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:
Few days ago the author put for the first time in his life his feet in South America as he attended the 14th ICA congress. In the following blog once is not the rule, it will not be about the author and some friends going on an expedition in an exotic gem mining location around the world. To the inverse, it is about a congress where the author was asked to give a presentation. As in Panyu (China) in 2009, Dubai (United Arab Emirates) in 2007 and Bangkok (Thailand) in 2005, the ICA congress taking place once every two years are not really something that could be qualified as "field gemology" but it was nevertheless about traveling, meeting gem people and learning from new experiences and encounters.
The congress was cozy and comfortable; it was taking place in Copacabana beach. This time the congress was dedicated to "Ethical Mining and Fair Trade, certification challenges from mines to market" and on the following photos you will not see the author dressed like an Afghan or like a guy ready to go to the African bush...
"Last minute preparation of the author presentation..."
The day before his presentation the author was cought still working on his presentation by the official ICA photographer while his neighbor Hanco Zwaan looks more focus on what is going on on the stage.
Photo: ICA, 2011
The congress was very interesting regarding many aspects:
Brazil has some very strict environmental laws compared to many other colored gemstone producing countries and several Brazilian presentations were very interesting. The author particularly appreciated the conclusions of Marcello Ribeiro presentation:
"In mining, more money can go to the ground than come out of it. So, you should not act as a treasure hunter, but as an investor, managing risks in pursuit of profitability."
That was reminding the author of the words he was told in 2005 by Campbell Bridges while he was visiting his tsavorite mine near Tsavo in Kenya:
"For a gem mining operation to be successful you need to master three things: The geology, as you need to understand where are the gems, the mining engineering as you need to find a safe and profitable way to mine these gems and the security as you cannot afford to be stolen your production. If you fail on any of these 3 points: You mining operation will be a loosing money operation..."
"ICA Vice president Jean Claude Michelou, speaking to the author and Philippe Scordia from Dior"
Photo: ICA, 2011
The author also particularly appreciated some other presentations like the one from an Ian Harebotle from Gemfields. Gemfields is one of the largest colored gemstone mining companies in the world. Being big means that, potentially they are a target for some activists. Aware of that fact they have adopted a proactive strategy and are one of the leading gemstones mining companies regarding fair trade and conservation issues. The company while doing its best to be profitable is also supporting several interesting programs about development and conservation in association with the World Land Trust. The author found the "Emeralds for Elephants" program particularly interesting as here gems are used to promote and finance conservation. The success of that operation might motivate other members of the gem trade to consider also associating their gems with conservation efforts...
That aspect was the main subject of the author own presentation "Fair Trade and Conservation: “When origin matters". In that presentation the author acknowledge that if fair trade is a very interesting concept for non-durable products, with products like colored gemstone the concept has some major limitations particularly because gemstones, unlike bananas or coffee, are a durable product.
Indeed most of the gemstones currently in the stock in the safes of the gem merchants, the jewelers or in the jewelry boxes of ladies around the world were mined more than 3 years ago. Furthermore many gemstones found in auction houses were probably mined tens or even possibly hundreds years ago.
That idea was given to the author about 10 years ago during a discussion with a Parisian gem merchant while the author, then a young wannabe gem trader, was trying to see if he could build a business with fair trade gems. That merchant words were not really what I expected, I remember to have been quite stunned by them and few days after that discussion I decided to explore other possibilities to start something in association with gems. His words were more or less:
"Well Vincent, I will be honest with you: I don't want to promote Fair Trade: The reason is quite simple: Most of the stones in my stock like these Mughal emeralds (that are probably more than 300 years old) are old stock. Of course I've no information about the producer or the miner... They are probably dead for centuries. So promoting your stones as Fair Trade might just make people think that my other stones, that cannot comply to fair trade rules, are may be bad... This is not an idea I want to put in the head of my customers. And I don't want to get everyday people asking me for Fair Trade emeralds: I don't have any in my stock. And even if I wanted I need first to sell what I have in my inventory..."
The Parisian merchant was right on spot as if most of the bananas today available in our fruit markets were probably grown less than few months ago, only a small percentage of the colored gemstones existing today were mined by people that are still alive. Asking the colored gemstone industry to make efforts on fair trade issues means somewhere to put a lot of pressure on a very small percentage of the stones currently in the trade while you will have difficulties to get support from the people with stock full of old stones...
Of course most people agree that it is important to improve the working conditions of the gem miners, but a good question might be the following: Is it fair to ask the miners working today to do alone all the work required for the gemstone industry to looks good and save the planet? Or may be we could find some ways for the gems mined in the past to participate in the process? Could we find a way to interest people like the Parisian jeweller I met to participate in some efforts to make the situation around gem mining areas better?
"The author giving his presentation about Conservation and Origin"
Photo: ICA, 2011
Traveling in Niassa to visit a new ruby deposit in 2009 the author spent 3 days under arrest in the Niassa bush. During this long hours and the following days and months working on Mozambique rubies, he spent a lot of time communicating with conservationists in charge of Niassa and brainstorming with them about conservation and gem mining. It woke up something that was a little bit sleepy for many years inside the author who started to think seriously to think about conservation and gemology. Because if origin for gemstones matters, then what is going on where the gems are produce obviously matters. From these days www.conservationgemology.org was born.
The author was then introducing the concept of "Conservation Gemstones" as something possibly more adapted to the gem trade than "Fair Trade Gemstones": We could imagine that any gemstone, even mined several hundreds years ago could be used to promote and finance good ideas.
Technically it could be quite simple to put in place: An individual gemstone dealer or jeweler could decide to start using his gemstones to promote and finance this or that good idea associated with conservation. We could imagine a jewelry designer with a passion for lions creating a jewelry collection using Mozambique rubies willing to support the work of Dr. Colleen and Keith Begg for their Niassa Lion Project. On a larger scale some African gem trading association could find interesting to collaborate with conservationists in East Africa on a joint project using gemstones from East Africa to support East African National Parks and as the same time to using the fame of these national parks to promote gems of African origin.
In fact it does not have to deal only with conservation: We could imagine people deciding to use their gems to support some projects about the education of children in this or that gem mining area. In such case all gems could be useful, not only those that are extracted today...
During that congress, 3 speakers from GIA (Andy Lucas, Robert Weldon and the author) were invited to give presentations. It was interesting to see that from three different perspectives, we were both providing more or less the same message.
Photo: ICA, 2011
The fact is that the issue of ethical and fair trade are not as simple as they look. Simple ideas are sometimes very complicated to become realities. The presentation by ICA Vice President Jean Claude Michelou was interesting as it shows how complex is the supply chain from mine to market and thus how difficult it is to change the world into a perfect or even more modestly into a better one.
Another presentation was in that sense of great interest in the author opinion: It was the presentation by Douglas Hucker from AGTA about how the trade was able restore public confidence in Tanzanite after the suggestion by some articles few weeks after 9/11 that there was a link between tanzanite smuggling and terrorism. The trade was able to react efficiently and prove that these suggestions were not based on facts and took measures to ensure the legitimacy of the supply chain and protect it from criminal abuse.
The idea that what is happening at the origin matters regularly came back in other people presentations and not all the time as problems but also as opportunities: Steve Bennett from Rock Color ltd and Gems TV said that by working directly with miners whenever possible, he is not only able to track gems from the source, but also track the people who bring it to market, and share their stories. According to him:
"The more you tell, the more you sell".
Of course all depends of the story you have to tell. Then the obvious next step might be to do the right things to get better stories to tell. Conservation gemstones? The author proposal at the end of his own presentation:
"Associate yourself with the good guy today in order not to be associated with the bad guys tomorrow",
was very similar to the final advice given by his colleagues from GIA Andy Lucas and Robert Weldon at the end of their own presentations:
“Do the right thing in all that you do. You will know it, your supplier will know it, and so will your customers".
"Men in Black?"
Left to right: Etienne Marvillet, Vincent pardieu, Flavie Isatelle, Thomas Hainschwang, ICA Vice president Jean Claude Michelou and Philippe Scordia. ICA congress are great place to meet people, network, exchange ideas and initiate projects.
Photo: ICA, 2011
Now many nice words, interesting ideas and succesful examples were heard and discuss about during these few nice days days in Rio de Janeiro. The author hopes that it will motivate and help people in the gem trade to make things better. Of course: Rome was not built in one day. The author knows that... but hopefully one stone at a time, things might go in the right direction.
The author would like then to thanks the ICA and the people from Brazil to have organized such a nice event in Rio de Janeiro. It was a pleasure to have participated and I hope that this would have been useful for ICA, the GIA, Brazil, the whole gem trade and also the people involved in conservation or just trying to make a living near the places where colored gemstones are mined.
The borders are quite porous, you know. Its not surprising that this business remains largely unregulated. There aren't enough qualified gemologists in the world to keep up with demands.
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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.