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.

 


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Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog


About the Author


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

 

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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
www.ruby-sapphire.com
"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)

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


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

 



Links


Special
THANKS for their support
for our field expeditions since 2005:



Any QUESTIONS?

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
STUDY GEMOLOGY?


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:

emeralds


 


 


Creative Commons License

The photos and articles on fieldgemology.org 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,

October 18th, 2012 | Keywords:Madagascar , Didy , Ruby , Sapphire Travel |
Blog Title: FE35_Madagascar_Didy


GIA FE35 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 35): April. 28 -April. 09, 2012: Madagascar

2012 seems defenitively to be a on the right tracks to be a year that will please many blue sapphire lovers: In March the author lead an expedition for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok to Sri Lanka in order to visit a very interesting new blue sapphire deposit near Kataragama in the south East part of the "Gem Island" (see here)

During the Songkran holidays (The Thai / Sri Lankan and Burmese new year's celebration) while I was working on the study of that new material, Philippe Ressigeac, a gem merchant recently graduated from GIA Thailand and living in Ilakaka (Madagascar) informed me about the discovery of a new sapphire deposit in Madagascar. His partner, Marc Noverraz, just told him that blue sapphires and also fine rubies were reportedly found near the town of Ambatondrazaka, a rice farming center located between Madagascar capital Antananarivo and Andilamena, a gem producing region famous for its rubies The next day Nirina Rakotosaona, a Malagasy miner the author met several time in Ilakaka, confirmed this time from Andilamena the discovery and provided me some additional details about the stones he saw that convinced us that I had to find as soon as possible a plane ticket to Madagascar...



"Ruby and and blue sapphire from Didy, Madagascar"
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012



Didy GIA Madagascar

Discover here the GIA Laboratory Bangkok FE35 Expedition Report to Didy, Madagascar.


It is including a very illustrated expedition report and an inclusion study.



It was published on GIA Laboratory websites:
here (in the GIA laboratory Bangkok Research Ongoing web page)
here (in the GIA Laboratory Bangkok field report page)
here (in the GIA's main website: www.gia.edu in the News from Research part of the website)


Now as traveling alone is not neither really safe or fun, I had to find a good buddy. For such an expedition, that guy had to be an experienced one... Luckily, two of my regular travel buddies: Jean Baptiste Senoble and Lou Pierre Bryl, were in Bangkok: There was just a small problem: Jean Baptiste was preparing his wedding, scheduled two weeks later and Lou Pierre and I were supposed to be his best men. To discuss the issue, we had one of these great diners with meaning and passionate discussions I really enjoy before an expedition.

That evening, Lou Pierre was hesitating.

"Going next week with you on a gem rush in Mada?", JB said. "Hum, that's the only acceptable reason I see for me to miss my own wedding... LOL".

He added: "Traveling few years ago together to Winza during the rush was one of the best experiences in my life. I would love to go with you but if I miss my own wedding because we get stuck in the jungle, my wife might not be really happy about it."

We agreed.

"But guys, if you miss my wedding because you are in Mada on that rush that will be the only reason I will accept for you guys to miss it.", JB added.

Lou Pierre was finally convinced. I had my team mate.

We had now to find some affordable flights to go to Madagascar and return on time for JB wedding. That was not easy but we found a solution with two stops: Bangkok to Antananarivo via Mumbay and then Nairobi: 18 hours to go and 19 to return. Our chances to be back on time? Well possibly one of two as we had that non confirmed flight on the return from Mumbay to Bangkok... Furthermore the correspondances were quite short, and the airlines different. Thus we decided to travel light with only hand luggages and the minimum necessary to survive 2 or 3 days in the muddy jungle.

Now we had to prepare ourselves. But for a field expedition to be succesful, the key points are not to have the right shoes or a good camera, it is first to travel with the right guys and follow few basic rules. Which rules? Well simply the "Rules of Field Gemology" that Richard W. Hughes (the author of Ruby & Sapphire) loves to give me regularly hard time about and is regularly asking me to write about them.

Here is may be a good occasion:



"Basic Rules of Field Gemology"

Over the past ten years traveling around to gem mining areas, I would say that these are 5 or 6 very basic rules that I do my best to follow in order to make a field expedition succesful and be able to maximize my chances to survive on the long run... That might looks funny to read but keep in mind that if you accept that on each expedition you have 1% chance not to return, the statistics will be that you will have only 36.6% of chance to survive until the end of expedition number 100.

That new expedition for the GIA was to be Field Expedition FE35... meaning my 35th expedition for the GIA Laboratory. Still if I take in consideration the 30 missions I also lead when I was working at the AIGS or at the Gubelin Gem Lab, I can only say that I survived 65 field expeditions so far. Not yet 100...

So here are these "Rules of Field Gemology", still unpublished but quite famous among the small community regularly traveling with me, these rules that Richard W. Hughes likes to tease me about:

Rule 01: "Survive: It is better to have a good reason to come back than to be dead".

It is useless to go somewhere and die trying to get samples, photos or I dont know what. In some occasions you might experience danger, difficulties and fear. You will have to think about your situation and you might decide to be courageous. That's fine, but be careful. There is just a thin line between courage and stupidity.

My advice: Never take risk if it's not worth it. Keep out of trouble, use safe transportation and focus on securing your return with a good story and some interesting samples. It is much better to have a good reason to come back than not to be able to come back. If you fail to reach the place you wanted: No problem you will have other occasions, just consider that expedition as a scouting expedition: Learn from it and think about the next one.

Now sometimes you might think: How to survive and at the same time do some good job? Well, i like to say that an intelligent man learn from his mistakes, but a wise man learn from other people mistakes. May be you should be equally intelligent and wise and read the other rules of Field Gemology which are basically just about common sense.

Rule 02: "Never go on a serious expedition with people you don’t know."

A gem rush in Madagascar jungle: That's something to think seriously about as it was going in Andilamena, few kilometers from the place were where this time heading to, that I got malaria in June 2005 and when I returned there few months later in September it was there that I saw a bullet going on the wall of the hut we were having lunch just 10 centimeters from the head of my friends and mentor Richard W. Hughes... On that expedition I had Lou Pierre with me. That's good: First I dont like to travel alone. It is just boring and not as efficient and interesting as traveling with young motivated people enthusiastic about learning more about gemology or older experience people willing to share their knowledge. Lou has become one of my regular traveling buddies as he is not just a regular wannabe adventurer, he is one of the best young guys I know today: Associating courage and wisdom, he has a great passion for gems and a cool attitude that make him be to be far away from the boring type but still very reliable. A rare mix. Besides him I was going to travel with Marc Noverraz and Nirina Rakotosaona, two of the most knowledgeable and serious people I know about Madagascar and its gem trade. Thats' what I call a dream team: Just perfect!

Rule 03: "Expect the unexpected"

Plans may change at anytime depending of security, local events, opportunities. That was exactly what was happening while I was working on these sapphires from Kataragama and I learned about that new deposit near Didy: But well this is one of the reasons why I believe my life is great: it is full of surprises and my job is somewhere to deal with them.

Rule 04: "Keep going!"

While in the field: You have to get the hunting spirit and take the mission seriously. It means here: Don’t stop unless you are stopped or if you reach the mining site. That can be a tricky one in some situations when difficult decisions have to be made. But remember that you are in the field for a good reason... That reason give some meaning to the whole expedition, so focus on it.

Rule 05: "Never complain"

Complainers are a poison for the morale of the whole team. Whatever happen in the field, remember that if you are there it means that you have signed for it. As I was told in the army: "You signed for S***, you should be happy because you are getting what you signed for". So use your energy to hep your team mate and make them feel good. The worse the situation, the more important it is to keep your team morale high.

Rule 06: "Time and good friends worth more than money and fancy shoes"

At any time: Time and a good local contacts are the two most important assets you need for a succesful expedition: It is useless to have good shoes or a great medical kit if you have not enough time for the mission and a useless local crook to help you. Basically in the field good friends and time are much more useful, than money and things. But of course if you have the right equipment and the money to finance the expedition, it helps when you have already the right team and enought time to make it... and that particularly when you think about Rule Number 02: "Expect the unexpected". But my point is that it is useless to have the money and the equipment if you dont have the right team and enough time to prepare and execute the mission.

Rule 07: "Optimize the luck factor with hard work"

Finally dont forget about luck... In my opinion it is a lot of hard work to become lucky as my experience so far tells me that luck is smiling mostly to clever hard working people. The reason is simple, if you are well prepared you will be more likely to take the right decision at the right time. It means that for me the key for a succesful field expedition is to preprare it very seriously. If you want to optimize your luck, the best way is to work hard and of course to work smart. In that sense you have to look at the preparation of a field expedition more like preparing a military campaign than going on a "safari-adventure" in Kenya. Prepare your mission seriously: First collect all the information you can on the area you plan to visit: Everything that was written about it: Maps, books, articles, etc... and study them. Learn about the people living in the area as you will have to connect with them, if you can meet some of them! That knowledge will be useful to you when you will have to take some difficult decisions, and possibly one day you might then realized that you had been lucky to have taken the right decisions. Choices that made your life better or even saved your life...

Rule 08: "Paciencia"

Finally dont forget about one of the basic rule of all hunting activity, one rule that became really obvious to us while visiting Mozambique: Paciencia: meaning : Be patient. Visiting gemstone mining areas you will have to expect long days on the road, long days waiting for a permission or for a key local contact to be ready to take you to the place you want to visit, then you might also have to wait for the local chief of the village to welcome you and this is probably not the end as you may not be able to get the samples you wanted to have during that visit. Pacience is one of the main qualities of all hunters... and it is best combined with focus and determination. In fact for me, the worse type of people on a field expedition are people lacking patience and complaining all the time.

and last but may be not the least:

Rule 666: ...

Well speaking about the "Rules of Fieldgemology" without writting about the very special rule Richard W. Hughes started to bully me about would just not be acceptable... So here it is: "Sick men dont drink!" Sadly for you guys, the details about that one are still classified.

Just two things:

1) It does not mean that in my opinion healthy men should drink (Thanks Barbra for your 2 cents on that one...)

2) The field expedition related with that story was not one of my own expeditions, nut it was one we had some discussion about and from that discussion Richard W. Hughes tried to convince me regularly to write something about the "Rules of Field Gemology".

Now to declassify that special rule, you will have to contact the copyright owners meaning an expedition leader living currently in Switzerland or may be you can try to convince R.W. Hughes to tell you more about that story. The later might be the most efficient as the Swiss guy might be difficult to convince while R.W. Hughes will be probably very happy to tell you that story if you invite him for diner! (to contact R.W. Hughes, just follow this link)

All the best,

 

For that expedition, things were looking good: I had the full support of my boss at the GIA laboratory Bangkok and I had a lot of information about the place we were heading to. But still as I got more information about what was ahead of us I had some concerns.

Regarding the team it was close to perfection: Lou Pierre was on that adventure with me, then in Madagascar, I had a great many great guys ready to help:

- Marc Noverraz, from Colorline Ilakaka Ltd., a Swiss gem merchant based in Ilakaka whose help was invaluable during all our expeditions to Madagascar since our first visit there in 2005, was waiting for us at the airport with a good car and some supply.

- Then Nirina Rakotosaona, who already visited the mining site was waiting for us with fresh news in Ambatondrazaka

- Finally Nochad, a young Sri Lankan gem merchant I knew also since 2005 was waiting for us in Didy...

We had the right key people at every key place, a good car and supply. We had all a good physical condition. Not as good as Nirina's condition (he had lived in the jungle for about one year and was as fit for the mission as a samourai blade) but we were ready to be up to the challenge. Our only problem was time particularly when Nirina told us that we had to expect 12 to 15 hours of very tough walk through some thick jungle to reach the new discovery site.



"Gem Rush!"
In Ambatondrazaka a group of Malagasy miners are on their way to Didy.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012



On that expedition the combination of Rule Number 5 and Number 2 were a concern: We had enought time for the mission but if things were not going as expected and if we got delayed here or there, then difficulties would be expected.

On my side, that would not only mean that I could miss my return flight and miss the wedding of one of my best friends, but also it would affect my work in the lab on the Kataragama new discovery: The fact was with these unexpected discoveries in Kataragama and now in Madagascar, I was getting short in time in my work at the lab. First the Kataragama study was not yet published... That was not good: In theory we should complete the job on one expedition before to leave for the next one as if it is easy to start many projects it is difficult to finish one. And I dont like unfinished business. Then few days after my expected return in Bangkok I was expecting a very busy May 2012 month with the visit in Bangkok of GIA's Board of Governors and a scheduled expedition to Australia and Tasmania... So I had to return to Bangkok rapidly with the reference samples the laboratory was needing and soon enough to have to the time to finish the work on the Kataragama rush and do the work on Didy before to leave to Australia. Already, I had to tell several friends that I could not comply with the dead lines they had given me about some projects. Time was for that expedition a serious problem as if I had to miss that return flight there might be some unpleasant consequences. I was hoping that things were going to be fine...

In fact, as usual I have to say that once again I was somewhere lucky: The unexpected as expected was on the way.

First we had a flat tire few kilometers after leaving for Didy. Then Marc asked me: Ok, now we can continue with the spare tie, but well if we get anymore trouble then we will be stuck... We decided to return to Ambatondrazaka and loose few hours. Lucky wise decision as arriving to Ambatondrazaka we found out that we had a second tire that was going to be flat. After few hours we found new tires and went back on the road to Didy. Things went fine as the weather was good, but the drive had been hard and our car got stuck twice in deep mud... Luckily it had stopped raining for few days but it was clear to us that going to Didy would be a hell of a trip if it was raining. We were all thinking about the return... Yes indeed if rain was coming we might be stuck in Didy for few days.



"Hope and long walk"
After a long day walking from Ambatondrazaka to Didy village this group of miner still have a long way to go to reach the new mining site, deep in the jungle where they hope to find fortune.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012



Then arriving in Didy late in the evening we had to take a decision: Should we try to leave to the mines the following day in the morning or should we stop for a day in order to try to see some stones coming back from the mines and collect more info about what was going on there... We had up to the morning to decide about that. The decision was tough to take as rule number 4 is about "Keep going!". As to reach our next place to sleep we had just 3 or 4 hours to walk we decided to stay for the morning and decide again after lunch.

During the morning we could see some interesting samples and meet a lot of interesting people. Things were going fine but as we were discussing about the afternoon schedule we had the visit of the gendarmerie, the local security forces in charge of the area. They informed us that they had the order to notice all the foreigners that they had to leave Didy and return to Ambatondrazaka before the next day at noon.

Well, that were bad news. We had then the choice to leave to Ambatondrazaka or to leave to the mines.The situation was the following: We had already some samples to work on at the lab andthanks to Nirina previous visits of the mining site, we had also some precise information about the mines inlcuding the GPS data of the new deposit. The main thing we were missing were samples collected on site by myself and photos of the mining activity there... Now if we decided to try our luck and go there, then according to our sources we had some very serious chances not to be back on time in Tana to take our return flight to Bangkok as schedule... and then it would be a big mess. Furthermore if we decided to leave to the mines and had the bad luck to meet again the local security forces, the next meeting would probably not be as friendly as the first one. After discussing with my team, everybody was in favor to return to Ambatondrazaka. As it was a joint expedition, we decided to stay together and play safe. The next day we returned to Ambatondrazaka with all the other foreigners and for few more days we did our best to see more stones with the help of our Sri Lankan friends.

In the meanwhile, as the police only asked the foreigners to return to Ambatondrazaka, I gave to Nirina Rakotosaona one of my cameras and he went rapidly on site to take some photos of the mining activity. He was able to return to Ambatondrazaka only few hours before our departure to Antananarivo. It was great: He had some great photos of the mining activity and some additional information. We had more than what we were needing for a first article on the subject and nevertheless there will be probably in the future new occasion to visit that area.

This is what I was thinking on my way back to Bangkok.



"Ruby and sapphire mining in the jungle near Didy"
Along a stream, timber loggers searching for gold during their spare time found some nice rubies and sapphires, within weeks thousands of people from all over Madagascar joined them seeking fortune.
Photo: Nirina Rakotosaona / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012



In fact when I returned to madagascar at the end of July 2012, the Malagasy security forces had expelled all the miners from the jungle around Didy and all the foreign buyers from Ambatondrazaka at the end of June 2012. According to several gem merchants met in Antananarivo and Ilakaka, still few people were still mining secretly there...Nirina Rakotosaona, Marc Noverraz were back in Ilakaka working on a new sapphire mining project for Nirina and on collecting fine stone to make some colorlines for Marc. On our Sri Lankan friends side, most of them were also back in Ilakaka or in Sri Lanka. For them it was furthermore ramadan times... Nobody was willing to return to Didy. So going there would mean going there with no reliable local contact. Not really a good option based on Field gemology rule number 2 and 6.

So I decided for that new expedition I would be focussing on trying to finish the work I started on blue sapphires from Ilakaka- sakaraha and not to loose my time and the time of my friends on playing some mouse and cat games with the police in the jungle around Didy.

But still... I cannot stop thinking that it is too bad not to have been able to see with my own eyes these 5,000 miners working in the jungle there. Anyway, what was important was to get enough samples from multiple independant sources in order to be able to study this new material.

That was achieved and at the end this is all what matters today as I'm very happy to invite you to discover the following reports we published about rubies and sapphires from Didy after that expedition to Madagascar and before the complete report to be published on GIA Laboratory Bangkok website (here and here) and also on GIA's main website: www.gia.edu:

Didy madagascar GIA report
On May 8th 2012 the GIA sent around the world its May 2012 G&G eBrief containing a short concise expedition report from that FE34 field expedition to Didy signed by Lou Pierre Bryl (Canada), Nirina Rakotosaona (Madagascar), Marc Noverraz (Switzerland) and the author. It is available here at the G&G eBrief archive
Didy GIA Madagascar
A more extensive report about rubies and sapphire from Didy (Madagascar) was also published in the Summer 2012, Volume 48 Issue 2 of Gems & Gemology magazine. in the Gem News International.
Didy Madagascar TGJTA

In July 2012 a short expedition report about the Didy discovery was also published in the TGJTA (Thai Gem & Jewelry Traders Association) newsletter. You can get the story here.



Hoping that you have enjoyed this blog and the expedition report to Didy published on GIA websites.

All the best,



July 18th, 2010 | Keywords:ruby , Afghanistan , Jegdalek , spinel , Badakshan Travel |
Blog Title: GIA_FE17_Afghanistan


GIA FE17 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 17) : June 08th, 2010 - Julyl 15th, 2010:


 




Introduction:


The purpose of the present blog is not to publish another gemological /geological description of the rubies from Jegdalek as this not the objectives of this website dedicated to gemology and traveling. You will nevertheless find in that blog some links to valuable publications providing such technical gemological and geological content.


With this blog the author would just like to share with the reader


1) Some elements about the history, the geography of Jegdalek area he found learning about Jegdalek and also some first hand reports from people who visited the region in the past or recently that he has found to be very interesting.


2) Some stories and photos about his own experiences traveling to Jegdalek as he feels that such personal souvenirs could also be of some interest for those willing to learn more about the origin of these gems but who had not (yet?) the possibility to travel to Afghanistan.


Finally the author would like also to thanks with this report the different Afghan people who took some of their time to help the author to travel to these remote ruby mining area and to visit the mines. The author hopes that the present report will give some exposure to the fascinating gems and gem people of Afghanistan.


All the best,




Summary of the FE17 Field Expedition to Afghanistan:


The GIA Laboratory Bangkok Afghanistan 2010 field expedition was planned with the support of Mr. Parveez, an Afghan gem dealer from Jegdalek the author met in Peshawar in 2006.



In Afghanistan the author main objectives were to visit ruby and sapphire deposits in the North East of the country:


- First the Jegdalek ruby mining area located in the East of the Kabul Province, an area the author already visited in 2006.


- Then the author was planning to visit the less known ruby and sapphire deposits located in the Badakshan province: First a small very remote ruby deposit that was reported at Khash near the villages of Boharak and Jurm (See G&G ...) and then an interesting new blue sapphire deposit discovered reportedly in 2009 and located near the old lapis lazuli mines of Sae-E-Sang in the Kokcha Valley.


The author was during that expedition able to visit the ruby deposit at Jegdalek. In Badakshan on the other hand the expedition was not really successful as he could not get closer than one kilometer from the Khash ruby deposit and as his security was compromised he decided to return to Kabul and to wait another occasion to visit the sapphire and lapis Lazuli mines at Sar-E-Sang.


A concise report about the different results of that expedition to Afghanistan in June 2010 can be found in the "Update about ruby and sapphire mining in Pakistan and Afghanistan" that was published in "Gems & Gemology", Winter 2010 issue, as part of GNI (Gem News International).

 

Furthermore a study about these interesting blue sapphires reportedly from a new deposit in the Kokcha Valley of the Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan was published in "Gems & Gemology" Spring 2011 issue as part of Lab Notes. Interestingly some areas of these blue sapphires were found to contain naturally some unusually high levels of Beryllium and Tungsten.




Some highly recommended books and articles about Jegdalek and its rubies:


First the author would like to introduce to the reader some publications that he found to be very useful to prepare his expeditions:


ruby & Sapphire by Richard W. Hughes

"Ruby and Sapphire" by Richard W. Hughes is one of the author favorite books. The great thing about that book was that it was a interesting combination of science, history, geography and arts, each of them presented in a way accessible to people without serious expertise in each domain. Reading that book, the author was truly fascinated about the fact that rubies and sapphires were not really found in the most quiet places on Earth but instead in some of the most exotic and remote areas of our planet.

The chapter 12 about "The world sources of rubies and sapphires" was for the author one of the most fascinating. Organized by alphabetical order, it was starting by Afghanistan with as a tasty subtitle: "The Great Enigma: Afghanistan ruby and spinel mines"...

Please also visit Richard W. Hughes' website where a chapter about Aghanistan can be found:

Gems & Gemology

Gems & Gemology

"Gemstones from Afghanistan" by Gary W. Bowersox and Bonita E. Chamberlin is the most complete priblication to this date about about the gems found in Afghanistan and particularly the rubies from Jegdalek.

"The Gem Hunter" is another interesting publication by Gary Bowersox where he write about his life and his adventures traveling to Afghanistan. Gary Bowersox being one of the very few foreigners who actually ever visited the Jegdalek ruby mines.

You might be also interested to visit the rest of Gary Bowersox informative website: www.gems-afghan.com



That "Ruby and Sapphire from Jegdalek, Afghanistan" by Gary W. Bowersox, Eugene E. Foord, Brendan M. Laurs, James E. Shigley, and Christopher P. Smith. This study published in Gems & Gemology, Summer 2000, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 110-126 is to this day the most complete article about rubies from Jegdalek with great information about the history, the mining, the geology and some very useful technical gemological information about Jegdalek rubies.

The author would like also to advise the reading for those interested by the geological aspect of the Jegdalek deposit of “Ar–Ar and U–Pb ages of marble-hosted ruby deposits from central and southeast Asia” (2006) a pdf in English by V. Garnier, H. Maluski, G. Giuliani, D. Ohnenstetter, and D. Schwarz that had a French version: “Les Gisements de rubis associes aux marbres de l’Asie centrale et du Sud Est” published in “Le Regne Mineral” (2006) and signed this time by Virginie Garnier, Gaston Giuliani, Daniel Ohnenstetter, Dietmar Schwarz and Allah B. Kausar. 




About Jegdalek and ruby mining in Afghanistan:


For the author there is really something fascinating about gems from Afghanistan and the rubies from Jegdalek:


The fact is that they are not just beautiful stones, they are also stones related to historical events, fascinating characters and exotic places: Afghanistan is first of all one of the oldest (or possibly the oldest) gem mining area in the world as the Lapis Lazuli mines in the Kokcha Valley are known to have been worked from nearly 7000 years. Also the spinel mines in Badakshan, that were discovered probably around the 9th century at the time of the Silk Roads, are believed to have produced most of the fabulous historic "rubies" that are found in the treasures of the former rulers from Western Europe to India. Probably the most famous of them being the "Black Prince Ruby", the gem that got to the author his very first serious interest for gemology while he was studying the life of the Prince Edward of England, famous nowadays as the "Black Prince".


"Baby Black Prince?"
(An Afghan gem merchant presents to the author in Kabul an fine specimen of gem quality red spinel in matrix mined recently from the old "Badakhshan ruby mines". These mines known today as the Kul-I-Lal are believed to have produced the "Black Prince ruby" and other historic stones such as the "Timur Ruby" and the "Cote de Bretagne".
Photo: Vincent Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2011)



During that period what is nowadays Afghanistan was a strategic place located in the centre of the Eurasian supercontinent right in the center of the main trade network link the China in the East to Europe and the Mediterranean in the West. Central Asia and particularly Afghanistan was then a rich region with beautiful old cities.


The Mongol invasions, the Black Death and the insecurity that followed for disintegration of the Mongol Empire during the 13th century changed that and with the development of maritime transportation, the trade between Europe and Asia moved from transportation by land on the Silk Roads to maritime transportation in the Indian Ocean on the Spice Roads. The process was further accelerated after the arrival of the Europeans in the Indian Ocean at the end of the 15th century. Soon Afghanistan and its gem mining areas, far away from these new maritime roads became a remote and forgotten region while on the other hand the gems from Ceylon, India, Siam and Burma found few miles from the busy harbors found easily their way to Europe.


Afghanistan became again connected to the world in the middle of the 19th century when the British and Russian colonial ambitions collided in the mountains of the Hindu Kush and along the Oxus River. It was the time of the Great Game. The first Anglo Afghan war was one of the worse setbacks for the British power with the destruction of the General Elphinstone army during his retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad in January 1842. In fact some of the most dramatic and famous events of that conflict happened just near Jegdalek then called "Jugduluk":




 

"The Last stand at Gandamack"
(Photo of the reproduction of the painting by William Barnes Wollen about the battle of Gandamack that can be seen in the restaurant hall of the Gandamack Lodge in Kabul, a place that the author has no problem to recommend to all people willing to stay in Kabul. Note: The original painting is visible at the National Army Museum, in London.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2011)



1) People visiting in Kabul the "Gandamack Lodge" can study on the wall of the restaurant a very interesting and detailed map presenting these tragic events. In fact we can see on that map that most of the British force was destroyed on the Jugduluk pass leading to the valley of Jegdalek. The following day the British commander, General Elphinstone, was taken prisoner at Jegdalek by the Afghans. (See here for more details). Later at night few soldiers were able to break through the Afghan lines in a desperate attempt to reach Jalalabad. Exhausted, out of munitions, fighting in deep snow, they had their last stand near Gandamack, a village south of the Black Mountains south east from Jegdalek. A reproduction of the famous painting presenting the last stand of the British soldiers at Gandamack, can be seen near the map. Of the 16000 people (including 4500 soldiers) only one British: doctor Brydon, was able to make it to Jalalabad.


2) Later during the war another battle occurred at Jegdalek opposing General Pollock to strong force of Afghan Tribesmen (see here and here for more)




 

"Jugduluk, January 1842..."
( from the map exposedon the wall of the Restaurant hall at the Gandamack Lodge in Kabul
Photo: Vincent Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2011)



According to the article "Ruby and Sapphire from Jegdalek, Afghanistan" by Gary Bowersox & al, the ruby mines at Jegdalek were worked for about 700 years. This is indeed possible as Jegdalek and its ruby deposits are located on one of the main communication axis between Kabul and Peshawar.


Nevertheless the oldest mention about Jegdalek (Jegdalek, Jagdallak or Jugduluk depending on the reference) the author was able to find so far are the travel reports of some of the British officers who served in Afghanistan during the 19th century. Jegdalek was then on the main track linking Kabul to Jalalabad and most travelled going to Kabul were passing there: None of them mention any ruby mines instead the place is described as miserable: Lieut. Alex. Burnes of the East India Company, one of the main characters of these tragic events writes in 1834 in "Travels into Bokhara being the Account of a Journey from India to Cabool, Tartary and Persia":


The country is barren and miserable, Jugduluk is a wretched place with few caves as village. There is a proverb which describes its misery: "When the woods of Jugduluk begins to burn, you melt gold" for there is no wood at hands on the bleak hills.


Another report from a British officer who passed at Jugduluk around 1840 can be found here: "Narrative of the war in Afghanistan: In 1838-39, Volume 2" by Sir Henry Havelock. Shahamat Ali, another traveler wrote about his journey from Peshawar to Kabul passing by Jagdalak in 1839 (see in p 459 to 461 of his book). None of these authors reveal the existence of ruby mines,


During his visit at Jegdalek the author asked several time to local elders about how long ruby mining was taking place in Jegdalek, most people agreed to say that it started long time ago but asking more precisely an elder said that it was about 100 years ago adding that about 400 to 500 years ago Jegdalek was an active gold mining area... May be this explains the reference to gold and to the fact that there were no trees around Jegdalek in Burnes' travel report: Gold miners need fuel to extract the precious metal. Anyway in the author opinion the 100 years does not really means anything more that it was long time ago.


In fact it seems that the first foreigner to have visited the ruby mines at Jagdalak and reported about them was a British officer: Major G. Stewart who reportedly visited the mines in 1879 as it is reported by several authors including Edwin Streeter. The mines were later visited by geologist C.L. Griesbach in 1888 who reported his visit in 1891 in the Geology of Safad Koh published in the Geological Survey of India volume XXV:


"The Pari Darra, that narrow defile within which a British force was destroyed in the first Afghan war, shows the section through this series of rocks which are gneissose with some beds of mica schist and a wide belt of highly crystalline marble, the whole dipping under a high angle to the north.


This chain of hills forms a well defined part of the northern ranges of the Safed Koh: and under the name of Siah Koh, all the hills between the Pari Darra near Jagdallak and the Doronta gorge west of Jalalabad is understood. During the early spring of 1888 I was engaged in geologically exploring this system of ranges.


A section through the Siah Koh from south to nort presents what appears to be an unbroken sequence of strata. Near the middle of the range, at Bab-i-Kach, a belt of considerable width (at that spot about six miles wide) is formed by a series of metamorphic strata, chiefly mica and hornblendic schists with talcose phyllites. Some beds of finely crystalline grey gneiss occur in this series, but the whole the character of the zone is more schistose. This series is overlaid by highly altered strata, principally limestone beds, within which the old ruby mines of Jagdallak are situated."


Now the fact that the British soldiers and other people traveling through the region before Stewart and Griesbach did not reported the presence of the ruby mines does not mean that ruby mining was not occurring there. Possibly as Griesbach is writing, the ruby mines at Jegdalek could be old mines, much older in fact than the arrival of the British soldiers in the region.




 

"Aerial view over the Jegdalek Valley and its ruby mines"
(While arriving by plane in Kabul from Dubai, the author had the pleasure to fly over Jegdalek getting the possibility to take that photo showing the different ruby mining trenches on which the author added later the name he was provided by the miners at Jegdalek. You can compare that photo with Google Earth using this placemark to find Jegdalek village.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2011)



Jegdalek was also famous to have been a strong mujahedeen base during the "Jihad" as in Afghanistan they commonly call the war against the Soviet Union. The Jegdalek village was then controlled by mujahedeens from the Jamiat I Islami (lead by Rabbani) on the eastern side the Mia Khel area was under the control of mujahedeens from the Hezb-i-Islami (Yunus Khalis faction) (see map). According to people from Jegdalek during the Jihad, people from jegdalek were more involved in fighting the Soviet than mining rubies, most people met in Jegdalek agree that the inverse was true regarding the Mujahedeens from Mia Khel. The valley was reportedly difficult to attack and was heavily bombed by the Soviet aviation resulting in the destruction of the Jegdalek village. Nowadays we can still see the ruins of the old village in Jegdalek. During the attacks the people were hiding in the numerous caves and ruby mines that can still be seen today. Others reminder of that difficult period are the numerous minefields that can be seen along the road from Sarobi to Jegdalek. If most of these mine fields along the northern road coming from Sarobi were reportedly cleaned, it seems that the road going south west from Jegdalek pass is still very dangerous due to land mines.




 

"Minefields on the way to Jegdalek"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



According to the Jegdalek ruby miners and traders he met while visiting the region, it seems that after the war with the Soviet Union, when the Afghan civil war started most of the population of Jegdalek moved to Pakistan as they did not wanted to take part in that conflict. On the other hand the population from Mia Khel continued ruby mining during the civil war and under the Taliban regime (1997 - 2001). Several figures from Mia Khel were also told to the author to have become government officials under the Taliban regime. The situation inversed after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001: The people from Jegdalek then returned from Pakistan. Several leaders from Jegdalek, like commandant Anwar "Jegdalek" or Commandant Khan started to work with the new government. (Note: Commandant Khan became chief of the police for the whole Sarobi Province and took the author to visit Jegdalek for 2 days in 2006, Anwar jegdalek is currently the Governor of the Kunduz Province). During that exile in Pakistan, the Jegdalek people built many business contacts with the gem and jewelry business community in Peshawar and Karachi.
Due to the fact that it is nearly impossible to export gemstones legally from Afghanistan due to the very complicated and inefficient system that was put in place after 2001, and thanks to these contacts created during their exile in Pakistan, most of the gems from Jegdalek are nowadays finding their way first to Pakistan to be faceted and then exported to the world markets (or imported back to Afghanistan to be sold locally).




 

"On the way to Jegdalek: A maze of dry hills on which nomads are traveling with their animals."
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



In 2005 the author, then Director of the AIGS Gemological Laboratory in Bangkok (Thailand) in association with the Gubelin Gem Lab in Lucerne (Switzerland), decided to start an ambitious "Field Gemology" research program with focus on rubies and sapphires. He started then to get seriously interested about visiting the Central Asian ruby deposits and particularly Jegdalek to collect reliable samples to be used for gemological research about the origin determination of gemstones.


Based on the publications he could find and particularly the writings of Richard W. Hughes, Gary Bowersox and Virginie Garnier and with the support of Guy Clutterbuck, a British gem merchant also well connected in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the author was able to get some useful local contacts in Peshawar and Afghanistan and then feel confident enough to plan an expedition there.


In 2006 the Afghan government was not allowing officially the people to mine at Jegdalek and police officers were playing hide and seek with local miners. Of course looking at the number of stones available in first in the market in Peshawar, then in Kabul and later in Jegdalek village it was obvious that several groups of miners were working more or less secretly:


In fact the author first visited Jegdalek in July 2006 with the support of Commandant Khan, the chief of the police for the Sarobi district, himself a native of Jegdalek and a former mujahedeen commander, who spent years in Pakistan during the civil war. Commander Khan invited the author to come with him in Jegdalek and helped him to visit the mining area. During that visit as we had a police escort we could not witness any mining, as a matter of fact arriving at Jegdalek and then Salnow village, the visit started by our police escort to discuss with local elders and miners, probably to get their approval about our visit and make sure that everything would be fine. While reaching the mining area, we saw one man running away and visiting a mining trench it was obvious that mining had taken place recently.


 

"Arriving at Jegdalek"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



On the overall in 2006 the valley was looking very peaceful despite the mining fields we met on the way and the ruins of the old village and the war going on in the country. The population and our police escort were friendly and several new buildings (including a school, a clinic and a mosque) were very visible near the old ruins. After visiting the Khalwat and Lalpura ruby mining areas the valley was safe enough for the author and his assistant be able to spend the night in one of the old houses of the Jegdalek village and enjoy the following day sharing a breakfast with the miners and then enjoying a wonderful morning in the orchard near the village looking at the rubies brought to us by local miners thanks to the help of Commander Khan.




 

"The green valley of Jegdalek"
(A view of Jegdalek with its new mosque, its ruins (on the left) its typical Afghan fortified houses in the background
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



In 2009 few months after his return in Bangkok (after spending two years working in Switzerland) as he was starting his work as "Supervisor for Field Gemology" at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok, the author was informed by Afghan and Pakistani merchants visiting Bangkok gem trading center that ruby mining was now officially possible at Jegdalek and that several hundreds of miners were now openly working there. At that time the author focus was nevertheless on East Africa as rubies from new deposits in Mozambique were flooding the market in Bangkok for few months and the author had to focus first on these new deposits. Nevertheless he started to plan a possible expedition for summer 2010. During spring 2010, one of the Afghan contacts the author met in the field in 2006 was visiting Bangkok. The man, a native of Jegdalek, brought him some very interesting blue sapphires from a new deposit in Afghanistan and as about the same time the author had been invited to visit another interesting pink sapphire deposit located in Pakistan, a new expedition to Central Asian ruby and sapphire deposit was starting to make a lot of sense despite the security and political problems in the region.




 

"Old and New construction in Jegdalek"
(A view of Jegdalek with its new mosque (left), its old building (center) and in the background the new school (build with the support of the USAID) and the medical center. Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



In June 2010 after visiting the Batakundi purple sapphire deposit in Pakistan, the author travelled to Kabul to meet his Afghan friends and after spending some time looking at stones in the Kabul gem market they planned a new short visit to Jegdalek. From Kabul to Jegdalek nothing had changed since 2006. We took the nice road linking Kabul to Sarobi that was built during spring 2006, then we took right to the Lataban pass for few kilometers and then finally left the dusty and rocky track heading to Jegdalek. As in 2006 we passed near under the old Red Army base located on a cliff dominating the valley south of Sarobi and that is currently occupied by the French army, in charge for the NATO of the area in association with the Afghan national army and police. Then as we sleft the valley and started to drive in the mountains we passed several old land mine fields and nomad camps. Indeed Jegdalek is located in a strategic pass used by the Kuchis and their herds of sheep, goats and camels on their way back and forth from the low lands of the Pakistan tribal areas where they spend most of the winter to grazing areas of Afghanistan where they take their animals during summer time.




 

"The ruins of Jegdalek"
(Life is going on in Jegdalek despite the destructions of the Soviet aviation
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



Arriving at Jegdalek things were similar but also quite different compared the author last visit in July 2006: The first difference was that the number of new constructions had increased around the old village and its ruins dating of the Jihad period against the Red Army. That was quite a positive sign meaning that the economic situation at Jegdalek was looking good. The second difference was less positive as the village was not looking as peaceful as it was during our first fist in 2006. Arriving on that Friday morning in the center of the village near the small market and the mosque where many people usually gather on such day dedicated to God and resting, we found several vehicles full of heavily armed Afghan policemen. After few minutes of discussion the author local friends told him that the night before two pickups loaded with insurgents came less than five kilometers south of the village searching reportedly for a mechanic. The police was here to enquire about that... About 20 minutes after our arrival the police left. Of course the author could feel that the situation was a little bit tense but the author was again, as few years before, surrounded by his friends, some peaceful looking bearded gem miners and merchants in an Afghan village with no visible military or police presence. Everything went fine.




 

"Ruby mining trench at Injuno Gaspei, Jegdalek, Afghanistan"
(An Afghan miner is entering a ruby mine at Injuno Gaspei, in the background we can see the white trenches of the Shakur Kalrana ruby mining area. Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



Few minutes after the police departure, an old friend of the author's friends happening to be a famous local ruby miner, invited the author and his group to visit the mines he was working. First we had to plan lunch and spent some time selecting some goat meat that the miner sent to his house to get cooked. Then we took, as we did in 2006 the road to Salnow village. Arriving as Injuno Gaspei we could see that the police camp and check point we stopped at in 2006 had disappeared. We went then directly to visit an old mining trench at Injuno Gaspei where the miner was recently working. The author could there visit briefly a mining trench, collect some data and samples. As it was Friday no miners were present on site. We then left to the Taghar mining area where our guide was nowadays working with his team. It was not very far, just on the other side of the hill, but to reach it we had to drive on a very rocky track around the hill. The drive turned to be more interesting for the author as it first expected as we passed not very far from one of the former underground mujahedeen base located down the scenic Shakur Kalrana mining area (also called Newei Khan) enabling the author to take few photos of the area. We then stopped for few minutes near an interesting rock located about two meters near the track and transformed by the local miners into a shrine due to the fact that the natural metamorphic designs on the rock boulder were reminding the Arabic writing for the word "Allah". It was a local tradition for the miners and visitors on their way to the mines to stop for few seconds and pray. Finally after driving up a narrow dry valley, we reached the Taghar mining site where our guide was working nowadays with his team.




 

"Ruby mine in Taghar, Jegdalek, Afghanistan"
(A view over the ruby mining site we visited, the miners had their camp just near the trench they were working.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)





 

"Mining trench in Taghar"
(Rubies in Jegdalek are only found in narrow bands of marbles that are nearly vertical. Thus the miners have over the years dig these huge, deep trenches that are secured thanks to some "bridges" of marble left behind between the 2 sides of the trench. Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



The mine we visited at Taghar was about 40 meters deep which is quite deep even if reportedly some mines in the area are reportedly more than 150 meters deep. The miners had a power supply group, a pump and some jackhammers to work underground. They were using a rope to go up and down the mine and to take the production out of the trench.




 

"The way down..."
(View of the rope system used by the miners to go up and down in a ruby mining trench in Taghar, Jegdalek, Afghanistan
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



Nevertheless, if in 2006 the author was able to take his time to visit some mining trenches in Khalwat, on that day things turned to be quite different: Few minutes after our arrival at the mine in Taghar while the author was inspecting the rope system used in the trench by the miners to go down to the working site, our driver came in the trench to inform us that he spotted several men observing us from a nearby hill near the old mujahedeen base.


We decided then to leave rapidly the mine and the area as we had no real idea about who could hide in these old caves particularly knowing that the night before there had been some insurgent intrusion.




 

"Shakur Kalrana and the ruins of the former Mujahedeen base, Jegdalek, Afghanistan"
(Down the ruins but not visible on the photo are located several caves where the Mujahedeen were hidding during the Jihad"
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



We returned then rapidly (and safely) to Jegdalek village and then took the direction of the miner's fortified house where we had lunch and were able to look at numerous rough rubies and mineral specimens. The author spent some time studying them, taking some notes about them and the current mining activity in Jegdalek. It was also a good occasion to acquire directly from the miner some interesting rubies for the GIA reference collection.


 




 

"Show time..."
( At the miner house, the miner shows some specimens to the author.
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



Speaking with the miners (briefly) about security issues, the author was told that if there are no insurgents in Jegdalek, it seems that more and more often insurgents are coming close to Jegdalek particularly from the region in the south (in fact on the other side of the forest covered hills you can see on the photo presenting the Jegdalek mosque) where is also located Gandamack.


In fact the miner's main problems seemed more about mining: At Jegdalek like in many other primary gem mining areas, good gems are rare and difficult to mine. Unlike secondary deposit where gems are accumulated in gravels, in such deposits gems are found in hard rock, furthermore most of them are not gem quality, as many has too many fissures or inclusions to have a good transaprency. As it is an old mining area, the mining trenches can be very deep and flooding becomes a problem. Miners have to use pumps and the mining costs of course become higher as they go deeper. Another main issue they face is that they dont have access to mining explosives adapted to marble type ruby deposits. In fact, it seems that for security reasons, the Afghan government do not allow small-scale miners (who usually work their mine for years without any mining license) to buy legally mining explosives. As a result they have the choice between working without explosives using hand tools or a jackhammer, but then mining is very slow and tough, or to get illegally explosives, meaning mainly military explosives from unexploded munitions, land mines or from old stocks left behind after the jihad and the civil war. The problem is that these explosives are not only dangerous to handle but also that they are too powerful and not adapted to ruby mining and as a result many stones are broken or damaged by the blasts. Indeed the author commonly get the feeling while comparing parcels of rubies from Jegdalek with gems from similar marble type deposits in Tajikistan, Burma or Vietnam that in the case of parcels from Jegdalek the stones are often more fissured and pink looking due to the numerous open fissures probably created during the mining process by the use of the wrong type of explosives.




 

"Considering the author offer..."
(As the author has made an offer for some specimens, the miners are considering about it.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



To complete our visit we returned to Jegdalek village and spent some time in the orchard eating fruits, looking at some additional interesting ruby specimens and speaking about life with the local miners:


Working as a ruby miner in places like Jegdalek is of course very hard, but around Jegdalek several people after some very tough years and also to some luck, got wealthy according to the local standards (and sometimes even more) from gem mining and trading. Commonly the miners told the author that feel lucky and thank God to have been able to live that life working with gems as they can choose more easily than their neighbors (from villages without gem mines) not to get involved in drug or in fighting/insurgency/mafia type businesses.


Most of the time when you are correctly introduced by the right people, when you meet gem miners at the mines, you don't find any hostility in their eyes, but instead some curiosity, the pride to have a respectable life and also hope or sometimes the faith and the certitude that they will get "Inch Allah" a better future. For the author meeting such people this is part of the pleasure associated with visiting gem mining areas as besides the possibility to get at the source the samples he needs for his research work, and some first hand information about what is going on in this or that mining area, he feels that this is a true privilege to meet such gem people:


In Afghanistan gem mining producing areas, hope, faith and hard work seems to be the daily companions of the gem miners. If hard work is a tough reality, hope can be a cruel mistress as at the end of the day many miners will return from the mines exhausted and empty handed, nevertheless in many cases they have seen worse and often they might feel some pride to live a "halal" life: One Afghan ruby miner told the author that gem mining and trading is very good for them as Muslims as they said "the prophet himself (God bless his name) was for a while a gem merchant in Arabia". He added that tomorrow, "inch Allah", fortune might smile to them and he might be able to get a better future for him and his family.




 

"After business: Lunch time..."
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



Of course some might think that this is a very naive way to look at the Afghan gem trade. It is also true that hope is often a short cut to deception. Nevertheless hope and faith give to the Afghan gem miners a reason to continue living with dignity their tough life, and in a region facing so many problem, this is something giving a good feeling. Many will sadly remain poor, but in the modern cities of the western world or in the slums of Kabul not everybody is wealthy and happy: The modern consummation society has also its unlucky, unhappy people living a difficult and sometimes even miserable life... On many occasions after visiting gem mining areas in some of the most remote parts of the world, the author returns home with a lot of admiration and sympathy for these tough gem people. Obviously they are not all angels. It is a fact that many Afghans miners and dealers are tough in business. Some can also be very tricky, others are even worse. But this is the human nature we can find everywhere... And thinking seriously about the life they had with their families in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the past 40 years, who can really blame them to try to get a better life? If today they get a fine gem (or even a bad one), obviously they will try to get from it as much profit as they can as they don't know how things will turn tomorrow for them. But at the end of the day, on the other side of the world, somebody might one day buy that gem and offer it to his love one. Happy ending? May be this is really too much an optimistic vision of the gem trade, but well as a matter of fact the author is not really one of these people who seems to enjoy finding darkness on a sunny day in the desert.




 

"Jegdalek orchard"
(Apricots in Jegdalek
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



That afternoon under the shade of the apricot and mulberry trees in the orchard near the old Jegdalek village, the author was not really in a pessimistic mood: We were looking at gems, speaking about life and at least on the author side, enjoying every second of that quiet afternoon.


On the way back, we went to drink at the nearby spring and the author was happy to see that the local irrigation system had been repaired thanks to the support of his countrymen... Asking about the French soldiers visiting regularly the area, the miner smiled and said that they were good customers. He added that he had sold many rubies to them and that they were giving "good prices". I was thinking: Yes, it seems they were indeed giving very good prices because as I could see that day compared to 4 years earlier, the stones had become really much more expensive in Jegdalek. Obviously the soldiers were indeed giving very good prices. A pessimistic gem merchant would probably think that they were spoiling the market, but well, the author was not a gem merchant and, at the end of the day, that 2010 expedition to Jegdalek had been very positive and successful.




 

"Ruby specimen from Jegdalek on its marble matrix"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



Returning to Kabul in the evening, driving through the dry hills separating Jegdalek from Sarobi, the author was thinking about the green Jegdalek valley with its peaceful orchards, its delicious apricots and mulberries, its rocky hills covered with ruby mining trenches, its new constructions surrounding the ruins of the old village, its gem people and its nice rubies:


The whole place was looking like an oasis of prosperity as people would like to see more often in Afghanistan. But obviously the valley was also surrounded by dangerous passes full of minefields, by insurgents and/or drug lords. Indeed for the people of Jegdalek the situation after 2001 has changed for much better compared to what they lived since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Red Army in 1978. They were living in peace and had a good business mining and trading rubies. But for Jegdalek as for the rest of Afghanistan, the future remains clearly very uncertain.


For the readers interested to get more information about Jegdalek from another point of view, the author recommend the readings of two interesting articles by Adnan R. Khan, a Canadian journalist covering the war in Afghanistan and who obviously visited also Jegdalek and reported about his visits in two interesting articles:


- The long walk of the Kuchis (2006)


- Lessons from an Afghan Oasis (2010)




 

"A fine ruby specimen from the Taghar mining trenches, Jegdalek, Afghanistan"
(The miner who took us to his mine at Taghar presents to the author a fine ruby specimen on its marble matrix he got from the mine we previously visited. If the stone is not gem quality, such specimen is not without value and interest for collectors. Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)





Update after the GIA Field Expedition FE25 to Afghanistan (May - June 2011):


In May 2011 at the time of that new expedition, the author tried of course again to visit Jegdalek, but while he was gathering news about the area, he was told by one of his local contacts that for the past few days there had been some fighting between the Afghan police and some insurgents near Jegdalek. The way to the village was also reported not to be as safe as in the past as several merchants and miners had been reportedly ambushed in the rocky desert hills between Sarobi and Jegdalek. As usual the main problem about Jegdalek and with many other gem mining areas is not really at the mines: It is more to go and return safely from the mines...


And in May 2011, we decided not to try our chance.




 

"Rubies from Jegdalek"
(The same ruby crystal specimen reportedly from Taghar presented by the miner on the previous photos associated here with few small rough rubies and a very fine unheated faceted stone weighting more than 4 carats that was probably mined from the Khalwat trenches in the Jegdalek ruby mining area, Afghanistan.
The stone is one of the best rubies the author ever saw he believed to have been mined from Jegdalek.
Faceted Stone courtesy: Guy Clutterbuck, Photo: Vincent Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2011)



Finally the author would like to write some words about things he tought about after giving a presentation at the US Embassy in Kabul about Afghanistan and its gems. These few lines might help people working in Afghanistan with an interest for Afghan gems.


The consequence of the presence of more than 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan seems for the author to be quite positive for gem mining areas like Jegdalek as the foreigners currently in Afghanistan are providing a good local market for the Afghan gem miners. With many people (soldiers or civilians) willing to return home with some Afghan ruby or emerald as a souvenir of their time in Afghanistan has obviously a very positive effect on the gem production in Afghanistan.


The classic problem for any gem miner around the world is not really about how to sell the exceptional and naturally beautiful gems he was lucky to find but instead to find a market for the rest of his production. On that aspect the Afghan gem miners are lucky to have people, like the French soldiers the author was told about in Jegdalek, who were paying good prices for low quality gems and mineral specimens that are not good enough to interest international gem merchants: As the miners get a market for his daily production, he might continue to mine. Then once in a while, some very fine and exceptional stone might be produced. Of course the higher the number of miners the more likely such gems will be produced rapidly and regularly.


In Afghanistan like in any other gem mining area, in most cases, the most likely reason explaining why an exceptional gem is produced is that enough people are crazy enough to spend their time (and/or their money) mining for gems.


The author cannot say how many fine beautiful natural unheated rubies like the stone on the photo at the just over this paragraph are produced each year in Jegdalek, but he knows that for such a gem to be produced in an area like Jegdalek, kilos of lower quality rubies are mined and if these lesser material cannot find a market, it is likely that the motivation of the miners will drop. Miners are simple to understand: They need to eat every day and to feel that they have a good chance to get rich one of these days. If they stop hoping, they will stop mining and as a result no more fine gems will be produced.


So you might feel that the author is a little bit cynical here but in the author opinion, one the reasons explaining why Afghanistan has produced during the past 10 years some nice rubies is just an indirect consequence of the presence of the foreign troops in Afghanistan since 2001. It is in fact very simple:


When money comes, miners starts to dig... But when the buyers go away, the miner will soon stop digging.


Furthermore, for many Afghans and particularly many people from Jegdalek who left to Pakistan with their families from 1978 to 2001, Kabul and Afghanistan is seen for them as a much safer and better place to live than Pakistan: Business in Kabul looks to be good despite some security concerns and the city looks like a gigantic construction site. If things are far to be perfect in many parts of Afghanistan, Kabul in 2010 and 2011 was seen by the local gem merchants the author met as safer and even better for business than Peshawar. That was not the same in 2006. Of course they are not happy about everything as things are far to be perfect in Afghanistan. With all the foreigners in Kabul, renting a hotel room is very expensive, then there are many other problems but as one merchant told the author:


"In Pakistan gem business is easier: There have cutting centers, jewelry makers, international shipping and it is easy to export gems from there. You can do it legally. Here in Afghanistan we have the worse legal system you can imagine to export gems. But well it is our country, we prefer to live here as we stayed in Pakistan long enough. And after all, if the Afghan governement make stupid laws about exporting gems, we can still send our stones to our friends in Pakistan or Dubai to export them: Sending a parcel of stones to Peshawar cost less than 100 dollars and takes few hours, the legal process to export them from Kabul is an administrative nightmare that can last weeks and cost you more than 25% of the value you were able to negociate with the customs people... and at the end you are not even sure that this money will go to the government."


"Evening ruby trading in Kabul"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



But beyond the technical and legal problems like the fact that the miners cannot get suitable mining explosives to work, that there is no efficient legal system (no mining licenses for small scale miners, useless export system) the positive thing is that nowadays Afghanistan is again connected to the world. Kabul airport is busy, gems and people are going in and out...


As a result in places like Jegdalek the local population has the possibility to get some income from gem mining, a peaceful activity. It is already a very positive result.


Of course at the same time some corrupt officials helped by stupid laws will try to get bribes here or there in exchange of a stamp on a piece of paper. It is really annoying to face them... But well.


Of course crooks will also try to get their share of the cake trying to cheat guys like you (or me...) with synthetics, treated stones or imitations. But well study gemology, be careful and use some common sense, you might be able to survive.


In that sense it is not worse than in most of the rest of the world. Old timers like to repeat to me that it was the same at the time of the Vietnam war when they were coming for the first time in Thailand...


In fact one of these old timers (who told the author that he don't want to get quoted on that one but who might recognize himself if he read these lines), used to share with the author an interesting theory about bad people in the gem trade that the reader may find interesting to conclude this long blog.


"The positive thing with bad people in the gem trade is that these people are usually not of the worse type. I mean that in most cases they are of the crook type: They will try to cheat you or may be rob you but they will usually not try to hurt or kill you (if you are not yourself searching for troubles).

The fact is that the gem trade is just too tough to interest real bad guys with serious balls. These bad guys will go for much more profitable and dangerous activities like drug or weapon business where you need to have serious balls... "


So actually if that theory is true, the good thing about the gem trade in a country like Afghanistan is that, even if it is far to be perfect, it provides a way to make a peaceful living to many good people and to some guys that could be worse. So far the author experiences after four visits to gem mining areas in Afghanistan since 2006 seems to confirm that theory.


...and the author would add that at the end, somewhere one day, thanks to that, somebody will have a some nice gems to buy and to give to his love one.


All the best,


 




Special thanks:


First the author would like to thanks his friends from Afghanistan and Peshawar to have helped him to travel in Afghanistan safely, to have helped him to visit their wonderful country and to have spend so much time speaking with him about their gems, their country and their culture. It was really a pleasure each time to enjoy their support. The author does hope that this blog will please them providing some exposure to some gems, a mining area and a beautiful country that are really something special for the author.


He would like also to thanks all the miners and merchants he met during his visits, as they provided him not only interesting samples, but also some very valuable information and most of all some beautiful memories...


He would like also to thanks his friends and particularly Richard W. Hughes, Guy Clutterbuck, Jean Claude Michelou and Gary Bowersox for their much appreciated support and advices regarding these expeditions.


Finally he would like to thanks his boss Ken Scarratt and his colleagues at the GIA and more particularly at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok for all the support provided.




June 13th, 2010 | Keywords:Vietnam , Luc Yen , ruby , spinel , Field Report GIA Travel |
Blog Title: GIA_FE16_Luc_Yen


GIA FE16 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 16): April 08th, 2010 - April 15th, 2010:

 

Introduction to the Vietnam Luc Yen 2010 expedition: The GIA Laboratory Bangkok Vietnam 2010 field expedition was planned with the support of Dr. Pham Van Long from the Vietnam National Gem and Gold Corporation. After visiting pearl farms in Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bay with my colleague from GIA Lab Bangkok Nick Sturman and Kham Vannaxay, the author plan was to continue to the mountainous district of Luc Yen located in the province of Yen Bai, in the North West of Hanoi, about five hours driving on the way to the Chinese border.

The expedition had been prepared by the author and a young French gemologist who studied at GIA Thailand in 2009: Philippe Ressigeac. Philippe, following the advices of the author, left to Vietnam in January 2010. There he took few weeks to learn some Vietnamese in Hanoi and then travelled to the Luc Yen gem mining area. In Yen The, the capital of the Luc Yen district, thanks to his skills speaking a bit of Vietnamese he was able within few days to become friend with Mr. Shuan a local gem broker who had an excellent knowledge of the whole mining areas but who, as most people in Yen The, was not able to speak English or French. Few weeks after Philippe arrival in Vietnam, Lou Pierre Bryl, another young gemologist (from Canada) who used to travel a lot with the author joined Philippe. Rapidly the region and particularly its blue spinels mining areas had no more secrets for them.


 

Left to Right : Mr. Shuan, Lou Pierre Bryl, Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, Tracy Lindwall, Herve Rezo, Pierre hemon and Philippe Ressigeac at the Koan Thong (Bai Thai) memorial stone explaining that here was found the first Vietnamese ruby in 1988.  Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010

"Meeting VP team at the ruby discovery memoroial stone"
(Left to Right : Mr. Shuan, Lou Pierre Bryl, Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, Tracy Lindwall, Herve Rezo, Pierre hemon and Philippe Ressigeac at the Koan Thong (Bai Thai) memorial stone explaining that here was found the first Vietnamese ruby in 1988.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


For that new expedition to Vietnam, besides Philippe, Lou Pierre and Mr. Shuan the author selected some additional very motivated young gemologists:


- First two intrepid young women who just finished their gemological studies at GIA Thailand: Tracy Lindwall (USA) and Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, (Germany). They had already some experience about gem mines visiting ruby and sapphire deposits in Thailand and Cambodia with the author and besides the motivation to discover Vietnam and its gems they wanted to show to the author that they could be fit for longer summer time expeditions to African gem deposits.
- and also two young French geologists/gemologists: Herve Rezo and Pierre Hemon, studying the DUG (Diplome Universitaire de Gemmologie) in Nantes University with Prof. Emmanuel Fritsch and Dr. Benjamin Rondeau and willing to get some field experience in relation with gemstones and gem mining.


With these six people, the author had a very motivated team. Each member of the group was assigned responsibilities over a specific task. One had to take care about accounting, others had to collect all the GPS data, take photos or notes about the geology while another one would focus on the stones. The objectives for that new expedition were to complete the work done previously by the author on rubies and spinels from North Vietnam: After visiting the area two times in 2009, the author had gathered a lot of information about places that he had not yet the opportunity to visit. Besides training some new young gemologist for possible longer expeditions in Africa returning to Vietnam was a great opportunity to complete some unfinished business, meaning going to visit these mining location he heard about, meeting miners there and collecting data and samples in order to get a better idea about Vietnamese gems. Our main objectives were of course rubies and blue spinels.

 

After that expedition a short update about ruby and spinel mining in North Vietnam was published in the Gem News International section of "Gems & Gemology" summer 2010 issue (Vol. 46, No. 2)

Furthermore Jean Baptiste Senoble, another young gemologist who travelled with the author in Vietnam in 2009, was then able to complete an article for the ICA InColor magazine using the additional information about blue spinels mining siteswe provided him. "Beauty and Rarity - A Quest for Vietnamese Blue spinels" by Jean Baptiste Senoble was published in the summer 2010 issue of ICA's InColor Magazine.


Now I would like to share with you some interesting parts from that adventure using few photographs we took during the expedition:


Part 1: Yen The Morning Gem Market: Each morning from 7am to about 9am most of Yen The gem merchants go to a small square near Yen The Lake to meet people, friends and get the news. Many ladies with beautiful hats will gather and present few stones on small wooden tables while men will come around to check them and may be buy some. But the market is not limited of course to that small square. People from all the areas: miners, brokers, merchants will come to meet each other. Modernity with its mobile phones and motorbikes has of course changed things but nevertheless people still like to gather there each morning: Usually after few minutes looking around and discussing a bit here or there, we were moving to a small open air coffee and tea shop located just near the lake about 100 meters from the main market. Usually we were not alone, the next tables were commonly used by miners and traders discussing business or other matters... Gem markets as this one are a real pleasure for the author as if it is not the place where obviously you will see top quality gems, usually you will enjoy meeting there many gem people:

 

 

 

"Hats and ladies" (At Yen The morning market, while Herve Rezo is looking at small ruby specimen,Vietnamese ladies all covered with lovely hats discuss about life and gems. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Hats and ladies"
(At Yen The morning market, while Herve Rezo is looking at small ruby specimen,Vietnamese ladies all covered with lovely hats discuss about life and gems.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


 


"Gem Paintings"  (Using some colorfull gem powders and gems too small to be used in jewelry, the people of Yen The have developped a small industry of gem paintings where gems are glued and assembled to become "paintings". That activity is very useful for the gem industry as it create a market for all these small stones and thus it is supporting small scale miners. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Training the next generation"
(A young Yen The girl is getting some gem trading experience at the Yen The morning gem market with her mother. She has already the right hat.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


 

"The Fellowship of the Rings"  (At the Yen The gem market several most of Vietnamese gem merchants are wearing ring, spinel rings to be more exact. Photo: Philippe Ressigeac, 2010)

"The Fellowship of the Rings"
(At the Yen The gem market several most of Vietnamese gem merchants are wearing ring, spinel rings to be more exact.

Photo: Philippe Ressigeac, 2010)



"Vietnamese Blue Spinel" (Mr. Hoan, a Yen The spinel merchant is proudly presenting us an exceptional rough Vietnamese blue spinel. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Vietnamese Blue Spinel"
(Mr. Hoan, a Yen The spinel merchant is proudly presenting us an exceptional rough Vietnamese blue spinel.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


 

 

"Gem trading in Yen The"
(At Yen The morning market, a Vietnamese trader is displaying rubies, blue sapphires and spinels.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


 

 

"Blue spinels rough"
(Rough Blue spinels at the gem market.
Photo: V. Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


But Yen The is not just about morning gem markets. During after visiting the market most dealers will return to their house and work. The area around the lake is of particular interest as many gem shops and small family type factories are located there.. Typically in Yen The, people are living and working at home: the lower part of the house usually open to the street and is dedicated to gem business while the family lives in the back or the upper part of the house. People can be seen working on gem painting or cutting and polishing stones from dusk to several hours after down... One of the interesting activities that has developped continuously since the author first visit in Yen The are "gem Paintings". During our visit in 2010 we could see more than ten houses-factories working until late. The production of these gem painting will then get exported all over Vietnam mainly to supply the local market. In Vietnam as houses are often designed and decorated following geomancy rules (a local version of the Chinese Feng Hsui) there is a strong demand for stone carvings and gem paintings.


"Gem Paintings"  (Using some colorfull gem powders and gems too small to be used in jewelry, the people of Yen The have developped a small industry of gem paintings where gems are glued and assembled to become "paintings". That activity is very useful for the gem industry as it create a market for all these small stones and thus it is supporting small scale miners. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Gem Paintings"
(Using some colorfull gem powders and gems too small to be used in jewelry, the people of Yen The have developped a small industry of gem paintings where gems are glued and assembled to become "paintings". That activity is very useful for the gem industry as it create a market for all these small stones and thus it is supporting small scale miners.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



"Gem Paintings"  (Using some colorfull gem powders and gems too small to be used in jewelry, the people of Yen The have developped a small industry of gem paintings where gems are glued and assembled to become "paintings". That activity is very useful for the gem industry as it create a market for all these small stones and thus it is supporting small scale miners. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Gem Paintings"
(Two young Vietnamese women working on a gem painting project in Yen The, Vietnam.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



"Gem Paintings"  (Using some colorfull gem powders and gems too small to be used in jewelry, the people of Yen The have developped a small industry of gem paintings where gems are glued and assembled to become "paintings". That activity is very useful for the gem industry as it create a market for all these small stones and thus it is supporting small scale miners. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Details of a religious gem painting"
(Details on a finished fine gem painting seen in Yen The. Note the rubies used for the clothes of Mary.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


 

"Gem Shop in Yen The"
(Gem shops in Yen Theare often open from early in the morning to very late in the evening: As long as somebody in the family is awake, business is ongoing.
Photo: V. Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


Part 2: Hunting rubies and blue spinel in Luc Yen jungle covered mountains: The main difference between hunting and hunting for gems is that going to a gem mine is usually easier as if there is a gem mine there is probably a path to visit it as miners will regularly travel from the mine to their village. Nevertheless it does not means that all gem mines will be 5 minutes walking from a given village. Sometimes and this is particularly true for the most remote mining sites in the Luc Yen district of North Vietnam, you will need to get ready for several hours walking on tricky jungle covered mountains.


During the 2010 GIA Laboratory Bangkok field expedition our focus was for five days to try to visit some of the most remote gem mining locations we heard about. Places that the author had not visited yet during his two previous expeditions in 2009 where he focused one the main mining locations at that period. We also tried to find out if there were some other mining areas still unknown to us. The difficulty for people willing to collect reference specimens in order to build a good reference collection is that one should not only focus on where many people are mining today but also on the places where many stones were produced in the past: Sometimes there is still a little bit of gem mining there by few small scale miners and thus going there might worth a visit as some interesting samples can still be collected from them. Small less known or completely unknown sites have also their interest as possibly these areas might produce many gems in the future. Thus each mining site, whether its current activity is high or low, might be interesting to visit in order to get as many interesting samples as possible, from as many different places as possible in a given mining area. Working that way enable to get a better idea about the whole region, the variety of the gem it produces, its challenges and its potential. In the Luc Yen district there is indeed a lot of challenges and potential as the more we were visiting these mountainous area the more we understood that the whole region is rich in gems. In fact the main question for the local miners is not really to find a place where there are gems but to find out if it is profitable to mine here or there. In the Luc Yen district about 20 years after the discovery of rubies in the region, most of the easier gem mining areas (meaning the secondary deposits located under the paddy fields near the Yen The town) have been mined out. In 2010 we did not saw any mechanized mining in the Luc Yen district. The most modern gem mining operations were consisting typically of a team of about 10 miners working with a small pump and a locally made jig. In fact as the author writes these lines, gem mining is present in many remote areas where it was not (or will not be) easy to bring mining machinery. The production is low as fine large gems are very rare, but in Yen The, besides the market for fine gems there is with the local gem painting industry a market for small and low quality stones. To the author experience this is one of the things that explains why there are hundreds of small scale gem miners in the Luc Yen district: Not only the fine exceptional gems can get a market but also all the rest of the production, from tiny gems to low quality large stones. Thanks to that miners will get some income even if they dont find some fine gems. Not much but enough to keep them mining. Thanks to that once in a while a good gem is produced here or there... In many other gem mining areas the author visited the main problem is that there is no market for very small or low quality stones, thus people get hopeless with their production that cannot find any market. As a result soon they will stop mining and go to another business. In the Luc Yen district as we visited the region during spring 2010, local people perform most of the gem mining. When they are not busy with other activities like farming or social events, they have the choice between staying at home doing nothing, going to mine gems, going to cut wood in the forest or to go poaching. Many people in Luc Yen seems to prefer gem mining as it provides them some additional income and mining for gems they hope to get lucky and feel that they have a chance to get find a good stone that will change their life for the best. They know that farming rice they will never get rich, On the other side if gem mining is hard job, they feel that they also have a chance to change their life.


Hope and hard work are the two realities of gem mining. If hope can nevertheless be a cruel mistress or a short-cut to deception, nevertheless it give them a reason to live, to wake up in the morning and do something with their time that will be useful for them and their families... And funnily this gem fever is commonly very contagious for young gemologists as arriving in Yen The everybody was ready to go for long days walking in the misty mountains, on dangerous slippery tracks.


The first day of our expedition the weather was misty and we started walking under a gentle rain. It was not too hot, but the expedition was challenging as the way to the mines was then very muddy and the numerous marble pinnacles were very slippery. We had to be very careful particularly while passing over the numerous deep crevasses using some slippery (and scary) wood "bridges". After a little bit more than two hours walking we reached the Bai Gau blue and pink spinel mining area to find out that, due to the rain, most of the miners were not working that day but instead were resting eating red rice and drinking rice alcohol. The following days the weather was sunnier and thus walking was safer in these mountains as the muddy jungle paths and the rocks were becoming less slippery. That was good as day after day if the spirit of the author's team was still very high, our bodies were starting to feel tired.

 

 

"Bikers in Luc Yen" (On the way to the ruby and spinel mines, VP team and is discovering on motorbikes the beautiful landscapes of the Luc yen district. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Bikers in Luc Yen"
(On the way to the ruby and spinel mines, VP team and is discovering on motorbikes the beautiful landscapes of the Luc yen district. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


 

"There!" (Mr. Shuan is indicating the muddy way to the Ba Ling Mot valley while Philippe Ressigeac looks very excited to go for a new walk in the Vietnamese jungle. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"There!"
(Mr. Shuan is indicating the muddy way to the Ba Ling Mot valley while Philippe Ressigeac looks very excited to go for a new walk in the Vietnamese jungle. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


 

"Kin Cang scenery" (A view over a small gem mine in the paddy fields of Kin Cang Valley near An Phu village. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Tricky mountains"
(On the way to the Vat Sinh ruby mines, Tracy Lindwall is negociating some crevasses in the jungle covered karstic mountains following Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo and Herve Rezo opening the way.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


"Jungle Wood Bridge" (On the way to the Bai Gau blue spinel mines, Jazmin Amina Weissgarber Crespo is carefully crossing a slippery wooden bridge while Tracy Lindwall is getting ready to follow her... Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Jungle Wood Bridge"
(On the way to the Bai Gau blue spinel mines, Jazmin Amina Weissgarber Crespo is carefully crossing a slippery wooden bridge while Tracy Lindwall is getting ready to follow her..
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



"Jungle Wood Bridge" (On the way to the Bai Gau blue spinel mines, Jazmin Amina Weissgarber Crespo is carefully crossing a slippery wooden bridge while Tracy Lindwall is getting ready to follow her... Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Jungle Ruby Mine"
(A ruby mine at Vat Sinh, a remote jungle mining site in the mountains North West of An Phu villag, there six miners were collecting gem rich ground accumulated in natural crevasses that became over several millions years natural traps for rubies.. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



"Rubies from Khoan Thong" (A Vietnamese miner present us some small fine rubi he found mining in Khoan Thong valley neat Yen The". Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"Rubies from Khoan Thong"
(A Vietnamese miner present us some small fine rubies he found mining in Khoan Thong valley neat Yen The".
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



"Dragon fruit and Dragon Gems?" (Rubies from Vat Sinh and a juicy dragon fruit. The color of the milky gems was very similar to the color of the fruit skin...Yummy! Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

"The Meaning of Happiness"
(After several hours walking in the mountains, getting some fine samples at the mine and enjoying a juicy fruit is just wonderful... Here are some rubies from Vat Sinh and a dragon fruit. Note that the color of the milky gems was very similar to the color of the fruit skin...Yummy! Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)



"On the road again?" (VP team on the way to Ba Ling Mot... Days were long walking in the jungle covered mountains of the Luc Yen district, but what a pleasure to visit gem mines and enjoy nature. Photo: Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, 2010)

"On the road again?"
(VP team on the way to Ba Ling Mot... Days were long walking in the jungle covered mountains of the Luc Yen district, but what a pleasure to visit gem mines and enjoy nature. Photo: Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, 2010)


Each day reaching the gem mining site after several hours of hard walk, meeting the miners, looking at their production and sharing some of their time was a wonderful experience for the young gemologists in the author team... Most of them surprised themselves in these mountains: Each evening we were all very tired but our memories were full of beautiful natural landscapes, gems and encounters with gem people. For the author who used to be a hunter in countryside France, there was no surprise: It was just the feeling and the taste of the real thing. For the young passionate gemologists like those I took with me on that expedition to Vietnam, as it was the case for the author when he decided to come in Burma and Thailand to study gemology, there is just nothing like going to the mines...


 

Left to Right : Mr. Shuan, Lou Pierre Bryl, Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, Tracy Lindwall, Herve Rezo, Pierre hemon and Philippe Ressigeac at the Koan Thong (Bai Thai) memorial stone explaining that here was found the first Vietnamese ruby in 1988.  Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010

"Tracy Shot"
(Left to Right : Tracy Lindwall, Vincent Pardieu, Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, Pierre Hemon and Philippe Ressigeac happy to have returned safely from the Vat Sinh ruby mining site, to have been able to spend there some nice time with the miners and finally to have been able to collect fine samples for the GIA gemstone reference collection.
Photo: Tracy Lindwall)



The author would like to thanks all his travel companions for their courage and their enthusiasm. It had been a real pleasure to travel and work with them in Vietnam. Thanks to their support we have been able to add many interesting specimens to the GIA Reference Collection. We would like also to thanks all the people (miners, gem merchants, farmers...) we met in the Luc Yen district for their welcome. It has been a real pleasure to share with them some instants in the mountains of the Luc Yen district. In Vietnam if we found few nice gems we truly met many gemmy people!

 

The author would like now to invite you to visit the Vietnam 2010 Luc Yen Expedition photo gallery, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of one of the most beautiful gem mining area in South East Asia.. (AVAILABLE VERY SOON...)

 

All the best,





May 11th, 2010 | 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 www.giathai.net:

LMHC

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:

 

LMHC

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 | 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.





February 4th, 2010 | 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 www.giathai.net!

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:

LMHC

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)"

LMHC IS3

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 3rd, 21st0 | 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 fieldgemology.org 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 www.giathai.net.

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 | Keywords:Field Report GIA , Mozambique , ruby Travel |
Blog Title: Special Issue on Mozambique Rubies on www.giathai.net


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: www.giathai.net:

 

 

"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 www.giathai.net and www.gis.edu

 

Hoping that you will find all that interesting!

 

All the best,

 

 

`


December 11th, 2009 | 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 www.giathai.net

 

All the best,

 

 

`


November 21th, 2009 | 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:

www.conservationgemology.org (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: www.conservationgemology.org

 

This website is currently under construction. It will be very similar to fieldgemology.org 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...

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

 

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.