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.
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.
Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog
About the Author
About me : How did a countryside Frenchman became a "Shameless travel addicted gemologist"? ( Under construction)
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:
- Introduction to AIGS/ICA/Gubelin Gem lab 2005 Expeditions
Special THANKS for their support for our field expeditions since 2005:
about gems, gemology, field expeditions, studying gemology, minerals, jade, pearls or jewelry? We recommend these FORUMS where the author is contributing:
Do you want to 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:
18O/16O and V/Cr ratios in gem tsavorites
from the Neoproterozoic Mozambique metamorphic belt:
a clue towards their origins?
Authors: Gaston Giuliani, Anthony E. Fallick, Julien Feneyrol,
Daniel Ohnenstetter, Vincent Pardieu and Mark Saul.
Click on the photo to get the article
Abstract: The combination of oxygen isotope composition with V–Cr–Mn trace element concentrations of V-bearing garnets (tsavorites) originating from the main deposits of the Neoproterozoic Mozambique Metamorphic Belt is reported for the first time. The database enables the identification of the geological and geographical sources of the main productive areas from northern and southern Tanzania, Kenya, and Madagascar. Three consistent sets of δ18O values between 9.5‰ and 11.0‰, 11.6‰ and 14.5‰, and 15.5‰ and 21.1‰ have been recognized for primary deposits hosted in graphitic gneisses related to the Neoproterozic metasedimentary series. The δ18O value of tsavorite is a good tracer of the environment of its formation; the δ18O of the fluid in equilibrium with tsavorite was buffered by the host rock during metamorphism and fluid-rock interaction. This study is a first step in characterizing the geochemistry of gem tsavorite from most of the deposits and occurrences worldwide.
Keywords: Mozambique Metamorphic Belt . Tsavorite . Oxygen isotopes . V/Cr ratio . Mn . Geographic and geologic origins
Figure 1: Tsavorite or Mint Garnet? That large crystal of green grossular garnet was part of an interesting pocket found at the end of November 2010 near the Bloc D in Merelani (Tanzania). Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok
- (a) CRPG-CNRS, Nancy université, 15, rue Notre-Dame-des-Pauvres, 54501 Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy, France
- (b) IRD-LMTG, 24, avenue Édouard-Belin, 31200 Toulouse, France
- (c) BRGM, 3, avenue Claude-Guillemin, 45060 Orléans, France
- (d) Department of Geology, University of Dar-es-Salaam, P.O. Box 35052, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
- (e) Swala Gem Traders, Uchumi House, Sokoine Road, Arusha, Tanzania
- (f ) ORYX, 3, rue Bourdaloue, 75009 Paris, France
- (g) GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 10th Floor, U-Chu-Liang Building, 968, Rama IV Road, Silom Bangrak, Bangkok, Thailand
The first study of the Lemshuku ‘tsavorite’ mining district is presented. From bottom to top, the lithostratigraphic column corresponds to a metasedimentary sequence composed of quartzite, fine-grained graphitic gneiss, kyanite-graphite gneiss, biotite-almandine gneiss, metasomatized graphitic gneiss and dolomitic marble. ‘Tsavorite’ occurs in quartz veins and rarely as nodular concretions. Two factors control mineralization: (1) lithostratigraphy, with ‘tsavorite’ in association with pyrite and graphite confined to quartz veins within the metasomatized graphitic gneiss; and (2) structure, with the mineralized veins characteristically controlled by tight isoclinal folds associated with shearing.
(Mark Saul of Swala Gem Traders presenting the author a piece of tsavorite he just mined at Lemshuku
Photo: V. Pardieu / Gubelin Gem Lab, 2007)
The author visited the Lemshuku deposit in 2005 and 2007 when Swala Gem Traders mined it. In 2009, few months after Julien Feneyrol to spend several weeks at Lemshuku to study the deposit, Swala Gem Traders stopped their mining operation there. While returning to East Africa in October 2009, the author was not able to get in contact with the new owner and thus could not visit it once again. If what is currently happening at the former mine operated in the past by Swala Gem Traders is not clear to the author, the area is nevertheless still very interesting as Tanzanite One with their "Tsavorite One" project have started also to prospect in the region around Lemshuku. The author would then not be surprised to read or hear again about Lemshuku in the future as one of the main tsavorite supplier in East Africa.
Note: Update about the July 2010 tsavorite workshop in Nairobi, Kenya:
Today I was able to communicate with Dr. Gaston Giuliani from the Nancy University on another subject related to Tsavorite: Last year in October 2009, we tried to visit together the ruby and tsavorite deposits in Kenya but our expedition was not really succesful (see blog Kenya 2009).
Dr. Giuliani and Dr. Ohnenstetter were then just back from a tsavorite workshop in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) and they were working on a similar project for 2010, this time in Nairobi (Kenya). Today I was told by Dr. Giuliani some excellent news about the Nairobi 2010 workshop he was then planning:
The workshop happened and reportedly turned to be very successful. After the workshop more than 40 people also were able to go on a field expedition to Tsavo lead by Dr. Cedric Simonet.
Currently a research program about tsavorite in collaboration between Kenyan and French Universities is in preparation. Dr. Giuliani told the author that he was very happy about the way things happened during summer 2010.
GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 04: Sep. 20 - Oct. 07, 2009: Central Tanzania:
This is the third part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa, I'm leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok: I arrived in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania from Mozambique with gemologists Lou Pierre Bryl (Canada), and Flavie Isatelle (France) on Sep. 20th 2009. We met there our Tanzanian friends: Abdul Y. Msellem a Tanzanian gem broker and Moussa a Tanzanian driver working for Fortes Safaris.
Our objective was to continue the work I did during my previous expeditions in 2005, 2007 and 2008. This time our focus was to visit the ruby and spinel deposits in Central Tanzania at Winza, in the Morogoro province (in Matombo and Mahenge districts) and around Umba.
Our visit started in the Tanzanian capital Dodoma to get the support of the mining officer to visit Winza. We did not miss the opportunity to visit the Geological Survey of Tanzania in order to get some useful maps and publications.
"Our team (left to right: Vincent Pardieu, Flavie Isatelle and Lou Pierre Bryl) leaving the Geological Survey of Tanzania in Dodoma: It is all the time useful to get some good maps and publication before to visit gem mining areas"
Photo: A. Y. Msellem / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
We then left to visit Mpwapwa and the Winza ruby and sapphire mines. I visited already Winza with Jean Baptiste Senoble in April 2008 and we were then the first gemologists to visit this unique deposit.
(For more information about Winza, please visit our Winza expedition report and for more information about the gemology of these interesting rubies and sapphires, please read the complete article published in Gems and Gemology about Winza)
It was then the end of the rainy season and more than 5000 miners were working there washing the gem rich ground for rubies and sapphires and digging the hard rock underneath to get blue and pink sapphires.
During that new visit we found that around 500 miners were still working there. We could visit the mining area and collect some interesting samples. An update about ruby and sapphire mining in Winza will be soon published by the GIA Laboratory Bangkok after my return in Thailand. I will keep you informed.
"Geologist and gemologist Flavie Isatelle returning to the surface after a visit underground in Winza"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
After our visit to Winza we focused on visiting the ruby and spinel deposits in the Morogoro region. First we visited the ruby deposits located in the Matombo district of the Uluguru Mountains in the west of Morogoro. We visited the different mining area near the Mwaraze and Ngongolo villages, I visited already in 2005 (see our Tanzania 2005 expedition report), and which were very active during the 1980's up to the beginning of the 1990's producing rubies.
After this visit we continued to the Mahenge where we visited the spinels deposits near Ipanko, Mbarabanga and Kituti. It was interesting to see the evolution of gem mining at Ipanko after our visits in 2005 and 2007. Spinel mining stopped at Ipanko few days after our visit in 2007 and started again in April 2009 after a controversy regarding the mining rights. Ipanko is now again producing beautiful red spinels and is now the most active gem mining area in Tanzania after Merelani with nearly 1,000 miners.
Besides Ipanko we also spent some time continuing the visits I did in 2005 and 2007 of the numerous ruby deposits near Lukande, Mayote, Chipa, Gombe, Ibogoma, Nbangayao, Kitonga, Kitwaro and Kisewe. Some of these areas were reported to have produce during the 1980's and 90's some very fine and large marble type rubies and they remain very poorly known.
"Mahenge Spinel Crystal"
This rough crystal we saw at the mines was weighting nearly 100 grams, this is nothing compared to a 54kg rough spinel but this can give an idea about what we speak about...
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
After that visit we drove to the north of the country to Tanga and the Umba valley. Tanga is a special place for me as in 2005 I spent there some of the hardest days of my life when I was suffering from malaria.
This time our visit was more pleasant: We visited first the red zircon deposit at Mwakijembe then we visited sapphire, ruby, tsavorite, rhodolite, almandine and malaya garnet mines along the Umba river near Kigwasi and Kalalani. Then on our way back we turn our interest to tourmaline mines at Ngombeni and in the Usambara Mountains.
"A Massai trader present us his treasure: A pair of blue and orange Umba sapphires"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
After that visit we returned to Arusha in order to do the export process for our reference samples collected in the field on site while visiting mines.
It is also for me the time to spend some more cozy times participating to the 31st IGC (International Gemological Conference) which will start on Oct 9th and will finish on Oct 14th.
"The 31th International Gemological Conference, Arusha, Tanzania, 2009"
The IGC conference means also that it will be time for my traveling companions: Lou Pierre Bryl and Flavie Isatelle to continue their own travelings respectively to Poland and Madagascar.
It was very nice to have them with me during that expedition as they were very helpful motivated to visit Tanzanian gem mining areas. I wish them all the best.
On my side after the end of the conference I will continue to Kenya with new travel companions: Dr. Gaston Giuliani and Dr. Daniel Ohnenstetter from Nancy University, France and Dr. Stephanos Karempelas from the Gubelin Gem Lab in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Our focus will be on visiting ruby and tsavorite deposits around Voi in Southern Kenya.
I would like to invite you to read the new publication I collaborate with about the Merelani mining area in Northern Tanzania: This article was recently published by "The Mineralogical Record" It was written in collaboration with Wendell E. Wilson, John M. Saul and Richard W. Hughes.
The origin of the article was the report of the 2007 expedition I had with Richard W. Hughes, Guillaume Soubiraa, Mike Rogers, Monty and Warne Chitty and Philippe Brunot.
Thanks to the contributions of Richard W. Hughes, John M. Saul and Wendell E. Wilson this expedition report turned into a terrific 63 page article beautifully illustrated with many photos of some of the finest Tanzanite, tsavorite, Axinite and diaspore crystals ever mined in Merelani.
GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 01: Aug. 29 - Sep. 02, 2009: Tanzania:
This is the first part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa, I'm leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok: I arrived in Arusha, Tanzania from Bangkok with Canadian gemologist Lou Pierre Bryl on Aug. 28th 2009 in the morning. We were joined there in the evening by Swiss gemologist Stephane Jacquat.
Our first task was to prepare the things for the coming expedition to Mozambique and Tanzania scheduled for Sept 2009. We met our usual local Tanzanian contacts: Mark Saul from "Swala Gem Traders", Abdul Y. Msellem, a Tanzanian broker I had already as guide in 2005, 2007 and 2008 and Moussa our driver (from Fortes Safaris). Thanks to their support after a short visit to the Arusha mining officer and few phone calls to different miners, we got rapidly everything ready regarding our vehicle, our schedule, the necessary paperwork to enter the mining areas.
Few hours after our arrival we could start our visit with the Arusha market and the "Tanzanite Experience", a very interesting museum dedicated to Tanzanite located just opposite of the Tanzanite One office in Arusha. There we could have a very interesting visit. That museum really worth the visit as at the end we had the pleasure to be able to see and manipulate a very fine and large Tanzanite crystal which is used for demonstration:
Teddy Kallaghe, a sales staff at the "Tanzanite Experience" in Arusha is presenting us a fine tanzanite crystal reportedly unheated.
Photo: V. Pardieu/GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
The next day on Aug 29th, with the help of Tsavorite miner Rafael Manyosa, we traveled to the new tsavorite deposit at Namalulu, a small village located south of the Lemeshuko and Lendanai areas. The areas was reported to have been discovered in Aug 2008 by Massai "moranis" (young Massai "cow boys"). Rapidly two Massais: Mr. Urubundu and Mr. Saruni started to mine the area. Within few months in Dec. 2008 about 500 people were mining and trading tsavorite at Namalulu. Then as it was necessary to go underground to do hard rock type mining, we were reported that many miners left to go to mine at the Lemeshuko area after the departure of the Saul Brothers when they closed their mine at the end of 2008. At the time of our visit about 150 people were mining in Namalulu. There was 3 important and deep underground mining operations and several smaller ones. After meeting the local miners and explaining the purpose of our visit we were able to visit 3 mining pits: First the Yoshua Kivuyo (Massai miner) pit which was about 30 meters deep, then the exploitation from Rafael Manyosa (our guide) and his Massai partner: Mr. Kikanai. There we were lucky to witness the discovery of a fine tsavorite pocket. Finally we visited the mine of Mr. Saruni, a very deep mine (about 150 meters) which is also one of the oldest as Mr. Saruni was the second miner to start working at Namalulu.
"Rough green gems from the Massai steppe"
A Massai miner is presenting us a parcel of rough tsavorite he found mining underground in Namalulu.
Photo: V. Pardieu/GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
For the following 2 days we decided to focus on Merelani, where Tanzanite is mined:
On Aug. 30 we travelled to Merelani to visit the "Bedui Camp" mine located in the Karo area (Merelani bloc D"). The Karo area is famous to have produced not only Tanzanite but also some very large tsavorite. Using wooden ladders and ropes we went down to the deep of the mine where we could study the local geology. The visit was easy as it was Sunday and the miners were on week end: As nobody was working there at the time of our visit the mine was not too dusty and it was more easy then to breath and study the rocks 300 meters underground.
"Hope is the Merelani miner mistress... Hard work his daily life."
"Rasta man" is mining underground in Merelani for nearly 20 years,
He was our guide, 300 meters underground visiting the "Bedui Camp" mine in Karo area, Bloc D", Merelani.
Photo: V. Pardieu/GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
On Aug 31, we visited the "Tanzanite One" operation located in Bloc C at Merelani. The visit was again very interesting starting with some good explanations about the local geology with geologist Vitus Ndakize then a visit of the "Investor pit" with Mining Engineer and Manager Damien Massala and finally Mervyn Dettmer took us to visit the processing plant and the sorthouse.
A truly very interesting visit, particularly after visiting a mine in Karo area.
On Sept 01 we took the bus to Dar Es Salaam in order to fly the next day to Nampula in Mozambique to start the second part of this GIA FE09 expedition to East Africa with a visit of the famous tourmaline deposit in Mavuco (near Alto Ligonha) and the two new ruby deposits in Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces.
(Campbell Bridges in Tsavo, Kenya. Photo: J.B. Senoble, 2005)
Aug. 12, 2009: "A mountain will be missed in East Africa ":
I learned today that Campbell Bridges was murdered near his mine in Kenya. It seems that he was ambushed after a dispute with a group of people over some mining rights controversy. His son Bruce Bridges was also wounded in the event.
An video from the BBC where Bruce explained what happened in an interview can be found at the following link:
This news was a real shock for me as the last time we met we were speaking about meeting each other again in October in Tsavo. Now I feel like lost.
I met Campbell at several occasions in Africa, Paris and recently at the ICA congress in Panyu, China. Meeting him at his tsavorite mine in Taita hills in Kenya in July 2005, Jean Baptiste Senoble and I had some of the best moments of our expedition in Africa. Campbell was a wonderful story teller, and it was an incredible pleasure to listen from his lips the history of his discovery of tsavorite in Kenya around a fresh beer. Thanks to him Tsavorite was named after Tsavo National Park in Kenya. Visiting his mine, we learned a lot about the geology of Tsavorite. But it was not just about the information; he was a real character, a great source of inspiration particularly for the article about tsavorite I wrote few months ago. Campbell Bridges, like John Saul, is one of these East African gemological monuments, people with a great knowledge and who changed the things about gemology and East Africa. I think particularly about people like Campbell when I say that "Gemology is not just about science but also about people".
Today the gemological community world wide is shocked to have lost Campbell. I went to his website www.tsavorite.com this morning: It is a very nice website, an example for the whole industry showing that tsavorite, and particularly the tsavorite from the Bridges mines, is more that just a commodity: There is a lot of information about this beautiful gem and its history. A blog can be found there for visitors to let a message.
It was great to visit these pages again, but next time I will visit East Africa for sure a mountain will be missed:
"What could be more romantic than a superb flashing green gemstone,
that originate from a mysterious and beautiful land
where the roars of the hunting lion shatter the silence of a star-filled African night."
Nothing Campbell, nothing... You are so right!
I just want to add few words:
"Thanks you so much Campbell to have taken the time to receive us and turn two young gemologists into tsavorite lovers. It was a priceless pleasure.
You did so much to promote Africa, Kenya and the gem you loved, and for your family.
Finally your life was brutaly stolen...
What a life!
You have all my admiration.
Now you belong to Tsavo, gemology and history, we will remember you.
Learn more about Campbell Bridges and his discovery of Tsavorite visiting www.tsavorite.com
Wishing that Bruce will recover soon, and that he will be able to look forward.
This sad event show how difficult gem mining in Africa is.
All the best to Bruce Bridges, his family, friends and of course to beautiful Tsavo and tsavorite.
This article written by the author in association with Richard W. Hughes was first published in InColor, Fall 2008, pp. 36–45, the magazine of the ICA (International Colored stone Association).It was a special request from the ICA as they had appreciated another article from the author about tsavorite called "Tsavorite, une pierre Africaine" published in the French gemological magazine: "Revue de gemmologie AFG" in 2005.
"Tsavorite cut, rough and porphyroblast from Tsavo region, Kenya" Stones courtesy: Genson Micheni Musa/ Tsavolite Co Ltd, Photo: V. Pardieu/Gübelin Gem Lab, 2007
Traveling to East Africa in 2005 with Jean Baptiste Senoble, the author priorities were mainly rubies and sapphire, nevertheless Jean Baptiste Senoble had a contagious passion for green stones and motivated the author to add to their visit schedule the tsavorite deposits located in Tsavo near the ruby mines. Things became worse for the author when JB Senoble got the support of African mining veteran Campbell Bridges, then he got into a passion for the "Untamed green beauty".
There is nothing more contagious than traveling to the source with a gem afficionado. Few years after that first adventure, the author was each time he got a possibility, the author was enjoying visiting tsavorite deposits. With this article the authors are trying to explain their interest for this fascinating gem.
Gübelin Gem Lab: A Visit to Madagascar, August 2008: Aug. 01 - Aug. 23, 2008
While participating in the AFG (the "Association Francaise de Gemmologie") yearly event known as the "Journees du Senat" in Paris in 2006, I proposed to Didier Giard, the president of the French Gemological Association and Annick Graulier to help them if they wanted to visit Madagascar for their 2008 field expedition. They welcomed the idea and we decided to work on this project.
At that time there was at AIGS an interesting student: Francis Vallier, a 50 years old French surgeon based on Reunion Island who discovered gemstones while visiting Madagascar on his numerous motorbike expeditions there. Despite the fact that he had no experience in tourism, I was seriously thinking to collaborate with him for that expedition. The good point was first that he was highly motivated for it and that he turned to be a nice guy to travel with around Bangkok while he was studying in Thailand. He had also a friend (Thierry) owning a travel agency specialized on Madagascar: Madabrousse willing to collaborate with him on this gemological tourism project. Finally Francis personal medical background was also a clear asset to the expedition in case of problems.
I put then Francis in contact with Annick Graulier and provided him an expedition schedule suitable for the people of the French gemological Association which were willing to go for something more serious than just a visit to Ilakaka. I advised then Francis to take the 2 groups of the French gemological association from Antananarivo to Ansirabe (to visit its gem market and one tourmaline mining areas) then continue to Ilakaka, the famous sapphire mining area to take the plane in Tulear to visit the remote Andranondambo blue sapphire mining area which sapphires stunned the world by their quality reminding for the best stones the beauty of the Kashmir sapphires. As in 2007 I moved to the
Gübelin Gem Lab to work as a gemologist, spending 20 days in the field as a Tour guide for the French gemological Association as I did in Thailand and Cambodia in 2004 was not really possible, nevertheless, with the support of the A.F.G., we were able to convince the Gübelin Gem Lab to give me 10 days on my working time in order to spend 20 days in Madagascar with the A.F.G..
The solution was in fact a very good win-win deal as the French gemological Association was planning to send two groups of 25 persons to visit Madagascar in August 2008. We decided that I would be present for the 2 groups of the French Gemological association for their visit in Ilakaka and between these 2 visits, I would lead alone a 10 days expedition on the behalf of the
Gübelin Gem Lab to Madagascar ruby and sapphire mining areas around Zazafotsy, Ilakaka, Isoanala, Andranondambo and Gogogogo.
For that expedition I was traveling with my two former field expedition buddies as a join expedition:
- Guillaume Soubiraa, who was then working as manager for SMDA (Societe Miniere Delorme et Associes), one of Madagascar oldest mining companies, mining mainly ornamental stones and founded by Mr. Joel Delorme in the 1960's. To complete Guillaume brief presentation, at the time of our visit he was also starting his own gem business company: Soagems.
Jean Baptiste Senoble from Nomad's who was present with one of his childhood friends Xavier, a young French farmer who was willing to see what JB was really doing while visiting gemstones mines around the world. The expedition was a good occasion for Jean Baptiste to decide to create also his own company dealing with jewelry: a company simply named "Jean Baptiste Senoble" based in Geneva and Paris.
"The A.F.G. visiting Andranondambo "
Lead by Annick Graulier, 25 members of the Association Francaise de Gemmologie (the French gemological association) are visiting Andranondambo sapphire mining area."
Photo: V. Pardieu /
Gübelin Gem Lab, 2008
We arrived in Madagascar as scheduled. The first French group was already there but we had the sad news that one of the author's friends, gem dealer Olivier Galibert had been aggressed in Nosy Be Island in the north of Madagascar and was in serious troubles there. Things were so bad that we were seriously worried about his life. Finally Olivier, thanks to his great attitude in such conditions was able to get out of Madagascar but was then at the hospital for several weeks.
We left then to the south to visit first gem market in Antsirabe where we had the good surprise to see the serious improvement since 2005 in the quality of the gem cutting in Madagascar. We then continued to the Zazafotsy sapphire mining area we were able to visit thanks to the support of Federico Pezzotta. After this interesting visit we continued to Ilakaka where we met one of the author's main local contacts in Madagascar: Swiss gem dealer Marc Noveraz. Marc is probably the only foreigner to have been able to live in Ilakaka from the beginning of the sapphire boom town in 1999 to these days. Marc knowledge of the area and his useful advises were a key asset for my three gemological expeditions in Madagascar from 2005 to 2008. Visiting Marc in Ilakaka during Summer 2008 was not without surprises: Marc was not anymore living in a small wooden house, from 2005 to 2008 he was able to build a very nice stone house on Ilakaka busy main street: With a good small restaurant and bar the "Al2O3" at the back of his shop: It is now one of the most comfortable and quiet place to buy gems in the morning and meet people or rest all the rest of the day. Besides his comfortable restaurant he also completed a nice shop/show room conveniently placed and beautifully arranged like a small museum: The whole "Colorline" base is a perfect place for visiting tourists to get an idea about Ilakaka gem production without getting bothered like myself in 2005 by Ilakaka crowd and its numerous pick pockets. To complete this nice Colorline setting Marc also propose to visitors some short tours to visits Ilakaka's scenic sapphire mines at "Banque Suisse". I was impressed by the quality of the whole "Colorline" operation which is a very good example of what can be done to make sure that most of the people who will visit Madagascar will learn not only about his lemurs and baobabs but also about Madagascar beautiful colored gemstones: Well done Marc!
Rough and faceted Ilakaka sapphires: A good example of the classic "a photo speaks better than 1000 words" idea to show the wonderful diversity of the natural colors Ilakaka sapphire can offer.
Stones courtesy: Marc Noveraz / Colorline, Photo: V. Pardieu, 2008
Of course visiting Ilakaka was not meaning for us staying comfortably in Marc cosy restaurant, in fact we spent most of our time visiting the different mining areas around "Banque Suisse" where people are allowed to mine only using hand tools in order to provide work for the local poor people and also on the Taeze river we were able to visit a large mechanized mining operation managed by a friendly Malagasy miner Nirina.
After that visit we left the French Gemological Association and took the road to visit the extreme south of Madagascar. We first visited a ruby mining area near Isoanala, then continued to Fort Dauphin and Andranondambo where we spend several days to visit the scenic sapphire mines located in a beautiful hilly landscape covered with dry vegetation and baobabs. After visiting the Andranondambo and Tiramena sapphire mining areas we left the area for a long drive in the semi desert south to continue which took us to Ampanihy and Gogogogo. There we were surprised to see that most of the working force meaning several people including miners and their families were busy mining tsavorite. After visiting tsavorite and color change garnet mining areas we returned to Ilakaka in order to welcome the second group of the A.F.G. and visit again with the sapphire mines near "Banque Suisse" and along the Taheza River.
"Gogogogo color change garnet "
A Gogogogo Malagasy gem dealer showing us one of the color change garnet from Gogogogo she just sold to us.
Photo: V. Pardieu, 2008
We then returned to Antananarivo where I was able to spend one day interviewing Joel Delorme, and meeting different key contacts like Tom Cushman, the ICA ambassador to Madagascar and to visit the IGM, the local gemmological school which was built with the support of the World Bank.
We were happy to learn that the two groups of the A.F.G. had both a very nice field trip in Madagascar, everything turned well without major problem. Obviously Francis and Thierry did some very good work: For a first step into gemological tourism it was obviously a very welcome success.
If the expedition was very interesting and succesful we nevertheless faced serious difficulties regarding the export of the gemstones samples we collected in the field for research purposes. Due to the fact that the Madagascar governement decided in Feb. 2008 not to allow rough gemstone exports, we were sadly not able to get our samples out of Madagascar and thus our research work on Madagascar sapphire will have to wait for the Madagascar authorities to change the law.
Expedition to gemstones mining areas in Tanzania: (October 2007):
Introduction: This report (in two parts) presents the details of the field expedition to Tanzania lead by the author in October 2007. The author was then working as a gemologist for the Gubelin Gem Lab in Lucerne, Switzerland when his friend Richard W. Hughes (working then at the AGTA GTC Laboratory) asked him if he could help him to visit Tanzanian gem deposits in East Africa. After some difficult negociatiosn with his laboratory the author was allowed to take some holidays and travel to Tanzania with Richard W. Hughes and his group.
The group was composed of Richard W Hughes, the author of "Ruby and Sapphire", Warne and Monty Chitty, Mike Rogers, Guillaume Soubiraa and Philippe Brunot. For the expedition we got the support of Mark Saul (From Swala gem traders) and Abdul Y. Msellem a young Tanzanian broker who was already the author guide in Tanzania during his previous visit in 2005.
We started our visit in the north of the country in Arusha.
We travelled first to Morogoro where we visited some moonstone (I should probably say "peristerite"...) and corundum deposits. Then we continued to Mahenge to visit ruby and spinel mining areas. The visit was interesting as it was just few months after the discovery of several huge spinel crystals. Then we took the road to Songea and Tunduru famous for their sapphire mines. After that we continued to Ruangwa to visit its tsavorite mines. We returned then to the north of the country where we visited the Tanzanite mines at Merelani, emerald and alexandrite mines at Manyara, tsavorite mines near Komolo village and tourmaline mines near Lendanai in the Massai steppe.
Two reports are available on fieldgemology.org (with the old design of fieldgemology.org, before Dec 2009)
Eric Saul, (from Swala Gem Traders) presents proudly to the author an exceptional red spinel from Mahenge. The stone weighting more than 10 carats is exceptionally clean and is believed to have been cut from one of the giant crystals found in Mahenge during summer 2007. Photo: V. Pardieu, 2007
This expedition to Tanzania was in fact very succesful not only for the areas visited and the samples collected but also for the contact created with local miners and traders. Few weeks after the author return in Switzerland, his local contact Abdul Y. Msellem informed him of the discovery of a ruby deposit near Winza.
These expedition reports were also the base of two publications in collaboration with Richard W. Hughes:
"Working the Blueseam: The Tanzanite Mines of Merelani" about Tanzanite mining at Merelani, available both of fieldgemology.org and ruby-sapphire.com
- "Downtown: Gem hunting in Central & Southern Tanzania"
about our expedition to the south of the country, available also both on fieldgemology.org and ruby-sapphire.com
A visit to Tsavo ruby and tsavorite mining areas, Kenya (October 2007):
The following "Gemstone mines of Kenya" web pages presents the result of the two gemological expeditions to East Africa in Jul. and Aug. 2005 and Oct. 2007.
The July and August 2005 expedition was a join expedition financed by the AIGS gemological Laboratory in Bangkok, Thailand (where the author was then the Laboratory Director), the Gubelin Gem Lab, in Lucerne Switzerland and Jean Baptiste Senoble, a young gemologist who was interested, after completing his gemological studies at the AIGS, to discover where the gems which were fascinating him where coming from. It was possible thanks to the support of the ICA (International Colored stone Association).
The Oct 2007 expedition was also part of a larger expedition to East Africa initiated by Richard W. Hughes, the author of "Ruby and Sapphire". The author was then gemologist at the Gubelin Gem Lab. Two young gemologists: Guillaume Soubiraa and Michael Rogers, and one of Guillaume friends: Philippe Brunot joined us in this expedition to Kenya.
The purpose of these expeditions was to visit ruby, sapphire, alexandrite, emerald, tsavorite, tanzanite and tourmaline mines in Kenya and Tanzania for gemological research purpose. Origin determination of gemstones like rubies and sapphires is the passion and an important part of the work I had to do while working in gemological labs like AIGS, Gubelin or later GIA. It is then important for a gemologist willing to specialized himself in the origin determination of gemstones to collect data on gems not only studying the reference collection inside the gem lab but also directly at the source. As a former tour guide, turned into a gemologist, it is my pleasure to share the benefit of these expeditions with you and I hope that it will benefit to the people who welcomed and helped us in the field.
"A fine Tsavorite find"
Kenya tsavorite miner Genson Micheni Musa from the Tsavolite mine is proudly presenting to the author a fine tsavorite porphyroblast. Photo: V. Pardieu, 2007
Please visit the following "Kenya Gemstone Mines" pages (All pages in the old design before Dec 2008)
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.