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.

 


Website Map

 

Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog


About the Author


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

 

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Popular Articles

"Tsavorite, an Untamed Gem" with R.W.Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Winter 2008)
"Working the blue seam" The Tanzanite mines of Merelani with R.W.Hughes first published on
www.ruby-sapphire.com
"Spinel, the resurection of a Classic" with R.W. Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Summer 2008)

Gemological studies

(Apr. 2009) "Sapphires reportedly from Batakundi / Basil area" a preliminary study about unusual sapphires we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
(Mar. 2009) "Rubies from Niassa province, Mozambique" a preliminary study about rubies we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
"Lead glass filled rubies" :
First published on AIGS Lab Website (Feb 2005)


Expedition Reports

Autumn. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE09: Rubies from Mozambique. (pdf file)


May. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE08: Melos and their pearls in Vietnam. (pdf file)


Dec. 2008 and Feb-Mar. 2009: GIA Field Expeditions FE01 and FE04: Rubies and sapphires from Pailin, Cambodia. (pdf file)


Aug. 2008: Sapphires and Tsavorite from the south of Madagascar with the AFG (Association francaise de Gemmologie) : Available soon...


Apr. 2008: Expedition to the new Winza ruby deposit in central Tanzania with Jean Baptiste Senoble and the support of the Gubelin Gem Lab



October 2007: Gemological expedition to East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) with Richard W. Hughes, Mike Rogers, Guillaume Soubiraa, Warne and Monty Chitty and Philippe Bruno:


Summer 2006: Expeditions to Central Asia gem wealth with Guillaume Soubiraa and the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:


Oct. 2005: Colombia by J.B. Senoble


Sep. 2005: Madagascar with Richard W. Hughes and Dana Schorr (Will be available one of these days...)


Summer 2005: Gemological expeditions to South East Asia (Vietnam) South Asia (Sri Lanka) and East Africa (Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania) with J.B. Senoble and Tanguy Lagache with the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:



- Feb. 2005: A visit to Thailand, Cambodia with the AFG (Association Francaise de Gemmologie) (under construction)

- 2002-2007: Expeditions to Pailin (Cambodia), Chanthaburi Kanchanaburi (Thailand) Houay Xai (Laos) Mogok, Namya (Burma) (under construction)

- 2001: Expeditions to Namya, Hpakant and then Mogok with Ted and Angelo Themelis and Hemi Englisher (under construction)

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


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

 



Links


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



Any QUESTIONS?

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



Do you want to
STUDY GEMOLOGY?


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



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


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

emeralds


 


 


Creative Commons License

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

March 31th, 2012 | Keywords:Vietnam , spinel Travel |
Blog Title: FE34_Vietnam_Blue_Spinels


GIA FE34 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 34): Mar. 17th - Mar. 27th, 2012: Vietnam

After the GIA Laboratory Bangkok FE02, FE08 and FE16 field expeditions to Vietnam respectively in January and May 2009 and then in April - May 2010, the author returned to Vietnam in March 2012 in order to continue working on several interesting project about rubies, spinels and pearls.

This time the main objective was to try to deal with some unfinished business about blue spinels.

As regular visitors of fieldgemology.org may know in May 2009 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok FE08) the author was traveling in Vietnam with several friends including one of his regular travel buddies: Jean Baptiste Senoble. For the author, besides training and evaluating young gemologists for field activities, the focus was to collect ruby reference specimens for the GIA reference collection. But as it had been the case with Tsavorite in 2009, Jean Baptiste was able to highjack the author's initial plans and interest him to a gemstone that was fascinating him: Blue spinels.
JB was in love with blue spinels since the day he saw in Bangkok a beautiful faceted gem reportedly from Vietnam that had been found by a Bangkok based gem merchant who really motivated people there to mine blue spinels: While the author was looking around for rubies, Jean Baptiste was asking for blue spinels. After few days he was able to find from a Yen The merchant two tiny highly saturated rough blue spinels. The color of the little stones was amazing: No tone, no gray were visible, they were stunning bright little "Jedi" spinels, far away from the "Dark Side": Their deep bright blue color was even matching without shame the window cleaning liquid used by our hotel staff... Not sure if the color was coming from cobalt or something else had then fun calling them "Windex" blue spinels.

The author was hooked.

Back at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok, the author had a new surprise as after studying the two stones: Indeed, GIA gemologist Sudarat Saeseaw found out that if one stone was natural, the other one was a tumbled synthetic! The author was amazed as once again it was a classic example of the "Dick's Law", presented by Richard W. Hughes in his masterpiece "Ruby & Sapphire" on page 113 ( and on his website at "Buying at the source" where you can see a photo of these two little stones and where this funny story was first published.)

Since then, the author was wondering about the origin of the bright blue natural stone. It is quite a classic. If most people when they see a nice gem are wondering about its price, for the author each time the same question is jumping to his mind:

"Where is it from?"

When we got the stone in Yen The, the answer was very classic: "An Phu"... Well, that was not helping very much as there are tens of deposits in the mountains around An Phu village and to visit and study all of them could take months of hard work due to the difficulty of the jungle covered karst mountains.

Few days after finding these lovely "windex" spinels, after a one day long expedition in the tricky mountains near An Phu, we could confirm that the source of most of the nice sky blue spinels found in the market in the Luc Yen district was a small mining site called "Bai Son", from the name of a very poisonous tree found there... But the saturation of the Bai Son spinels was much lower than what could be seen in the "Windex" like little gems...

We decided then to continue our quest and keep things a little bit quiet despite pressures from here or there to publish what we had so far. Yes it would be nice to write about these nice stones but we had yet no idea about where they were really coming from: Too many questions, not enough facts: A classic "unfinished business".



"Blue spinel rough from the Luc Yen district"
Details one two small pices of "Double Bai Son" rough spinels (meaning that the gem saturation is double compared to what is usually found in Bai Son area) seen in Yen The, Vietnam in March 2012.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012


In December 2009, Philippe Ressigeac, a young gemologist recently graduated from GIA Thailand asked the author for advice for his career. We knew each other well for about a year and I had a good idea about his projects, motivation and capacities. I was then thinking that Philippe could be a potential great traveling companion for future expeditions. I had to test him and give him an opportunity to do some good useful work. After few minutes I told him that he would have a lot to learn going to North Vietnam: Blue spinels were far to be the author's research priorities at the GIA Laboratory but were still a small unfinished business that was regularly bothering me. I was believing that he could do some useful gem hunting job there in North Vietnam as very few was known of these beautiful gem rich mountains. Philippe could be then very useful to the author as a scout to prepare the coming FE16 expedition to Vietnam scheduled in April 2010. That could be a great experience for him also to get few months of first hand experience about how things are going on in such gem producing area. Furthermore the French gemological Association was willing to visit Vietnam with 2 groups of 25 people in May 2010. I told Philippe that I could put him in contact with them and that I could arrange things for him to be they guide as my work at GIA was not enabling me to have the time to work on this gemological tourism project. Philippe was enthusiastic and within few days, Lou Pierre Bryl, a friend of Philippe and a veteran of the author's expeditions, decided to join Philippe in that quest.

The GIA Laboratory Bangkok FE16 expedition was composed of a great bunch of young gemologists and geologists with a passion for both gems and traveling. As usual Vietnam was for the author a great training ground to see if these young gemologists would be Ok as travel assistants for longer and tougher expeditions to Africa or Central Asia.

Our main objectives were of course rubies, but we had of course a keen interest also for blue spinels. If we could get several interesting deep blue spinel on marble matrix, we were not able to confirm the location of any primary deposit as visiting the places where the gems had been reportedly mined from we could not find any primary deposit. The difficulty in such humid jungle covered mountains is that any mining site is within few weeks or months covered by moss and vegetation.

After these 2010 expeditions, Jean Baptiste Senoble published "Beauty and rarity, a quest for Vietnamese blue spinels" an interesting article about hunting for blue spinels for "InColor", the ICA' magazine.

It was nevertheless still an unfinished business as the source for these little "jedi" / "windex" bright blue spinels were still unconfirmed.

In July 2011, in Poil, a small village in the French countryside, as each summer, a very informal but very interesting gemological gathering is taking place. During that event the author met Boris Chauvire, a young French geologist/gemologist willing to have some field experience. The author felling about the 22 years old young man was good and we decided that we could try to do something together.

As usual, the process was simple: I told Boris: "Well, if you want to travel with me: First take a plane ticket and join me in Bangkok next winter. Then, lets go for few weekend type expeditions to neighboring gem mining areas. If everything is fine, meaning that you dont give me too much headhakes and if you can show me that you can be a useful asset for such expeditions, then I might consider taking you as travel assistant on some longer ones for one or two weeks. Then again we will see if we can make plans for the future. The fact is that I don't feel good traveling on long serious expeditions to Africa or Central Asia with people that I don't know and/or that I've not trained". Finally before to go on any long/serious expeditions, it is better to know if we can feel good traveling together.

Boris then said: "Coming to Bangkok? Hum, I would love to, but that's not easy as I'm working on a master degree in Geology at Nantes University. But may be we could discuss the issue with my supervisor: Dr. Benjamin Rondeau?"

The good thing was that Dr. Rondeau was not far away. We discussed the issue and within few weeks we built what was looking like a good solution: Boris will come in Bangkok from January to April 2012 in order to do some field work in relation with his master degree... on the geology of the Vietnamese blue spinels!

Boris came in Bangkok on January 22nd 2012. The author introduced him to Philippe Ressigeac who was also for few weeks in Thailand. The feeling was good between them and two weeks later Boris and Philippe were on their way for Northern Vietnam with two Swiss friends of the author: Stephane Jacquat and Marc Noveraz.



"Marc Noveraz, Boris Chauvire and Philippe Ressigeac looking for gems at the Yen The morning gem market".
Photo: Stephane Jacquat, Feb. 2012


Thanks to Philippe knowledge of the region, to Stephane experience as a mountaineer, and to Marc experience as a gem buyer, Boris was able to become rapidly familiar with the country, the area around Yen The and gem trading in such place. During that first expedition they found that gem mining was very low in the Luc Yen district. It was to be expected as the "Tet", the celebration of the Vietnamese new year, was still keeping the local busy and it was still very cold and humid in the mountains Furthermore the local farmers/miners were too busy with agriculture and rice cultivation to get any interest in gemstone mining. The expedition was nevertheless far to be a waste of time as Philippe introduced Boris to some key local people and helped him to prepare the coming "harvest" expedition that was planned later with the author. That expedition was scheduled in March 2012, as late as possible in accordance with Boris time frame for his master degree that had to be completed by June 2012.

The GIA Laboratory Bangkok FE34 "harvest" expedition took place from March 17th to March 27th 2012. Boris Chauvire returned then to Vietnam with the author and an old university friend of the author: Maika Berrouet joining the expedition as a photographer to document it.

Things turned very well as the weather was very fine during our whole expedition. It was not raining. This is an important point in the jungle covered karstic mountains dominating Yen The and An Phu as the tough terrain in these mountains is very dangerous when the rocks are wet and muddy.

We were also lucky as the first day while meeting some Yen The merchants the author visited regularly during the past years, we could find some very interesting deep blue spinel parcels matching the "windex" window liquid... Nice! We spent few hours selecting interesting little pieces in these nice parcels.

"Selecting bright blue spinels in Yen The"
Boris Chauvire and Maika Berrouet selecting highly saturated blue spinels from some parcels seen in Yen The, Luc Yen district, Northern Vietnam.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012


Then thanks to the support of our Yen The friend: Mr. Shuan the next day we were heading to the mountains and the deposit that where these spinesl had been reportedly mined from. During the three days we spent scouting the mountains around Yen The we could visit several interesting spinel and ruby deposits, collect some interesting additional samples for the GIA reference collection and, thanks to Mr. Shuan work with the local miners between Boris two visits to Yen The, we had finally the pleasure to find in the mountains some marbles hosting deep blue spinels!



"A mystery getting solved..."
Boris Chauvire happy to have finally found some saturated blue spinels in their host rocks in the mountains of the Luc Yen district thanks to the help of some local Vietnamese miners.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012


Still the author and Boris will have to check at the GIA laboratory and in Nantes University if these spinels are indeed matching the lovely small natural "windex" stone the author and JB Senoble were able to get in May 2009. But obviously after 7 expeditions either lead by the author or by Philippe Ressigeac, an "unfinished business" was looking to be on the way to find a conclusion.



"Gemmy blue spinel octahedron on matrix"
Details on a nice gemmy blue spinel octahedron found on it matrix. More information about the location of the deposit and the associated minerals will be presented by Boris Chauvire in June 2012 when he will complete his Master Degree in Geology at Nantes University (France).
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2012

 



"Discussing spinels..."
The author discussing gemology of spinels with Mr Shuan and Boris Chauvire at a blue spinel mining site in the jungle covered mountains over Yen The, Northern Vietnam.
Photo: Maika Berrouet, 2012


Soon Boris Chavire will return to Nantes, do some good work on the 25 kilos of samples he collected on site visiting the different spinel deposits we scouted over these recent years and complete his master on the geology of blue spinels from the Luc Yen district.

You will find more informations and photos when Boris will complete his master degree and on future GIA publications: either in GIA's eBrief (see G&G eBrief March 2012), Gems & Gemology and News from the Research on GIA websites.

All the best,



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


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

 

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

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


 

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

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


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


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


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

 

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

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


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


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

 

 

 

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

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


 


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

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


 

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

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

Photo: Philippe Ressigeac, 2010)



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

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


 

 

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


 

 

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


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


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

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



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

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



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

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


 

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


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


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


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


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

 

 

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

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


 

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

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


 

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

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


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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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


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


 

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

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



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

 

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

 

All the best,





June 6th, 2010 | Keywords:pearl , melo , Vietnam , Ha Long Bay , pearl farm Travel |
Blog Title: FE16 Pearls of Vietnam 2010:


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

 

Introduction to the Vietnam Pearls 2010 expedition: The GIA Laboratory Bangkok Vietnam 2010 field expedition was planned with the support of Dr. Pham Van Long from the Vietnam National Gem and Gold Corporation. It was scheduled during the Songkran holidays (Thai New Year) 2010, in order to enable Nick Sturman (Supervisor, Pearl Identification at GIA Laboratory Bangkok) and Kham Vannaxay (an expert on pearl farming and gems from South East Asia working at Sofragem in Bangkok) to join the author for the first part of the Vietnam expedition dedicated to pearls with the visit of Cat Ba island, and two pearl farms one in Ha Long Bay, the other in Bai Tu Long Bay.

To complete the team the author had the pleasure to travel this year with five young gemologists: First two intrepid young women who just finished their gemological studies at GIA Thailand: Tracy Lindwall (USA) and Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo, (Germany) then three young French gemologists: Philippe Ressigeac who got his G.G. from GIA Thailand in 2009 and Herve Rezo and Pierre Hemon, studying the DUG (Diplome Universitaire de Gemmologie) in Nantes University with Prof. Emmanuel Fritsch and Dr. Benjamin Rondeau.

 

(GIA Lab Bangkok Supervisor for Pearl Identification, Nick Sturman, with Tracy Lindwall (G.G.) and Jazmin Amira Weissgärber Crespo (G.G.) with melo snails on a Vietnamese fisherman boat in Cat Ba Port.)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


The first part of the expedition was focus on the coast and its pearls.



Part 1: Dragon Pearls: The Quest for Melo Pearls: Last year while visiting Vietnam with gemologists Jean Baptiste Senoble (A.G.) and Lou Pierre Bryl (F.G.A.) we went on a quest for melo pearls from the cozy house of an antic dealer in Hanoi to Cat Ba Island harbor and sea food restaurants... This year, while visiting Vietnam again, the author could not resist taking his fellow field gemologists again on a melo pearl quest.



For more details about Melo pearls, the author would like to invite you to read the Melo field expedition report published after last year expedition by the GIA Laboratory Bangkok: Concise Field Report Vol. 2, Part 1: Melos and their Pearls in Vietnam (May - Jun. 2009) by V. Pardieu

The Pearl and the Dragon Finally the author recommend to all people interested by Melo pearls the reading of
"The Pearl And The Dragon, A study of Vietnamese Pearls and a history of the Oriental Pearl Trade" edited by Derek J. Content.

This book has four parts written by four differents authors:
- "The dragon and the Pearl: Perfection and power" by Benjamin Zucker.
- "The mystery of Origins" by James Traub
- "Reflections on the Geography and Historyof the pearl trade in China, Vietnam, India and the Near East: by Derek J. Content
- "Orange pearls from the Melo Volutes (Marine gasteropods): A Gemological study of a unique Collection with Data from other Examinations by Kenneth Scarratt with contributions by George Bosshart, Nicholas DelRe, Emmanuel Fritsch, Alan Jobbins, John King and Benjamin Zucker.

 

(A beautiful jewelry design using a Melo Pearl with an interesting flame structure. The design associate the dragon and the pearl... The symbol for power associated with the beauty of the gem...)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


If melo pearls are truly fascinating for their size, rarity and the beauty of their orange color associated with their delicate flame structure, for many young western gemologists nevertheless, there is in their fascination for melo pearls something completely different and often unexpected, something that show that gems can be appreciated for so many reasons as imagination has no limits: Here it is about a Japanese manga called "Dragon Ball Z" that was very popular at the beginning of the 1990's. Indeed, most people aged between 20 and 45 years old the authors knows are familiar with it: It is interesting as for many young western people (gemologist or not) their first interest about Asia and its cultures came in fact as they were fans of that manga:

Dragon Ball Z is a Japanese manga created by Akira Toriyama and inspired from the famous Chinese Folk novel "a Journey to the West": It is about the adventures of Son Goku, a mysterious young boy with a monkey tail, exploring the world with his friends and training in martial arts. During their adventures they discover the world, learn about themselves and try to gather seven mystical objects know as "Dragon Balls" in order to summon a wish-granting dragon.



During our expedition the association between Melo pearls and "Dragon Ball" came in fact very naturally: In Hanoi, at the beginning of the expedition, everybody was under the charm of the Vietnamese capital. We were visiting a melo pearl dealer in her cozy and traditional house in Old Hanoi. After few minutes, some sweet words and some delicious tea, she presented us a melo pearl she recently acquired. It was a beautiful and large orange pearl. On its surface, as it was moving in our hands we could see several golden bright points created by the reflections of the light bulbs illuminating the apartment: For most of us, who happen to have been fans of the manga "Dragon Ball" many years ago, the wonder we had in front of our eyes was not just melo pearl: It was a wonderful Dragon Ball!

Indeed from Dragon pearls to Dragon balls there was then another easy step: The rare melo pearls, often called: "Dragon pearls" are commonly associated with the Vietnamese Emperors, whose symbol is a Golden dragon very similar in design with the Dragon of the Manga.

Hunting for melo pearls from traditional and romantic Hanoi to the wonderful marine landscapes of Ha Long Bay, it was for most of the members of our team not only a gemological expedition, it was also an real initiation with the discovery of Vietnam and its traditional Asian culture. For young western gemologists there was obviously something reminding "a Journey to the West" or at least its modern version as a manga: "Dragon Ball". The manga was never very far away: First, the classic landscapes of Ha Long Bay (meaning the Declining Dragon Bay) were very similar to the design of the manga. Then most of us were surprised to learn that our destination: The Cat Ba Island, the largest island of Ha Long Bay, is inhabited by the "Cat Ba Langur" a rare endemic orange color monkey not without reminding young Sangoku with his monkey tail and the famous orange color of the melo pearls. In fact after a while and so many references here or there to the manga, most of us were wondering if Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball had knowledge of Ha Long Bay and of melo pearls. The author is not such a fan of the manga to be able to answer that question properly but obviously there was so much in our expedition that was reminding us of the manga.



More seriously and gemologically correct, we were glad to see in Hanoi several interesting melo pearls and in Cat Ba Island we could meet again, as last year, several fishermen who happened to have some melo snails in their boat. We could then collect some additional information about the location and the way they fished them and of course Nick Sturman was also able to collect some interesting shells for his research.

 

 

("Kame-Haa Melo!"
... Pierre Hemon, a young French gemologist on an initiatic and somewhere also iconoclastic journey to Vietnam discovering Melo pearls and associating them with one of our classics: Japanese manga "Dragon Ball"!
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


Part 2: A visit to "Vietnam Pearl Co Ltd" pearl farm in Ha Long Bay: After our expedition to Cat Ba Island we moved North, to the famous Halong Bay in order to visit the "Vietnam Pearl Co Ltd" pearl farm. We sailed on the Nang Tien junk belonging to the owner of the Viet-Y travel agency in Hanoi, who happened to be one of the author friends from the 1990's when the author was taking regularly groups of French tourists to visit Vietnam. As in January and May 2009, we visited one of the "Vietnam Pearl Co Ltd" pearl farming operations. With less than 1 million oysters it is, compared to most pearl farms in the rest of Asia, a small operation producing Akoya type pearls from Pinctada chemnitzii. During our visit we could witness there the grafting operation and the cleaning of the oysters performed on site in Ha Long Bay.

 

 

(A Vietnamese worker from "Vietnam Pearl Co. Ltd" working at the farm on Ha Long Bay.)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


Part 3: A visit to "Taiheiyo Shinju Viet Nam Co Ltd" pearl farm in Bai Tu Long Bay: After returning in the main land we took the road to the north in direction of the Chinese border. We moved to Van Don Island, the largest island of the Bai Tu Long Bay. There we took the boat to the "Taiheiyo Shinju Viet Nam Co. Ltd", a joint Viet Nam and Japanese company. The cruise was again beautiful; as the Bai Tu Long Bay has the same incredible marine landscape as Ha Long Bay but as it is much more remote there is nearly no tourists there. After about one hour sailing we reached the "Taiheiyo Shinju Viet Nam" pearl farm located on the western side of a remote island. The operation is much larger than the "Vietnam Pearl" operation and more than 100 technicians were working there, most of them being Vietnamese women.

 

 

(View over the "Taiheiyo Shinju Viet Nam Co. Ltd" pearl farm located in Bai Tu Long Bay, as we can see with the two Vietnamese and Japanese flags, the farm is a joint venture between Vietnam and Japan)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


Part 4: Return to Hanoi and visit of the "Vietnam Pearl Co Ltd" factory: We returned to Hanoi on April 14th in the evening. The following day we went to visit the "Vietnam Pearl Co Ltd" factory in Hanoi. There we could witness how pearls are prepared to be use in jewelry. In pearl farming as in gemstone mining, not all the production is naturally attractive enough to find a market; some treatments are thus required on the lower quality. These treatments can go typically from simple cleaning (in order to remove residues and odors) to more sophisticated techniques using gentle heating and prolonged exposure to light in order to bleach the pearls and produce whiter pearls. Some organic compounds are also commonly used in the Akoya type pearl industry after bleaching in order to produce a slight pink overtone or to get a better luster. These processes require a lot of experience and knowledge in order to be successful, they can be different from company to company and the details are usually kept secret. Nevertheless Mr. Thanh provided us some interesting explanations about the process used in his company on his pearls from Ha Long Bay and he allowed us to meet and speak with his technicians. It was a very interesting visit.

 

(Mr. Thanh presenting us some of his pearls from Ha Long Bay before and after treatment)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010


Finally after these few interesting days in North Vietnam Nick Sturman and Kham Vannaxay returned to Bangkok, while the author and the rest of his team continued their Vietnamese expedition to the ruby and spinel rich mountains of North Vietnam. Finally the author would like to thanks all his team for that wonderful expedition and also all the Vietnamese people who welcomed us and helped us and particularly Dr. Pham Van Long, from the "Vietnam National Gem and Gold Corporation" for his precious support and friendship.

 

The author would like now to invite you to visit the "Orange harmony: Vietnam and its melo pearls photo gallery, you will find there some high resolution photos of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay and their fascinating melo pearls...

 

All the best,





June 14th, 2009 | Keywords:Field Report GIA , Vietnam , ruby , spinel , sapphire , pearl , melo , Luc Yen , Quy Chau , Ha Long Bay , Yen Bai , Phan Thiet , Dak Nong , Di Linh , pearl farm Travel |
Blog Title: FE08: Vietnam: A visit to gem mines between the sea and the sky.


GIA FE08 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 08): May. 15 - Jun. 10, 2009: Vietnam
After our FE02 expedition to Vietnam in Jan 2009, we had now all the contacts and were able to make all the arrangements in order to be able to conduct a complete survey of Vietnam mining areas. This project was done in collaboration with:
- Dr. Pham Van Long, a well known Vietnamese geologist and gemologist working as Director of the "VGC Center for Gem and Gold Research and Identification" in Hanoi. This is the Vietnamese official gemological laboratory which also delivers all the necessary paperwork to export legally gemstones from Vietnam.
- Mr. Hoc, my old friend, a local French speaking Vietnamese tour guide working for Viet-Y. I was working with Hoc while visiting Vietnam during the 1990's when I was working as a tour guide in Vietnam for FRAM, a major French Tour Operator.
To help me in this expedition were several friends, all experienced travelers: Jean Baptiste Senoble (from France, in charge of photography and sourcing), Kham Vannaxay (from France, video and translation as he speaks Vietnamese), David Bright (from USA, in charge of GPS recording and photography) and Lou Pierre Bryl (Canada, in charge of photography and accounting). Note: as usual, all the team members were financing their own traveling costs and their part of the common costs in this join expedition.
Our program was to visit first the ruby and spinel mining areas in North Vietnam in the Yen Bai and Nghe An provinces and also a pearl farming operation in Ha Long Bay and an experimental farm in Hanoi. Then we were planning to visit the blue sapphire deposits in the south of the country located in the Highlands region north of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

"The Hanoi Opera and the Vietnam 2009 team"
Posing in front of the beautiful Hanoi opera, one of the author's favorite French colonial style buildings, which color harmony was an inspiration for the design of this website third version, are the member of the author's team for that 8th expedition for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok: Left to right: Lou Pierre Bryl (Canada), Jean Baptiste Senoble (France), David Bright (USA) and Kham Vannaxay (France)"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009


After a short stay in Hanoi to arrange all the expedition details, the first part of our expedition for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok was to visit the Yen Bai area with the Tan Huong and Thac Ba Lake ruby and spinel mining areas. Sadly due to the heavy rains of the previous week all mining stopped as the water level was high. We then left to Truc Lau (ruby and spinel) and then Yen The, the main city of the famous Luc Yen district of the Yen Bai province. If our first day in Yen The was rainy and thus spent to visit the local gem market and the different town dealers, the following days were blessed by a sunny weather which enable us to visit all the mining areas we planned to visit. That was wonderful as the author was not able to visit them as he wanted in 2005 and Jan. 2009 due to the weather conditions: We first visited on May 19th the Bai Chuoi and Khoan Thong mining areas which were the places were the Thais and VIGECO were mining with machinery during the 1990's. Then on May 20's we moved to the An Phu area to visit the Cung Truoi 2 and 3 (Note: "Cung Truoi" means "the Sky Gate" it is a high marble cliff which is divided in three areas: Cung Truoi 1, 2 and 3) ruby and spinel mining areas in a failed attempt to visit the May Thuong ruby mining area (Note: "May Thuong" means "the high clouds" as this is one of Vietnam most remote and difficult to access ruby mines). The expedition was very difficult due to the jungle covered karst type terrain where we had literally to jump from marble pinnacle to marble pinnacle risking at each step a serious wound if we put our feets in the wrong place. The following day, using a different guide and path we visited the Cung Truoi 1 red spinel mining area and finally, after another very hard walk in the karst type cliff, we succeeded to visit the May Thuong ruby mining area which is producing most of the ruby in matrix specimens seen in Luc Yen region markets. Then on May 22, we went on the track of Vietnam fabulous blue spinels and were able to visit the main deposits in Bai Son and Co Ngan after another hard walking day in the jungle covered mountains. After these great four days hiking Luc Yen region scenic but deadly mountains we returned to Hanoi exhausted but really happy...

"An incredible blue spinel from Vietnam"
Here is what we were looking for regarding Vietnam spinels: An incredible small neon blue spinel with a very high saturation and nearly no tone... A pure little blue "Jedi" spinel far away from the "dark side of the force".
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009


Back in Hanoi we got prepared for the second part of our expedition which was about pearls: We first visited a cultured pearl farm producing "akoya" type pearls from "pinctada fucata" oysters on Ha Long bay and its hatchery located nearby. The visit was interesting as we could witness on the Bay the grafting process. Later in Hanoi we could visit a experimental fresh water bead nucleated pearl farm producing pearls from mussels.

We then visited in Hanoi a melo pearl dealer and were able to get some interesting useful information that enabled us few days after to visit the Cat Ba island and its port and to meet there Vietnamese melo melo fishermen. We were able to study several specimens of these mysterious sea snails producing in very rare cases one of the rarest, largest but also one of the most beautiful natural pearls: Melo pearls. (Read our report on www.giathai.net: "Melos and their pearls in Vietnam" for more details)

Finally after a visit to the Quy Chau and Quy hop ruby and sapphire mining area, which was very quiet, we took the plane to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in order to visit the blue sapphire deposit of Vietnam Highlands. We started our survey on the cost around Phan Thiet city with the deposits near Da Ban and with Ma Lam villages. Then we took the road to the mountain to visit the former mining area near Di Linh where there is currently no activity as most of the local working force is busy working in the coffee plantations which have replaced all the jungle and covering nowadays all the region. We finally left to the new province of Dak Nong (formerly Gia Nghia) where we scouted the Dak Ton and Dak Rung mining areas. There as the coffee was not yet replacing all the jungle we could find after several hours walking in the jungle some small scale mining areas and meet some sapphire and zircon miners.

"Melo snail in Cat Ba port"
A Vietnamese fisherman is holding a melo melo sea snail in Cat Ba port, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. These sea snails are known to produce in some very rare cases beautiful large natural pearls.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009


They after this visit to the south we returned to Hanoi in order to do, with the help of Pham Van Long, the necessary paper work for the export of our samples and returned to Bangkok on June 10th after a truly very successful field expedition.

All the best,



January 13th, 2009 | Keywords:Field Report GIA , Vietnam , Luc Yen , ruby , Ha Long Bay , pearl , spinel , pearl farm Travel |
Blog Title: GIA FE02: Vietnam: Rubies, spinel and pearls from the north.


GIA FE02 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 02): Jan. 03- Jan. 13, 2009: A visit to North Vietnam!
For my second field expedition for GIA, as our focus was on that first winter and spring season on ruby and sapphires from South East Asia, I decided to scout again Vietnam. The last time I visited Vietnam gem mining areas was in 2005 and in order to prepare a full scale expedition scheduled for May and June 2009, I decided to take advantage of the fact that one of my friends from Switzerland was visiting the area. Sadly, just few days before the beginning of the expedition, he told me that he would not be able to join it.
With the support of Vietnamese gemologist Pham Van Long, and with my old friend Hoc, I was able to visit again the Yen Bai and Luc Yen ruby and spinel mining areas for 5 days: As most people in Vietnam were preparing the "Tet": The Vietnamese New Year, mining was quite low. Nevertheless we were able to visit the spinel mines on a marble cliff near An Phu village and several alluvial type mines in the rice fields around An Phu and Minh Tien villages:

(Gem mining in the paddy fields near Minh Tien village in the south of Yen The city.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)


It was also very interesting to meet people in Yen The city, the local gem trading center of the Luc Yen province. There we could see that in less than 20 years the gem mining and trading industry has turned into something very successful: Besides high quality rubies and spinels which will finish on international gem markets, we saw a very busy industry turned to the local Vietnamese market producing gemstone paintings and carving: A great way to use the gems too small or those which quality is not good enough to be used on jewelry... Thanks to these paintings and carvings, the local miners can find a market for their production and thus get some regular income even the day they are not lucky to get a fine stone. Thanks to that they are mining day after day and thus the conditions for fine gems (like the following star ruby) to be find are present!

(A vietnamese dealer presenting a star ruby probably mined at Tan Huong, near Yen Bai.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)


After that visit to the gem mines in the mountains of North Vietnam, I returned to Hanoi where I was joined few good friends to continue our expedition with a week end on the famous Ha Long Bay in order to visit a pearl farm producing Akoya type cultured pearls and rest a little.

(A view over the Akoya type cultured pearl farm we visited on Ha Long Bay.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)


This second Field Expedition for GIA was again a success! It was also very nice to see again all my Vietnamese friends and to travel again in this beautiful country.
All the best,



August 31th, 2008 | Keywords:spinel , Burma , Mogok , Namya , Vietnam , Tajikistan , Tanzania , Travel |
Blog Title: Spinel, the resurection of a classic


Spinel, the resurection of a classic:



This article written by the author in association with Richard W. Hughes and Edward Boehm was first published in InColor, Summer 2008, pp. 10–18, the magazine of the ICA (International Colored stone Association).

With that article the author wanted to share his old interest and understanding of spinel, a stone that he discovered while studying gemology in Burma, living with a Burmese spinel dealer and then working for a short while as a spinel buyer for a great spinel connoisseur: Henry Ho.

The article is also available online on www.fieldgemology.org and also on Richard W.Hughes website: www.ruby-sapphire.com

 

 

 

"Gemologist Hai An Nguyen Bui studying a spinel crystal from Namya mining area, Northern Burma"
Photo: V. Pardieu, 2006



Hoping that you will like it.
All the best,



May 18th, 2005 | Keywords:Vietnam , Luc Yen , Yen Bai , ruby , spinel , Ha Long , pearl , Quy Chau Travel |
Blog Title: Vietnam 2005


A visit to gem markets and gem mining areas in North Vietnam (Spring 2005):

Abstract of the Vietnam 2005 page (Available at that link): This web page presents the field expedition lead by Vincent Pardieu (then Director of the AIGS Gemological Laboratory, Bangkok, Thailand) to North Vietnam. This fieldtrip was part of the expedition supported by AIGS and Gubelin Gem Lab with the help of ICA to Asia and Africa during summer 2005. During that expedition the author was helped by Jean baptiste Senoble, a young French gemologist who was the author student at AIGS Bangkok in 2005.



During that expedition, Hanoi was our main base. We started our visit traveling to the ruby, sapphire and spinel deposits located near Yen Bai and in the Luc Yen district. We continued our expedition visiting the Ha Long Bay where we found some interesting pearl farms. Finally we went south of Hanoi near Vinh in the Nghe An Province in order to visit the Quy Chau ruby mining area.



"Ruby mining in the Thac Ba Lake, Luc Yen District, Vietnam"
Several hundred Vietnamese miners were seen in May 2005 mining rubies on the Thac Ba Lake as the level of the lake was very low.
Photo: V. Pardieu/AIGS/Gubelin Gem Lab/ICA, 2005

 

 



All the best,



Important Note: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok. GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.