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)


Contact the author:


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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)

Find our blogs using the following Keywords:

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     lead glass filled ruby
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Find our photos using the following Keywords:

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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:




Creative Commons License

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,

May 8th, 2011 | Keywords:ICA , Brazil , Conservation , Fair Trade , congress Travel |
Blog Title: ICA Congress Brazil 2011

14th ICA (International Colored stone Association) Congress, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (April 30th - May 04th 2011):

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.


Discover here the author presentation "Fair Trade and Conservation: “When origin matters" given during the 14th ICA Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That presentation was following the article written for InColor about "Rubies from Niassa, A Chance for Conservation?" in the Summer 2010 issue pp. 26 to 29 (also available online here)

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 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...


"GIA time"
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.

All the best,


October 13th, 2010 | Keywords:Richard W. Hughes , Laos , conservation Travel |
Blog Title: A friend on the road again

This post is not about one of the author expeditions or about an article he collaborated with, but it is about one friend who was a constant source of inspiration for the author for many years. He was an inspiration before we actually met and he is still today as he is one of my most regular travel buddies: From 2005 to last month we visited Madagascar, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam ... That post is about my friend and mentor Richard W. Hughes.

Today I received the following press release (follow that link) from Sino Ressources Mining Corporation Ltd (Sino RMC) a mining company with a very interesting approach of gem mining. Richard W. Hughes has become CEO of the Sapphminco Division, and Senior Vice President of SinoRMC. Last Saturday he left Bangkok to Hong Kong where he will be based. This is sad news but also and good news.

Sad news as it will now be less easy for the author to meet Richard and benefit from his knowledge and experience about ruby and sapphires.

Good news as Richard will work on a very interesting project: Few months ago we visited together that mining operation on the Mekhong River banks near the city of Houay Xai in Laos. I visited already Houay Xai three times before that visit. Nevertheless that visit was a great surprise and one of the most interesting visit I had. The reason is simple: They were obviously trying to do there what I'm believing could be a great chance (and also a great challenge) for the gem industry:

I mean "conservation gem mining".

For several months visiting East Africa during summer 2009, the author visited several areas dedicated to conservation where gems were also produced. After spending 3 days under arrest in the Niassa National Reserve, trying to visit a ruby deposit in Mozambique, the author started to think seriously about concepts like "conservation gem mining" or "conservation gems". Nevertheless I was not thinking that just few months after I would visit a mining operation trying already to work for several years on such a project.

That was very motivating particularly as the author was working on his project.

Nevertheless Simon, the CEO of SinoRMC asked me to stay quiet for a while, as he was not yet feeling ready to communicate about what they were doing. They had first to be able to present some results, not only a nice project. No problem: For the GIA Laboratory Bangkok, the important thing is to be able to collect reference samples for our research projects on origin determination of gemstones. I can stay quiet for months or years if necessary.

But recently Sino Resources Mining Corporation has put a website online, hired Richard and sent that press release: It will be very interesting to follow what will happen between Laos, Australia and Hong Kong... So it is now time for this blog to go online and reveal a glimpse of what is going on near the great Mekhong River.


"On the move again!"
(Richard W. Hughes on the Great Mekhong river between Houay Xai (Laos) and Chiang Khong (Thailand)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)

With Richard on board, I wish SinoRMC all the best as, if succesful, their mining concept in Laos could be used as a very interesting case study to extend conservation gem mining to other ruby and sapphire deposits in Asia and Africa.

All the best,

November 21th, 2009 | Keywords:Mozambique , ruby , Niassa , Msawize , Montepuez , conservation Travel |
Blog Title: FE09 Part 7, Return to Mozambique: Nov. 2009

GIA FE09 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 09): Part 07: Oct. 28 - Nov. 10, 2009: Mozambique:

This is the seventh part of the GIA Field Expedition to East Africa; I'm leading for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok during summer and autumn 2009: After visiting Mozambique in Sept 2009, I could not visit the new ruby mining areas in Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces. In Niassa province we even spent 3 days and 2 nights under arrest in the bush. This adventure turned to be a great chance to get in contact with the management of the Niassa National Reserve and the tourist operator working in the M'sawize area.

After several emails while I was traveling in Tanzania, I was finally invited by the people from the Niassa National Reserve to return in Mozambique, visit their headquarters in Maputo and return to Niassa to visit the mining site with one of the senior officials from the National Reserve.


I arrived in Maputo on Oct. 27th 2009, just the day before the elections in Mozambique for the presidency and the parliament. For the first time during that expedition, I was alone. That was a serious breach to the "Field Gemology Security Rule Number 1":

- Never travel alone...

But well again, we have to expect the unexpected..


For The following day I was able to meet Mr. Vernon Booth, advisor to Dr. Annabella Rodriques, the National Reserve Director who was traveling. The meeting was very interesting particularly from a French "Travel Addicted Gemologist" who had, since his childhood hunting with his family in countryside France, a keen interest in nature and conservation.

Vernon Booth provided me a lot of information about the different challenges they were facing in the Niassa National Reserve regarding conservation. On the other side I was able to provide him some information about the ruby trade. It was really a very interesting day and in fact the more I was speaking with the people from the reserve, the more I was feeling that the best thing that happened to me during that FE09 Field Expedition to East Africa were these three days under arrest in the Niassa bush.


Before that expedition, I was regularly speaking with Jean Baptiste Senoble about our commonm passions for Nature and gemstones. On field expeditions we were of course focussing on gemstones... But we still love nature and to get the possibility to see wild animals. To find a way to combine Nature and gemology was not that obvious... at least until our adventures in Niassa!


But let me introduce you first the Niassa National Reserve:


The Niassa National Reserve is covering 42,400 km2 including a buffer zone. It is one of the largest Natural Reserve in Africa. Its website is currently under maintenance but this will change in a close future. The reserve was first established in 1964, but was abandoned during the colonial war before Mozambique independence from Portugal and during the civil war which followed it. After the peace returned in 1992, like in many other areas in the country, the Niassa reserve was devastated, nevertheless as it was very remote, losses were far less than in other protected areas. Today the Niassa National Reserve hosts the largest wildlife population in Mozambique. It is particularly famous for its elephants (over 12,000) sable antelopes (9,000+), buffaloes and one of the largest African Wild dogs populations. It also has one of the largest lion populations in Africa with an estimated 900 lions and more than 400 different bird species.

Since assuming responsibility for the reserve in 1998, the SGDRN (Sociedade para a Gestão e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa), together with is partners at Flora & Fauna International, has made great progress in putting Niassa back on the map, with some highly progressive policies on adaptive environmental management and community-centered sustainable development.


"Two waterbucks and the scenic Lugenda river, the pristine source of life for Niassa"
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

The SGDRN achievements regarding conservation were recognized by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) with the prestigious "Award for Excellent Performance Markhor Conservation" in 2008. Unfortunately, the awards do not guarantee the financing of the reserve which remains one of the biggest challenges of SGDRN. The fact that the Reserve is very remote and difficult to access has good and bad point regarding conservation: The good thing when a reserve is as remote and inaccessible as Niassa is that it is quite intact and largely undisturbed. The difficulty is that with such a remote situation it is difficult for the reserve to get revenue from traditional tourism. Thus an important part of the reserve income depends on hunting tourism, an activity more suitable for difficult to access areas with nearly no road or hotel infrastructure and in which millions of tse tse flies are a burden for most tourists.


For some the idea to associate hunting with conservation sounds weird, but the basic fact is that hunters need Nature and animals to be able to hunt, and thus many hunters have a real interest in conservation: Like lions need zebras, buffaloes and antelopes, hunters need wildlife.


Now what about gemstones, gemstone mining and gemology in all that?


Well visiting East Africa during summer and Autumn 2009, from my adventures related to ruby mining in the Niassa national Reserve (Mozambique), to Garnet mining near the Tarangire National Park (Tanzania), Emerald and Alexandrite mining in Manyara National Park (Tanzania) and the issues regarding Campbell Bridges murder and our failed visit to region around Tsavo national park where ruby and tsavorite are mined and my days in Nairobi with Dr. Cedric Simonet. It became rapidly obvious that I had to do something regarding gemstones from East Africa and conservation.


"Gemstones from East Africa: A chance for conservation?"
An idea worth thinking about for the colored gemstone industry and also for conservationists.

In order to try to do some good about that I decided to create a new website: (currently under contruction... But not for long!)
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009


Well, if hunting activity can support and finance conservation, I do believe that gemstone mining could find a way to do the same. It is the same story:

Poaching is a serious problem but well managed hunting can help to protect wildlife, biodiversity and habitats. Illegal gem mining is also a problem as often even if only affect small areas it can be associated with poaching (to feed miners) and destruction of the local environment around the mining area. But if well managed, and done following some environment friendly practices, I do believe that gemstone mining could become an ally for conservationists.


Even more, I do believe that "Conservation rubies" or "Eco-rubies" could be much more sexy to the final consumer than "Blood rubies" or "Blood diamonds" and thus such gemstones could help to finance conservation.


When we consider Origin Determination of Gemstones, would it be a bad idea to find a way for gemstones to be used for an effective protection of the areas where they are coming from?

I'm sure that there are a lot of very good projects which could result from such an idea.


So to dig a little bit more about this subject which appeal to me as much a gemology and traveling, I decided with the support of friends like Jean Baptiste Senoble to create a new website dedicated to conservation and gemology:


This website is currently under construction. It will be very similar to but there I will focus on the promoting gemology as an ally for conservation.


Gems are gifts from Nature as are the region where they were born.

Visiting gem mining areas around the world I've been touched by the beauty of gem producing areas and I feel that it would be nice if gems could help at least a little bit to protect the areas where they are coming from...


If a gem is by definition: beautiful, rare and durable, so could be these areas. Sadly, in most of the cases, it is not the like that. Often their "durability" is at stake and often gem mining instead to help is in fact one more thread for the survival of a Natural reserve. Natural reserves like the Niassa National Reserve are facing a lot of threads, sometimes durability. One of them is gemstone mining and particularly illegal gemstone mining. It is very sad, because I believe that gemstone mining and natural reserve could help each other. It may sound difficult to believe, but if hunting can be an ally how come gem mining could not?

I feel that it would be sad if people in love with the natural beauty of gemstones would not do something to protect the beauty of the places where these gemstones are coming from... Because there are solutions which could produce exactly the inverse: Gemstone mining could help to protect the beauty of gem producing areas and gemstones could even become a symbol for reserve like Niassa.

I'm sure that the people ready to pay $100,000 to hunt a lion in Niassa would have no problem to add to their trophy a "Conservation-ruby", while the eco-tourist would also probably buy a more affordable but equally beautiful "Eco-ruby" filled with lead glass coming from Niassa if they could be certain that the gem was properly mined and that buying such a gemstone would also support financially conservation projects in Niassa.

At the end when we see the difference in price between a two equally beautiful rubies one of Burmese origin and one of Mozambique origin, It seems likely that untreated "Conservation rubies" and treated "Eco-rubies" from Niassa could find a market.


These were some of the points I was presenting to the people from the Niassa National Reserve during the two days I spent with them in Maputo. They told me that they would be very happy to study such proposals because currently they are searching for a solution to the problem of illegal mining inside the Niassa Reserve. And if the solution could be the arrival of a gemstone mining and trading company with a good project which could benefit to the reserve and the local communities, then why not?


They are conservationists searching efficient practical solutions not eco-integrists.


For more information about the problems the Niassa National Reserve faced with illegal ruby mining from Oct. 2008 to Sep. 2009, here is a link to "Illegal Mining in Niassa National Reserve" a PowerPoint presentation given by Dr. Anabela Rodrigues, Director General of the SGDRN (Sociedade para a Gestão e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa) during the 9th CASM (Communities and Small Scale Mining) Conference on September 8th 2009 in Maputo.


That was the day before our arrest 3 kilometers from the ruby mining site in Niassa! (See our previous report)


"Arriving at the ruby mining site"
Nov. 06th 2009: The author, the Niassa rangers and several policemen approaching the ruby mining site 50km in the bush South East of M'sawize village. Suddenly on the right of the track, I noticed a first digging on the ground...
Photo: D. Chambal/ Niassa National Reserve, 2009

On November 5th, 2009, I took the plane to Lichinga where I was welcome by David Chambal. The following day we left early in the morning (5.00 AM) to Sable camp located in the Niassa Reserve. After 7 hours driving we reached the camp, had a short lunch and continued to "Lilasse Camp", the camp located near the mines about 100 meters of the place we were arrested on Sept 8th. It was fun to see again some of the rangers and the policemen who arrested us two months before. They were surprised and very friendly. After few minutes we left to the mining site.

After about half an hour walking through the bush following the deep track which was created by the numerous motorbikes traveling from M'sawize to the mining site for about a year, we reached the mining site. That was a great moment... I was thinking about J.B. Senoble, S. Jacquat and L.P. Bryl who did not had the chance to reach the mines despite their great attitude during our September adventure.

The visit was interesting as I could get the confirmation that the site was composed as in many cases of two types of deposit:

(1) An eluvial ruby-rich soil corresponding to the weathering of the in situ ruby deposit;
(2) A primary deposit in which ruby is associated mainly with white feldspar, dark green amphibole and mica.


The following day after a new night in the Niassa bush with the rangers, we returned at the mining site and continue to study it and to collect some interesting reference specimens for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok reference collection.

"Niassa ruby "
A Niassa Ranger is presenting me a ruby in matrix he just found on the ground on the mining site.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

After that visit we returned to the "Lilasse Camp" just on time before rain to visit Niassa. For nearly an hour we had the feeling that the deluge was on us and minute after minute we had more and more concerns about our return to sable camp and to Lichinga... The facts was that we had many deep, but so far dry river beds, to drive through. With such heavy rains things turned to be much more difficult. Just to take our car on the other side of the first one, it took us nearly two hours... The dry river bed turned to a muddy one and thanks to the help of the 10 policemen and rangers we could dig our way on the other side...


"Niassa rain"
Getting on the other side of the Lilasse river bed was not an easy task. It took us two hours to help our car to climb out of the muddy river bed.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

Arriving at Sable camp I could meet the manager of the tourism operator in charge of the area and had some very interesting discussion with him. The more I was speaking and listening, the more it was obvious that something had to be done in order for gemstone deposits located in such National Reserve to be a chance for the reserve and not a curse...

The enthusiasm of these people about Niassa was very contagious and I was thinking that probably the best thing that happened to me during that expedition to East Africa was to have been arrested in Niassa as thanks to it I was able to find the missing link between my childhood passion for wildlife and hunting and my current passion for traveling and then gemology...

I would like then to thanks all the people I met in the field in Niassa and at the Reserve headquarters in Maputo without to forget Dr. Anabela Rodrigues for the support and the trust they provided us, to have allow us to visit the ruby mining site and for the time I had the pleasure to share with them. The whole adventure was for us a real pleasure and as I wrote these words I truly miss Niassa. I do wish that in the future gems from Niassa will be seen finally as a chance for the reserve and not as a thread.


Montepuez Rubies: This new expedition about Mozambique was not only about Niassa and its ruby deposit. I also tried again to visit the new ruby deposit located between Montepuez and Pemba, in the Cabo Delgado province.

In September the Pemba mining officer told me to return after the elections, so I did but that time again, as after our first attempt to visit the deposit in Niassa, I had to meditate about the meaning of the word "pacientia" meaning "be patient" in Portuguese.

Among us in the team, we started to speak about Mozambique rubies as "Patiencia rubies" and so far this is a good nickname for Montepuez stones: While visiting Maputo, besides visiting the people from the Niassa Reserve, I also visited the Mozambique geological survey and got an appointment with the Director of Mines and an advisor to the Minister of Mines.

There I learned that several mining licenses were obtained by the owner of the private game reserve on which is located the ruby deposit. It seems also that the company owning the licenses has also contracted a Bangkok based Thai company to work the deposit (or just a part of it?). The good news during that new expedition is that if I could not visit the mines (because I was told the "local situation there was not suitable for such a visit") I was able to get a direct contact with the sons of one of the partners of the company called: Mwririti Lda. owning the mining rights there and we could discuss about a possible visit to the mining area beginning December.

Spending few days in Nampula from Nov 01 to Nov 04, as I could not visit the mines near Montepuez, I spent some of my time meeting dealers and studying the parcels of rubies reportedly from Montepuez.

It was interesting but of course this could not replace a visit on site which is the only way following the GIA laboratory Bangkok protocols to collect reference specimens.


"Montepuez rubies"
A large silky ruby from Montepuez. The stone was nearly 40 grams.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009

Finally I left Mozambique to return to Bangkok on Nov. 12th 2009. At the end of the expedition I got the nice surprise to receive an invitation for the Niassa National Reserve congress in Pemba at the beginning of December 2009. The people from the reserve are inviting me to share with them the result of that successful visit to Niassa. That will be probably very interesting and it might be a new opportunity to visit the Montepuez ruby deposit located not that far from Pemba...


Patientia rubies? Well so far looks to be...


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.