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:
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 fieldgemology.org 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:
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!
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.