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
"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...)



THANKS for their support
for our field expeditions since 2005:


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

Do you want to

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

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

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




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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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 who contacted me after deciding to study gemology in Thailand as I did also few years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

April 26th, 2009 | Keywords:Field Report GIA , Thailand , Chanthaburi , Bo Rai , Khao Ploy Waen , ruby , black star sapphire Travel |
Blog Title: FE07: Thailand: Searching for the last ruby mine of Thailand!

GIA FE07 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 07): Apr. 24 - Apr. 25, 2009: Khao Ploy Waen and Bo Rai
Last week end we decided with Richard W. Hughes to continue scouting the former gem mining areas in the Chanthaburi - Trat province. Our goal was this time to visit again the places around Bo Rai Richard visited at the end of the 1990's when he wrote for his website: an article about the Death of the Thai ruby. (Note from the author: After this join expedition Richard W.Hughes recently put online an update of that article: "Red sky at Dusk: Hunting the last Siamese ruby miner".) For that new week end expedition we had as travel companion two veterans from our expedition to the Phnum Trop volcano near Pailin (FE04): Philippe Ressigeac and Olivier Segura: Olivier and philippe just finished their gemological studies at GIA Thailand.
We started our expedition with a visit as usual around Khao Ploy Waen. There we were able to visit and spend some time at two small mechanized sapphire mining operation. It was nice to meet the mine manager, an English speaking and very friendly character with a big black star sapphire ring and many gold amulets as necklace!

(Details on the black star sapphire ring of the Khao Ploy Waen mine owner: The stone was reported to have been mine here. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

After visiting Khao Ploy Waen we left to Bo Rai. There we started to enquiry about any remaining gem mining area, local people told us to go near the Cambodian border, there may be we could find something. We drove on the road Richard took several years ago while searching for the last ruby mine of Thailand at a time when, along the Thai-Cambodian border, the "Khmer rouge" were still fighting the Cambodian government and its Vietnamese allies. Richard was then stopped by the Thai military and could not see the gem mining there. This time if we saw and passed many military check points, nobody stopped us to go further to the border. Driving on dirt roads through the mountainous jungle we saw many signals warning us about mines... A bamboo cutter, who lost his leg in the area, confirmed to us that these signals were not here for decoration or to warn "travel addicted gemologists" visiting the area about ruby mines: They were here to warn about land mines which are still numerous in the area.

(My travel buddy Richard W. Hughes and one of the red "danger mines" signals we saw all along the dirt road cutting through the Thai jungle near the Cambodian border... If ruby mines are not dangerous, land mines on the other hand are with malaria one of the nasty threads of the area.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

Finally as the mountain road was too steep, we had to abandon our "songteaw", the typical small pick up we hired in Chanthaburi to take us around. We continued then walking to the border where we met few friendly soldiers who gave us some useful information for our quest: There was nearby one place where people were probably still searching for gems: A place called "Pai Khwai". Asking regularly our way to different groups of local people cutting bamboo in the forest we found our way to "Pai Khwai" which turned to be a cashew nut plantation. There we stopped as there was no way to go further and we started to speak with the people working at the plantation. Two guys got immediately excited and told us that they were indeed searching for rubies each day. Sadly it was already late in the afternoon and they had finished their day. The good point was that we could see and buy their production and that we will be able to come back one of these week end to get more samples directly from the mines for our studies at GIA. They were very friendly and were working here for 5 years going once or twice a month to Bo Rai in order to sell their gems. They were working using very simple hand tools: An iron stick and a hand made sieve... Ruby mining was for them a good way not to loose their time, a way to get an additional income as we commonly saw in many parts of Asia and Africa, and a way to have a chance to find some good stone and to eventually become rich! "Hope" is everywhere the gem miner's mistress... and "hard work" his daily life!

("The last ruby miners of Thailand", a Cashew nut plantation worker present us the small rubies he found that day in the area. Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

They were possibly the last ruby miners of Thailand: Richard W. Hughes was able to add and end to his old story about the last ruby mine of Thailand and I had some good samples to bring back at the GIA lab. We will have great time studying them. Great week end!

Here is a link to the story Richard W.Hughes put online on his website after that visit near the Thai Cambodian border to searching for the last ruby miners of Thailand.
"Red Sky at Dusk: Hunting the Last Siamese Ruby Miner" .

Hoping that you will enjoy it as much as I did!


All the best,

March 16th, 2009 | Keywords:Field Report GIA , Thailand , ruby , sapphire , Chanthaburi , Khao Ploy Waen Travel |
Blog Title: GIA_FE05: Thailand: A visit to Chanthaburi - Trat ruby and sapphire mines

GIA FE05 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 05): Mar. 13- Mar. 15, 2009: Chanthaburi
This week end with Richard W. Hughes and Mike Rogers I went to visit the former ruby and sapphires mining areas of the Chanthaburi and Trat region. The idea was to try to see if there was still some residual mining activity, make a good map, speak with local people and to try to collect some samples from each area. It was a very interesting week end with Richard as a guide as he used to come to visit this region when there was some very active ruby and sapphire mining during the 1980's and 90'.
We started on March 13th to scout the area around Khao Ploy Waen and Ban Ka Cha. Nothing new, we do that each time we visit Chanthaburi as the countryside around Ban Ka Cha and Khao Ploy Waen is just beautiful and as the area is the main area Chanthaburi where there is some significant gem mining activity nowadays. The sapphire mining area is located around Khao Ploy Waen volcanic dome: a jungle covered volcano hosting a lovely Bouddhist temple from which we could see the countryside with its sapphire mines, its fruit plantations and the nearby coast with its numerous shrimp farms. Driving around Khao Ploy Waen we could see around ten mechanized mining operations.

(A view from Khao Ploy Waen temple over the sapphire rich countryside and the coast:
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

On March 14th we took the road to the North East visiting the villages of Tok Prom, I Ram, Ban Nawong and Bo Nong Bon. As expected we could not witness any mining activity but we could see from time to time some interesting stones (like the dark blue sapphires of I Ram village) and some colorful and welcoming people.

(A miner from I Ram presents a dark blue sapphire reported to have been mined around the village.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

Visiting Chanthaburi Trat region countryside during the week end is usually a very nice experience: The villages were full of people, and the formers Thai miners were enjoying the week end with their families. Thai kids were all around as curious about visiting "farangs" as about the gems of their father!

(A Thai ruby dealer and his family from Ban Nawong enjoying an afternoon looking at Thai rubies.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

Again a good week end expedition even if we could not witness any mining except around Khao Ploy Waen.
But we saw some gemstones and many gem people!

Here is a link to a very nice photo gallery by Richard W.Hughes and Winon Manoratkul which was put online after Richard and Wimon expeditions in the countryside near Chanthaburi inlcuding the FE05 expedition we had together:
"Red and Blue: Chasing history in Chanthaburi & Trat"

Hoping that you will enjoy it as much as I did!


All the best,

March 2nd, 2009 | Keywords:Field Report GIA , ruby , sapphire , Pailin , Cambodia , Chanthaburi , Khao Ploy Waen Travel |
Blog Title: GIA FE04: Thailand, Cambodia: Back to Pailin!

GIA FE04 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 04): Feb. 27- Mar. 01, 2009: Back to Pailin!
A second week end visit to Pailin in order to complete the visit we had few weeks ago: This time our objectives for this new week end expedition were to visit again the Khao Ploy Waen sapphire mines near Chanthaburi, the gem mines near Pailin and last but not least to visit the Phnum Trop volcano located in the mountainous jungle south of Pailin: With a group of friends we visited already this volcano in 2004. Five years after that visit it was interesting to get an update. During the past week Votha did the necessary with the Pailin authorities to get an approval for our visit.
For that expedition I travelled with a large group of friends: Richard W. Hughes and Wimon Manoratkul (Thailand), Loretta Castorro (USA), Walter Balmer (Switzerland), Flavie Isatelle, Philippe Ressigeac, Olivier Segura (France) and Randy Price (Canada).
In fact the visit was much easier as expected: The Russian Company who got the mining license few years ago did some good job repairing the dirt road to the top of the volcano and the Pailin local authorities provided us a good pick-up and an escort. We reached the mines after just one small mechanical problem, few short walks and several not so rough drives.

(The pick up loaded with 9 gemologists, a guide, an escort officer and a driver is ready to go!,
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

Sadly we could not witness any mining activity on the Phnum Trop as the Russian company was only doing some exploration work and the Russian miners were not present at the time of our visit. Only two guards were present. We return then to Pailin in the afternoon earlier than expected but it was not a bad thing as we were able to visit again the ruby mines we visited during FE01. It was again a good occasion to collect some useful ruby samples just out of the jig!

(A Khmer miner presenting us the result of one day working near O Beng: mostly garnets and few rubies.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

On Sunday morning we could visit the Pailin gem market which was less busy compared to last December. Nevertheless we could see some interesting parcels which pleased the young gemologists traveling with me that day. On the way back we could also witness some sapphire in a stream and again some ruby mining near O Beng.

(Down Phnum Yat Temple, Randy Price is checking some stones at the Pailin gem market.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)

Again a very good week end expedition even if we could not witness any mining on the Phnum Trop as I was able to collect some interesting Pailin ruby and sapphire samples for the GIA's reference collection.

Here is a link to a beautiful photo gallery by Richard W.Hughes and Wimon Manoratkul which was put online on after our expedition to Pailin:
"Rhapsody in blue: A Pailin photo gallery"

Hoping that you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Here is a link to "Gems and Geology": Flavie Isatelle new website. She was.. lets say "convinced" by Richard and myself that the best thing for her to do was to build her own website and start writting about her gem and geologyl expeditions. You will find there her report about her Pailin experiences.

All the best,

December 21th, 2008 | Keywords:Field Report GIA , Chanthaburi , Thailand , Pailin , Cambodia , ruby , sapphire Travel |
Blog Title: GIA FE01: Thailand, Cambodia: Scouting for rubies and sapphires around Chanthaburi and Pailin

GIA FE01 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 01): Dec. 18- Dec. 20, 2008: Chanthaburi and Pailin!
For my first "week-end" type Field Expedition since my arrival at GIA Laboratory Bangkok, a visit to Chanthaburi (Thailand) and to Pailin (Cambodia) was making a lot of sense: From 2001 to 2007 I visited regularly Chanthaburi and Pailin which are very interesting areas to visit in my opinion for any gemologist visiting Thailand.
It was a good occasion to start doing some good field work close to the lab, to get a first hand update about the ruby and sapphire mining there and to visit again old friends.
For that expedition Stephane Jacquat a gemologist from Geneva (Switzerland) joined me. It was a real pleasure to travel with him:

(At the morning gem market in Pailin, gemologist Stephane Jacquat enjoy breakfast and looking at sapphires.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2008)

We visited a mechanized sapphire mine just down Khao Ploy Waen temple just few kilometers away from Chanthaburi. This mine and the others in the area are known to produce black star sapphires, blue sapphires and yellow sapphires locally known as "Butsarakam".

(A mechanized sapphire mining operation near Khao Ploy Waen,
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2008)

After this visit we travelled to Pailin in Cambodia. During 2 days with the help of my friend Votha we were able to visit the local gem market and to witness sapphire mining inside Pailin and ruby mining in O Beng area and to after witnessing the mining we could collect some interesting samples directly out of the jig for the GIA reference collection.

(Here is one of the most interesting piece we saw that day: A milky blue sapphire crystal presenting a trapiche structure.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2008)

This first Field Expedition for GIA was a very successful one! It was also very nice to see again the Pailin gem miners and dealers.

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.