Thanks and disclaimer:


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


About FieldGemology. org

This website is home for "Shameless Travel Addicted Gemologist" Vincent Pardieu (B.Sc., GGA, G.G.). Vincent is "Supervisor, Field Gemology" at GIA Laboratory Bangkok. He is a gemologist specialized on "origin determination of gemstones".
This is also home for Vincent's regular traveling companions: David Bright, Jean Baptiste Senoble, Richard W. Hughes, Guillaume Soubiraa, Walter Balmer, Michael Rogers, Kham Vannaxay and many others like recently: Philippe Ressigeac, Oliver Segura , Flavie Isatelle and Lou Pierre Bryl.

We are gemologists (gemmologists) sharing a passion for gemstones, gemolology (gemmology), gem people and traveling.

You will find in this website gemological expedition reports and some studies of gemological interest.

Visiting many gem mining areas we saw that people in remote mining and trading areas have difficulties to access to gemological publications. As today the Internet can be accessed in most of these gem mining areas and trading centers, the author started to build this website to give gem people living there the opportunity to see the result of the gemological expeditions they were associated in. It is a way to thanks them for their time and collaboration and to help them to get access to more gemological information.

At the same time the author hope that these expedition reports will please the people from consuming countries interested in gemstones and fascinated by their mysterious origins. Our purpose here is to help people facing difficulties to get quality first hand information about gems and their origins to get the information they need through this website and its links.

With our field expeditions to gemstone mines and gem markets around the world, we intend also here to share our passion for photography, gems and our fascination for the work of the "Gem People" bringing gemstones from the ground to magnificent jewelry.

From the gems external beauty to the intimate beauty of gemstone inclusions, from gem lore to the mines, the people and the landscapes gems origin from, we expect to share with you our passion for gemstone beauty.

We also invite you to join us on some gemological forums we are active in as they are convenient tools to get rapid answers to your questions as they are regularly visited by many other passionate gemologists, jewelers, hobbyists and professionals willing to learn more and share their knowledge about gemstones.


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


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Popular Articles

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

Gemological studies

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

Expedition Reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 2005: Colombia by J.B. Senoble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



THANKS for their support
for our field expeditions since 2005:


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

Do you want to

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

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

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




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

March 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 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,

2 Responses to “FE34_Vietnam_Blue_Spinels”

No.1     February 27th, 2012 03:42 | Jason

Wonderful trip report once again! Well done guys!

No.2     July 19th, 2012 09:11 | amber

Fantastic read!

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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.