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 FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 08: Dec. 02- Dec. 10, 2009: Mozambique:
This is the last part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa; I was leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok during autumn 2009: After visiting Mozambique two times in Sept and November 2009, I was not successful in my attempts to visit the new ruby mining areas near Montepuez in Cabo Delgado province. The fact is that to get the right contacts and build good relations takes time. After my return in Bangkok middle November, I was in direct contact with the manager of Mwiriti Ltd, the company owning the mining rights on that area and we were discussing about the possibility to visit the mining area.
As I was invited by the Niassa National Reserve for their annual congress to give a presentation aboput the ruby trade in Pemba, Mozambique on December 04 and 05th 2009, we decided to take this opportunity to try again to visit the new ruby mining area near Montepuez before the rainy season to really start there.
On that expedition I was traveling with two American friends: gemologists Richard W. Hughes and Mark Smith working in Bangkok, Thailand.
The congress went very fine, it was a great occasion to meet many people involved in hunting and conservation.
After two meetings with the manager of Mwiriti, who was also attending the Mozambique National Reserves congress, and with the support of Mozambique National Director for mines, we were finally given the possibility to be the first foreigners to be allowed to visit this very promising new deposit located near the city of Montepuez about 200 kilometers west of Pemba.
"Visiting Montepuez ruby mining site on December 07, 2009 "
GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 07: Oct. 28 - Nov. 10, 2009: Mozambique:
This is the seventh part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa; I'm leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok during summer and autumn 2009: After visiting Mozambique in Sept 2009, I could not visit the new ruby mining areas in Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces. In Niassa province we even spent 3 days and 2 nights under arrest in the bush. This adventure turned to be a great chance to get in contact with the management of the Niassa National Reserve and the tourist operator working in the M'sawize area.
After several emails while I was traveling in Tanzania, I was finally invited by the people from the Niassa National Reserve to return in Mozambique, visit their headquarters in Maputo and return to Niassa to visit the mining site with one of the senior officials from the National Reserve.
I arrived in Maputo on Oct. 27th 2009, just the day before the elections in Mozambique for the presidency and the parliament. For the first time during that expedition, I was alone. That was a serious breach to the "Field Gemology Security Rule Number 1":
- Never travel alone...
But well again, we have to expect the unexpected..
For The following day I was able to meet Mr. Vernon Booth, advisor to Dr. Annabella Rodriques, the National Reserve Director who was traveling. The meeting was very interesting particularly from a French "Travel Addicted Gemologist" who had, since his childhood hunting with his family in countryside France, a keen interest in nature and conservation.
Vernon Booth provided me a lot of information about the different challenges they were facing in the Niassa National Reserve regarding conservation. On the other side I was able to provide him some information about the ruby trade. It was really a very interesting day and in fact the more I was speaking with the people from the reserve, the more I was feeling that the best thing that happened to me during that FE09 Field Expedition to East Africa were these three days under arrest in the Niassa bush.
Before that expedition, I was regularly speaking with Jean Baptiste Senoble about our commonm passions for Nature and gemstones. On field expeditions we were of course focussing on gemstones... But we still love nature and to get the possibility to see wild animals. To find a way to combine Nature and gemology was not that obvious... at least until our adventures in Niassa!
But let me introduce you first the Niassa National Reserve:
The Niassa National Reserve is covering 42,400 km2 including a buffer zone. It is one of the largest Natural Reserve in Africa. Its website is currently under maintenance but this will change in a close future. The reserve was first established in 1964, but was abandoned during the colonial war before Mozambique independence from Portugal and during the civil war which followed it. After the peace returned in 1992, like in many other areas in the country, the Niassa reserve was devastated, nevertheless as it was very remote, losses were far less than in other protected areas. Today the Niassa National Reserve hosts the largest wildlife population in Mozambique. It is particularly famous for its elephants (over 12,000) sable antelopes (9,000+), buffaloes and one of the largest African Wild dogs populations. It also has one of the largest lion populations in Africa with an estimated 900 lions and more than 400 different bird species.
Since assuming responsibility for the reserve in 1998, the SGDRN (Sociedade para a Gestão e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa), together with is partners at Flora & Fauna International, has made great progress in putting Niassa back on the map, with some highly progressive policies on adaptive environmental management and community-centered sustainable development.
"Two waterbucks and the scenic Lugenda river, the pristine source of life for Niassa"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
The SGDRN achievements regarding conservation were recognized by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) with the prestigious "Award for Excellent Performance Markhor Conservation" in 2008. Unfortunately, the awards do not guarantee the financing of the reserve which remains one of the biggest challenges of SGDRN. The fact that the Reserve is very remote and difficult to access has good and bad point regarding conservation: The good thing when a reserve is as remote and inaccessible as Niassa is that it is quite intact and largely undisturbed. The difficulty is that with such a remote situation it is difficult for the reserve to get revenue from traditional tourism. Thus an important part of the reserve income depends on hunting tourism, an activity more suitable for difficult to access areas with nearly no road or hotel infrastructure and in which millions of tse tse flies are a burden for most tourists.
For some the idea to associate hunting with conservation sounds weird, but the basic fact is that hunters need Nature and animals to be able to hunt, and thus many hunters have a real interest in conservation: Like lions need zebras, buffaloes and antelopes, hunters need wildlife.
Now what about gemstones, gemstone mining and gemology in all that?
Well visiting East Africa during summer and Autumn 2009, from my adventures related to ruby mining in the Niassa national Reserve (Mozambique), to Garnet mining near the Tarangire National Park (Tanzania), Emerald and Alexandrite mining in Manyara National Park (Tanzania) and the issues regarding Campbell Bridges murder and our failed visit to region around Tsavo national park where ruby and tsavorite are mined and my days in Nairobi with Dr. Cedric Simonet. It became rapidly obvious that I had to do something regarding gemstones from East Africa and conservation.
"Gemstones from East Africa: A chance for conservation?"
An idea worth thinking about for the colored gemstone industry and also for conservationists.
In order to try to do some good about that I decided to create a new website:
Well, if hunting activity can support and finance conservation, I do believe that gemstone mining could find a way to do the same. It is the same story:
Poaching is a serious problem but well managed hunting can help to protect wildlife, biodiversity and habitats. Illegal gem mining is also a problem as often even if only affect small areas it can be associated with poaching (to feed miners) and destruction of the local environment around the mining area. But if well managed, and done following some environment friendly practices, I do believe that gemstone mining could become an ally for conservationists.
Even more, I do believe that "Conservation rubies" or "Eco-rubies" could be much more sexy to the final consumer than "Blood rubies" or "Blood diamonds" and thus such gemstones could help to finance conservation.
When we consider Origin Determination of Gemstones, would it be a bad idea to find a way for gemstones to be used for an effective protection of the areas where they are coming from?
I'm sure that there are a lot of very good projects which could result from such an idea.
So to dig a little bit more about this subject which appeal to me as much a gemology and traveling, I decided with the support of friends like Jean Baptiste Senoble to create a new website dedicated to conservation and gemology: www.conservationgemology.org
This website is currently under construction. It will be very similar to fieldgemology.org but there I will focus on the promoting gemology as an ally for conservation.
Gems are gifts from Nature as are the region where they were born.
Visiting gem mining areas around the world I've been touched by the beauty of gem producing areas and I feel that it would be nice if gems could help at least a little bit to protect the areas where they are coming from...
If a gem is by definition: beautiful, rare and durable, so could be these areas. Sadly, in most of the cases, it is not the like that. Often their "durability" is at stake and often gem mining instead to help is in fact one more thread for the survival of a Natural reserve. Natural reserves like the Niassa National Reserve are facing a lot of threads, sometimes durability. One of them is gemstone mining and particularly illegal gemstone mining. It is very sad, because I believe that gemstone mining and natural reserve could help each other. It may sound difficult to believe, but if hunting can be an ally how come gem mining could not?
I feel that it would be sad if people in love with the natural beauty of gemstones would not do something to protect the beauty of the places where these gemstones are coming from... Because there are solutions which could produce exactly the inverse: Gemstone mining could help to protect the beauty of gem producing areas and gemstones could even become a symbol for reserve like Niassa.
I'm sure that the people ready to pay $100,000 to hunt a lion in Niassa would have no problem to add to their trophy a "Conservation-ruby", while the eco-tourist would also probably buy a more affordable but equally beautiful "Eco-ruby" filled with lead glass coming from Niassa if they could be certain that the gem was properly mined and that buying such a gemstone would also support financially conservation projects in Niassa.
At the end when we see the difference in price between a two equally beautiful rubies one of Burmese origin and one of Mozambique origin, It seems likely that untreated "Conservation rubies" and treated "Eco-rubies" from Niassa could find a market.
These were some of the points I was presenting to the people from the Niassa National Reserve during the two days I spent with them in Maputo. They told me that they would be very happy to study such proposals because currently they are searching for a solution to the problem of illegal mining inside the Niassa Reserve. And if the solution could be the arrival of a gemstone mining and trading company with a good project which could benefit to the reserve and the local communities, then why not?
They are conservationists searching efficient practical solutions not eco-integrists.
For more information about the problems the Niassa National Reserve faced with illegal ruby mining from Oct. 2008 to Sep. 2009, here is a link to "Illegal Mining in Niassa National Reserve" a PowerPoint presentation given by Dr. Anabela Rodrigues, Director General of the SGDRN (Sociedade para a Gestão e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa) during the 9th CASM (Communities and Small Scale Mining) Conference on September 8th 2009 in Maputo.
That was the day before our arrest 3 kilometers from the ruby mining site in Niassa! (See our previous report)
"Arriving at the ruby mining site"
Nov. 06th 2009: The author, the Niassa rangers and several policemen approaching the ruby mining site 50km in the bush South East of M'sawize village. Suddenly on the right of the track, I noticed a first digging on the ground...
Photo: D. Chambal/ Niassa National Reserve, 2009
On November 5th, 2009, I took the plane to Lichinga where I was welcome by David Chambal. The following day we left early in the morning (5.00 AM) to Sable camp located in the Niassa Reserve. After 7 hours driving we reached the camp, had a short lunch and continued to "Lilasse Camp", the camp located near the mines about 100 meters of the place we were arrested on Sept 8th. It was fun to see again some of the rangers and the policemen who arrested us two months before. They were surprised and very friendly. After few minutes we left to the mining site.
After about half an hour walking through the bush following the deep track which was created by the numerous motorbikes traveling from M'sawize to the mining site for about a year, we reached the mining site. That was a great moment... I was thinking about J.B. Senoble, S. Jacquat and L.P. Bryl who did not had the chance to reach the mines despite their great attitude during our September adventure.
The visit was interesting as I could get the confirmation that the site was
composed as in many cases of two types of deposit:
(1) An eluvial ruby-rich soil corresponding to the weathering of the in situ ruby deposit;
(2) A primary deposit in which ruby is associated mainly with white feldspar, dark green amphibole and mica.
The following day after a new night in the Niassa bush with the rangers, we returned at the mining site and continue to study it and to collect some interesting reference specimens for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok reference collection.
"Niassa ruby "
A Niassa Ranger is presenting me a ruby in matrix he just found on the ground on the mining site.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
After that visit we returned to the "Lilasse Camp" just on time before rain to visit Niassa. For nearly an hour we had the feeling that the deluge was on us and minute after minute we had more and more concerns about our return to sable camp and to Lichinga... The facts was that we had many deep, but so far dry river beds, to drive through. With such heavy rains things turned to be much more difficult. Just to take our car on the other side of the first one, it took us nearly two hours... The dry river bed turned to a muddy one and thanks to the help of the 10 policemen and rangers we could dig our way on the other side...
Getting on the other side of the Lilasse river bed was not an easy task. It took us two hours to help our car to climb out of the muddy river bed.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
Arriving at Sable camp I could meet the manager of the tourism operator in charge of the area and had some very interesting discussion with him. The more I was speaking and listening, the more it was obvious that something had to be done in order for gemstone deposits located in such National Reserve to be a chance for the reserve and not a curse...
The enthusiasm of these people about Niassa was very contagious and I was thinking that probably the best thing that happened to me during that expedition to East Africa was to have been arrested in Niassa as thanks to it I was able to find the missing link between my childhood passion for wildlife and hunting and my current passion for traveling and then gemology...
I would like then to thanks all the people I met in the field in Niassa and at the Reserve headquarters in Maputo without to forget Dr. Anabela Rodrigues for the support and the trust they provided us, to have allow us to visit the ruby mining site and for the time I had the pleasure to share with them. The whole adventure was for us a real pleasure and as I wrote these words I truly miss Niassa. I do wish that in the future gems from Niassa will be seen finally as a chance for the reserve and not as a thread.
Montepuez Rubies: This new expedition about Mozambique was not only about Niassa and its ruby deposit. I also tried again to visit the new ruby deposit located between Montepuez and Pemba, in the Cabo Delgado province.
In September the Pemba mining officer told me to return after the elections, so I did but that time again, as after our first attempt to visit the deposit in Niassa, I had to meditate about the meaning of the word "pacientia" meaning "be patient" in Portuguese.
Among us in the team, we started to speak about Mozambique rubies as "Patiencia rubies" and so far this is a good nickname for Montepuez stones: While visiting Maputo, besides visiting the people from the Niassa Reserve, I also visited the Mozambique geological survey and got an appointment with the Director of Mines and an advisor to the Minister of Mines.
There I learned that several mining licenses were obtained by the owner of the private game reserve on which is located the ruby deposit. It seems also that the company owning the licenses has also contracted a Bangkok based Thai company to work the deposit (or just a part of it?). The good news during that new expedition is that if I could not visit the mines (because I was told the "local situation there was not suitable for such a visit") I was able to get a direct contact with the sons of one of the partners of the company called: Mwririti Lda. owning the mining rights there and we could discuss about a possible visit to the mining area beginning December.
Spending few days in Nampula from Nov 01 to Nov 04, as I could not visit the mines near Montepuez, I spent some of my time meeting dealers and studying the parcels of rubies reportedly from Montepuez.
It was interesting but of course this could not replace a visit on site which is the only way following the GIA laboratory Bangkok protocols to collect reference specimens.
A large silky ruby from Montepuez. The stone was nearly 40 grams.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
Finally I left Mozambique to return to Bangkok on Nov. 12th 2009. At the end of the expedition I got the nice surprise to receive an invitation for the Niassa National Reserve congress in Pemba at the beginning of December 2009. The people from the reserve are inviting me to share with them the result of that successful visit to Niassa. That will be probably very interesting and it might be a new opportunity to visit the Montepuez ruby deposit located not that far from Pemba...
GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 02: Sep. 02 - Sep. 20, 2009: Mozambique:
This is the second part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa, I'm leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok: I arrived in Nampula, Mozambique from Dar Es Salaam with gemologists Lou Pierre Bryl (Canada), Stephane Jacquat (Switzerland) and Jean Baptiste Senoble (France) on Sep. 20th 2009. We were welcome at the airport by Moussa Konate of "Mozambique Gems Ltd". Moussa Konate is one of the partners in the "paraiba like" tourmaline mining operation in Mavuco.
Our objectives were to visit the tourmaline deposit near Mavuco village (A deposit which was visited in the past by my colleague at GIA Brendan Laurs who helped me to prepare this expedition) and the different ruby deposits in Niassa and Cabo Delgado areas in Northern Mozambique in order to complete the work we already done at GIA Laboratory about rubies and tourmalines from Mozambique:
About rubies from Mozambique, I invite you to read the following:
See Rubies from Northern Mozambique on www.giathai.net, it is a big pdf on which we communicate our results after studies rubies reportedly from Mozambique we studied at the GIA Laboratory Thailand beginning 2009.
- "Pareciba Paraiba", meaning "Paraiba like", tourmalines from Mavuco, Mozambique: Visiting the Mozambique gems mining operation at Mavuco was easy as Moussa Konate and his Brazilian partner Keke Saint-Clair Fonceca were present. We visited the area twice, a first time with Mozambique gems geologist: Enrique Shirinza, a second time with Moussa Konate and Keke Saint-Clair Fonceca. We could witness the mining and washing process. An update about copper bearing tourmaline mining in Mozambique will be soon published by GIA with the information collected during our visit.
"Moussa Konate and a large purple tourmaline from Mavuco, Mozambique."
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
On Sept 08th 2009 we moved to the Niassa province in order to try to visit the ruby deposit near M'sawize village.
It seems that this deposit was discovered one year ago, around Oct. 2008, when a gem rush succeeded the discovery by a local hunter of some good rubies which rapidly found their way to the Tanzanian gem market in Songea and Mpwapwa. The new rubies were then visible in gem cutting centers like Bangkok where I first saw some of these Niassa rubies (see the GIA Lab Bangkok study on the subject). After visiting the Lichinga mining office to get a "credencial" we tried on Sep. 09, 2009 to visit the ruby mining area near M'sawize village with a mining technician from the "Direccao Provincial dos Recursos Minerais e Energia do Niassa" and a local policeman from the Mavago district in which M'sawize is located. Nevertheless after about 8 hours traveling by car and then motorbikes from Lichinga we were stopped 3 kilometers from the mining site by a joint force of Niassa Reserve rangers and Mozambique border patrol police forces as a result of what seems to be a misunderstanding between the Lichinga mining department and the people from the Niassa Reserve where the ruby deposit is located. We spent then two days under arrest in the Niassa bush with the local rangers. These were tough days but we became rapidly friends with the rangers and the policemen who arrested us. We were then provided some interesting information about the difficulties they had with illegal mining in the Niassa Reserve. The fact is that the arrival of several thousands of miners and traders is not without consequences for the area. We were told by the rangers about poaching of wild animals and about some destruction of the local environment. In order to stop these illegal mining activities, the Niassa Rangers and the Mozambique police lead a police operation in Niassa in June 2009 and few days before our attempt to visit the mines they built a special camp and a well armed force in order to stop and arrest all people trying to visit the mining area. We were one of their first catch! It seems that after these police operations most miners moved to Montepuez where a new ruby deposit was found recently.
After 2 days in the Niassa reserve with the rangers we returned alive, healthy and free to Lichinga.
Back in Nampula, thanks to the information provided by the rangers, we were able to contact the Niassa reserve management and currently we are discussing for a possible new visit to the M'sawize ruby deposit in collaboration with them: Things looks very positive but well we will have to be a little bit patient.
"Under arrest in the Niassa bush"
Left to right: Stephane Jacquat, Jean Baptiste Senoble and Lou Pierre Bryl getting ready to sleep around our fire in the Niassa bush.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
On Sep. 16th 2009, we travelled to Pemba in order to try to visit the new ruby mining area near Montepuez. This time we were in contact with the owner of the game reserve on which the mining area is located. We were expecting then that everything would be fine in order to visit the new ruby mines. But visiting the office of the Pemba mining officer were told that he would not support our projects to visit the area as the situation was very tense at the mining area as the presidential campaign had just started and because ruby mining there is all except legal: Several thousand of illegal miners and gem traders are while I write these words "playing hide and seek" with the police forces. The mining officer asked us to be patient... and to wait after the elections to visit the Montepuez ruby mining area.
We decided to follow his advise and not to loose our time we visited several dealers and studied the stones they had. The result of our expedition will be soon published on GIA Laboratory Bangkok website as we will update the pdf about rubies from Mozambique already online in the Ongoing Research part of the website.
"A by-product of mining for lead glass filled rubies?"
An exceptional stone reportedly from Montepuez weighting more than 10 carats. The stone has no fissures and nearly no inclusions. It is really an exceptional piece as most of the production from Montepuez will need first to be treated (with lead glass or flux) before to be used in jewelry.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
It seems that Mozambique with its already famous pegmatite field around Alto Ligonha, its tourmaline deposit near Mavuco, and now these new and promising ruby deposits is on the eve to be able to compete with Tanzania, Madagascar and Kenya as an East African gemological Eldorado.
But well, things are not easy as most of the rubies are mined illegally which is not without creating difficulties particularly when the deposits are located in natural reserves. Things will probably found a solution but in Mozambique we heard about one word: "Patiencia"...
Anyway we have now left Mozambique and I'm back in Tanzania to continue visiting the gem mining areas I started to visit in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Then the plans are to continue to Kenya and finally return in Mozambique to finally visit the Niassa and Montepuez ruby mining areas.
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.