

Stones courtesy: Genson Micheni Musa from "Tsavolite Ltd", Photo: V. Pardieu, 2007

For more information about tsavorite, please visit "Tsavorite, an untamed beauty".

Note: October 12th 2010: Update about the July 2010 tsavorite workshop:

Today I was able to communicate with Dr. Gaston Giuliani from the Nancy University on nother subject related to Tsavorite: Last year in October 2009, we tried to visit together the ruby and tsavorite deposits in Kenya but our expedition was not really succesful as you could read earlier on that blog.
Dr. Giuliani and Dr. Ohnenstetter were then just back from a tsavorite workshop in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) and they were working on a similar project for 2010, this time in Nairobi (Kenya). Today I was told by Dr. Giuliani some excellent news about the Nairobi 2010 workshop he was then planning:
The workshop happened and reportedly turned to be very successful. After the workshop more than 40 people also were able to go on a field expedition to Tsavo lead by Dr. Cedric Simonet.
Currently a research program about tsavorite in collaboration between Kenyan and French Universities is in preparation. Dr. Giuliani told the author that he was very happy about the way things happened during summer 2010.

All the best,




October 17th, 2009 | Blog Keywords:IGC , Merelani , Longido , Manyara , Tanzania , congress Travel |
Blog Title: GIA FE09 Oct. 08 - Oct. 15, 2009: 31st IGC Congress Arusha

GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 05: Oct. 08 - Oct. 15, 2009: 31st IGC Congress Arusha:

After spending many hours driving on dusty roads or visiting mines, these few days in Arusha were the occasion to meet a lot of people, attend to interesting presentations and also travel around Arusha to visit mining area with the rest of the gemologist attending the IGC.


But first you may wonder what exactly the IGC is?


The I.G.C. stands for the "International Gemological Conference". It was started in Europe in 1952 by a group of enthusiastic gemologists, including the famed Prof. Edward Gubelin. It is a bi-annual gathering which is attended by gemologists from around 30 different countries. The main goal of this organization is to enable cooperation between gemologists from around the world particularly between gemologists from gem producing countries and gem consuming countries. Membership is by invitation only, and has some specific rules: Typically each country can have only a maximum of 2 to 5 representatives (depending on country size) selected on the basis of scientific and ethical standards. This organization is independent from any commercial operation. Besides the normal members, the organizer can also invite some guests to attend to the conference. Usually the IGC is then some kind of "old timers" meeting but this time, and this is something very new, several young gemologists were among the people invited to the conference.

I was invited at the 31st IGC as a guest by John Saul and his son Mark Saul (Swala gem Traders), as they knew that I was traveling to East Africa for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok at the time of the IGC. It was my first participation to such event and it was a real pleasure. The event despite the economic crisis was successful: It was well attended with about 40 people from about 15 countries including many friends.

The conference was open on Oct 9th in the evening after a speech from the Governor of the Arusha region. The opening ceremony was followed on Oct 10th and 11th of 2 days with interesting gemological presentations at the Arusha hotel. There was an obvious focus on gemstone deposits and gems from East Africa, but these were also several interesting presentations about pearls, diamonds and some general gemological topics. As a guest of John Saul I was not supposed to give a presentation, nevertheless Thanong Leelawathanasuk from the GIT who was giving a presentation on Mozambique rubies was very nice to invite me at the end of his presentation to give an update about the different ruby mining areas in Mozambique.


The conference was the occasion for the IGC board to be renewed. It is composed now of the following seven members (by alphabetical order): Georges Bosshart (Switzerland), Emmanuel Fritsch (France), Henry Hanni (Switzerland), Michael Krzemnicki (Switzerland), Jayshree Panjikar (India), John Saul (International), Tay Thye Sun (Singapore), Gamini Zoysa (Sri Lanka) and Hanco Zwaan (Netherlands)


At the end of the conference, as usual the people attending the conference were asked about the location of the next IGC, the only proposal was from Michael Krzemnicki who proposed to host the 32nd IGC in Switzerland in 2011.


It was also proposed to create a website for the IGC which in my opinion would be a good thing as it was not easy to get reliable information about what is the IGC on the Internet.

But the IGC was not just about nice gemological presentations and coctails parties in a cosy hotel: At the end of the congress we had 3 days with short field trips to gemstones mines around Arusha...

The lab rats were going to explore rat holes!

It was a pleasure to get a chance to go to the field with some gemological monuments. A real pleasure, fun and interesting!


- On Monday 12th, 2009 we went to visit the Tanzanite One mining operation in Merelani. For the occasion Tanzanite One gave us the possibility to visit the Tanzanite Museum which will be open to the public within few weeks. With the rest of the group I went underground and visited the shaft Tanzanite One arranged for the public: The JW shaft. That was interesting as in 2005 I visited the "Main Shaft" and during my last visit in sept. I visited the "Investor shaft".

For more info on Tanzanite: Please follow the link to our Tanzanite article.


"Tired but happy: Tay Thye Sun (Singapore) and Jashree Panjikar (India) are returning from an underground visit

at the JW shaft: Tanzanite One oldest pit in Merelani"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

- On Tuesday 13th, 2009 we went to visit the oldest gemstone mining area in East Africa: The Mundarara ruby mine at Longido producing mainly carving quality ruby in zoizite material for nearly 50 years. I visited already the mine in 2005 with Jean Baptiste Senoble. It was a pleasure to travel to the mine driving through the Massai in the North of Mount Kilimanjaro: On the way we saw several giraffes, oastriches, zebras, gazelles and antelopes. This new visit at Longido was interesting as unlike in 2005 we were able to go underground, witness how ruby on zoizite was mined and collect underground some interesting reference samples.


"The IGC group going down in Longido ruby mine"
Dr. Benjamin Rondeau from Nantes University (France) is getting ready to go 300 meters underground in what

is probably East Africa's oldest mining pit.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

- On Wednesday 14th, 2009 we went to visit the Manyara emerald and alexandrite mines located near the famous Manyara National Park. It was interesting to see the difference few years after my visit in 2007. To reach the mine we entered the Manyara National Park by the north and drove for about one hour through the Park bordering Lake Manyara which was very dry. On the way we could see many wild animals: Elephants, buffaloes, antilopes, giraffes, baboons, and many birds. It is all the time a pleasure for me to see Nature associated gemstones. The fact is that national parks are truly gems as they also fit to the definition of a gem as they associate beauty, (sadly) rarity and (I hope...) durability.


"Exploring emerald and alexandrite mines in Manyara "
Visiting the alexandrite and emerald mining area near Manyara I could not resist to explore the old mine tunnels.
Prof. E. Fritsch from Nantes University (France) was following me underground. I was impressed!
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

- After that most of the people attending the conference went to visit the Williamson diamond mine while some others went to visit the Mahenge spinel mining area or the Winza ruby and sapphire mines. On my side I left for the week end with an old buddy: Swiss gemologist and geologist Walter Balmer who was also attending the conference. Walter gave a very interesting presentation about the geology of the ruby rich Uluguru Mountains near Morogoro. He was also traveling in East Africa for about a month around Mahenge and Morogoro. We decided that it was time to take two days resting. We then went to fulfill an old dream and went camping on the Ngorongoro caldera. That was gemmy!

"Camping on the Ngorongoro caldera "
Camping in the wild in East Africa is all the time an interesting experience, in the evening an elephant was quietly feeding while around the camping site, while during the night a pack of zebra visited us doing weird noise. In the morning it was nice to meet 20 meters from the camp entrance a wandering hyena!
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

It was a very interesting visit as I was able to rest and think a bit about some projects I wanted to work on for many years.

On October 17th I then left to Nairobi in Kenya to try to visit the Tsavorite and ruby deposits in Tsavo area in Southern Kenya.


All the best,

October 9th, 2009 | Blog Keywords:Tanzania , ruby , spinel , tsavorite , tourmaline , garnet , Mahenge , Morogoro , Umba , Winza Travel |
Blog Title: GIA FE09, Part 3: Tanzania Sept. 2009

GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 04: Sep. 20 - Oct. 07, 2009: Central Tanzania:

This is the third part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa, I'm leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok: I arrived in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania from Mozambique with gemologists Lou Pierre Bryl (Canada), and Flavie Isatelle (France) on Sep. 20th 2009. We met there our Tanzanian friends: Abdul Y. Msellem a Tanzanian gem broker and Moussa a Tanzanian driver working for Fortes Safaris.

Our objective was to continue the work I did during my previous expeditions in 2005, 2007 and 2008. This time our focus was to visit the ruby and spinel deposits in Central Tanzania at Winza, in the Morogoro province (in Matombo and Mahenge districts) and around Umba.

Our visit started in the Tanzanian capital Dodoma to get the support of the mining officer to visit Winza. We did not miss the opportunity to visit the Geological Survey of Tanzania in order to get some useful maps and publications.



"Our team (left to right: Vincent Pardieu, Flavie Isatelle and Lou Pierre Bryl) leaving the Geological Survey of Tanzania in Dodoma: It is all the time useful to get some good maps and publication before to visit gem mining areas"
Photo: A. Y. Msellem / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

We then left to visit Mpwapwa and the Winza ruby and sapphire mines. I visited already Winza with Jean Baptiste Senoble in April 2008 and we were then the first gemologists to visit this unique deposit.

(For more information about Winza, please visit our Winza expedition report and for more information about the gemology of these interesting rubies and sapphires, please read the complete article published in Gems and Gemology about Winza)

It was then the end of the rainy season and more than 5000 miners were working there washing the gem rich ground for rubies and sapphires and digging the hard rock underneath to get blue and pink sapphires.

During that new visit we found that around 500 miners were still working there. We could visit the mining area and collect some interesting samples. An update about ruby and sapphire mining in Winza will be soon published by the GIA Laboratory Bangkok after my return in Thailand. I will keep you informed.

"Geologist and gemologist Flavie Isatelle returning to the surface after a visit underground in Winza"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009


After our visit to Winza we focused on visiting the ruby and spinel deposits in the Morogoro region. First we visited the ruby deposits located in the Matombo district of the Uluguru Mountains in the west of Morogoro. We visited the different mining area near the Mwaraze and Ngongolo villages, I visited already in 2005 (see our Tanzania 2005 expedition report), and which were very active during the 1980's up to the beginning of the 1990's producing rubies.

After this visit we continued to the Mahenge where we visited the spinels deposits near Ipanko, Mbarabanga and Kituti. It was interesting to see the evolution of gem mining at Ipanko after our visits in 2005 and 2007. Spinel mining stopped at Ipanko few days after our visit in 2007 and started again in April 2009 after a controversy regarding the mining rights. Ipanko is now again producing beautiful red spinels and is now the most active gem mining area in Tanzania after Merelani with nearly 1,000 miners.

Besides Ipanko we also spent some time continuing the visits I did in 2005 and 2007 of the numerous ruby deposits near Lukande, Mayote, Chipa, Gombe, Ibogoma, Nbangayao, Kitonga, Kitwaro and Kisewe. Some of these areas were reported to have produce during the 1980's and 90's some very fine and large marble type rubies and they remain very poorly known.

"Mahenge Spinel Crystal"

This rough crystal we saw at the mines was weighting nearly 100 grams, this is nothing compared to a 54kg rough spinel but this can give an idea about what we speak about...
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

After that visit we drove to the north of the country to Tanga and the Umba valley. Tanga is a special place for me as in 2005 I spent there some of the hardest days of my life when I was suffering from malaria.

This time our visit was more pleasant: We visited first the red zircon deposit at Mwakijembe then we visited sapphire, ruby, tsavorite, rhodolite, almandine and malaya garnet mines along the Umba river near Kigwasi and Kalalani. Then on our way back we turn our interest to tourmaline mines at Ngombeni and in the Usambara Mountains.

"A Massai trader present us his treasure: A pair of blue and orange Umba sapphires"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

After that visit we returned to Arusha in order to do the export process for our reference samples collected in the field on site while visiting mines.

It is also for me the time to spend some more cozy times participating to the 31st IGC (International Gemological Conference) which will start on Oct 9th and will finish on Oct 14th.

"The 31th International Gemological Conference, Arusha, Tanzania, 2009"

The IGC conference means also that it will be time for my traveling companions: Lou Pierre Bryl and Flavie Isatelle to continue their own travelings respectively to Poland and Madagascar.

It was very nice to have them with me during that expedition as they were very helpful motivated to visit Tanzanian gem mining areas. I wish them all the best.

On my side after the end of the conference I will continue to Kenya with new travel companions: Dr. Gaston Giuliani and Dr. Daniel Ohnenstetter from Nancy University, France and Dr. Stephanos Karempelas from the Gubelin Gem Lab in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Our focus will be on visiting ruby and tsavorite deposits around Voi in Southern Kenya.


All the best,


Important Note: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok. GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.