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.
13th ICA (International Colored stone Association) Congress Panyu, China: May 06 - May. 09, 2009... I'm just back from China and the 13th ICA congress. It was not really something I could qualify as "field gemology" but nevertheless before to go to the field, one very important thing is to get the right contacts. And for this the ICA is a wonderful association to become a member of as many ICA members are gemstone miners or well connected dealers. If you come to them with the right project they might be able to help you as they were able to help me since 2004 when I became an ICA member. Believe me: That was a good move as without the ICA and its members I would not have been able to visit many of the countries I visited in the past five years. The congress was cosy and comfortable. I Found it very interesting on many aspects: It was first a new occasion to remind that the gem trade is not really about gemology, science, art or even regulations even if all these aspects have also their importance. In fact the gem trade is mainly just about people... And there I was to meet people: Meet old friends and make new friends, it is all what ICA congress are about. But this is great as when you want to go to the field, the most important thing you need is to have a good local contact. This time China was the highlight, the congress was hosted in Pan Yu, a Chinese city located between Guangzhou and Hong Kong and which is nowadays one of the world's most active gemstone cutting and jewelry manufacturing center. It was very busy and well attended and we had two days with many presentations followed by nice diners and great evening time in the hotel lobby near the white tigers... I was happy to meet there again my Chinese friends first the two "Chinese Alex": It is quite funny that the two chinese miners I know, one mining sapphires in Shandong and another mining emeralds in Xin Jiang, are both named "Alex" and finaly my former student at AIGS: Paul S.Y. Chan who has a company in Pan Yu. Paul was great to introduce me and other friends to several interesting people and companies in Pan Yu at the beginning of the congress and later while he was taking Richard W. Hughes, Ron Ringsrud, Mariana Photiouand my GIA teammate Robert Weldon to visit to the "Worldmart Gemstone Boulevard"and the "Jade Market" just before my return to Bangkok: Thanks Paul!
"China and gemology: A complicated passion" The author taking a photo of jade bangles in the Guangzhoujade market with Paul S.Y. Chan on the right. The photo is mix of green gems, people, mirror effects and the complicated network of jade circles contrasting with the author "sapphire crystal shape glasses design" is interesting to illustrate the author feeling about this congress.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
The congress was very interesting regarding many aspects: We saw first how Chinese officials were in love with statistics, official speeches and regulations. We saw also that the NGTC (National Gemstone Testing Center) seems to be a considerable force inside the country and that in China the word "order" means something... That was probably something that the Chinese wanted us to see and that was indeed very noticeable... Nevertheless it was not my first visit in China and I was then not very surprised. After 2 days of a nice congress it seems to me that the main challenge between Chinese people and the rest of the world seems nevertheless to be still and probably again for a while the language barrier. If the presentations were translated using simultaneous translation techniques, the process which was technically a success was not without surprises for me: Two of these surprises are possibly a good example of the difficulties people and organizations might encounter while doing business in China: We had a lab panel where gemstone "reports" were commonly translated into gemstone "certificates" and where instead to have a dialogue we had mainly a monologue with a powerful chinese lady using the panel as a personal tribune. That was interesting. The second language surprise I had was that in the official translations the word "Emerald" was translated into "Fei Cui" meaning "jade". Nevertheless most people I know told me that they know that emerald and Jade are different and that in Chinese there are words for "emerald", something like "Dju Mu Lu" or "Lo Bow Chu" but may be these words were seen as local slang by officials or possibly also the translators had only a limited gemological knowledge... The mistake might not seems important as people told me that most people understood that we were speaking about emeralds and not about jade but what about the people with no or just limited gemological knowledge? These issues are in my opinion quite typical about the challenges doing business in a foreign country where language issues are common. Don't get me wrong, it is not just about China, I saw that in many other places while traveling the world. But it seems to be particularly true with China despite the numerous efforts the Chinese are obviously doing. Anyway, that was to be expected as modernizing such a huge country is something that will take some time and that will need some understanding and help from the rest of the word. But slowly and slowly, things will probably continue to improve for the benefit of all.
My main task for the congress was to give two presentations:
The first one was a presentation of the GIA "colored stone grading system", a system I studied at GIA Thailand in 2001l. As a former GIA student, it was a pleasure and an honnor to present to the congress public this system which provides a systematic and repeatable method to undertand and communicate about color and evaluate colored gemstones.
My second presentation was about emeralds from Davdar in the western Xin Jiang province of China, a new emerald deposit I visited in 2006. I was working on this subject since my visit at the mines with Alex, the english speaking son of the Davdar Chinese miner, Dietmar Schwarz, the Director of Research at the Gubelin Gem Lab in Switzerland I was working for in 2007 and 2008 and with geologist Dan Marshall from the Brendan Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. This was the only presentation in the congress about a Chinese gemstone deposit. It was then an honor to get such opportunity to introduce to the people present at the congress these promissing new deposit. My 30mn presentation seems to have been very well appreciated by the people who attended the congress despite a small technical problem: I sent my presentation few days before the congress. At the congress I came with an update that I placed in the congress computer in the morning as I got new photos and was able to make it better in the few days before the congress. It seems to me that when the technical people copied the other presentations in the computer for the afternoon presentations they replaced my new version with the older version: My mistake was obviously to have kept the same name for the update in my computer... I did not notice the problem before to start my presentation but slide after slide; I realized that there was something really wrong. So I had to change all what I had in mind and present the old version instead of the new one... Too bad, but well: These are things that happen and next time i will for sure be more careful when i will update a presentation! Despite the stress, I was able to keep my tone as regular as possible and to present what was showing on the screen. It could have been much better for sure but it seems that it was not bad as many "emerald people" came later to speak to me and to the emerald miners. Obviously they had appreicated it and I was able to get them interested by these new gems, whihc was my main purpose. The miners were also happy: This is a good example about what this website is about: Miners usually agree to help a visiting gemologist to visit their mine if they can expect to have in exchange some kind of promotion for their gems. On fieldgemology.org my expedition reports are accessible not only for people in consuming country, who can also get easily an access to many gemological publications, but these reports are also accessible for people in producing countries hwo face difficulties to get gemological books and litterature. People in producing countries can then read the result of our work. Thanks to this type of collaboration: The miner get some exposure and some promotion for his production, the gemologist the samples he need to study and the gemological community the first hand information they need.
As Jack Ogden, the Gem-A CEO told me during the congress with humor: "Research without publications is masturbation." Jack is right: Publications are very useful to build productive collaborations.
It was great to meet again Alex, his mother and his girlfriend at the occasion of this congress and it was a pleasure to give to their promissing emerald deposit some promotion at that occasion. It was a great honnor to introduce this new deposit to the people attending the ICA congress and a pleasure to see that it created a lot of interest. I was also very happy to get from Alex Chang some additional samples for the GIA reference gemstone collection, that will be useful to complete our researchs based so far only on the few samples I collected at the mines in 2006. Thanks to them we will be probably able soon to produce an interesting "On-going research" publication on GIA Laboratory Bangkok website and possibly a nice article for Gems and Gemology.
"Silk road emerald from the miner to the loved one" Left: Davdar emerald miner Alex Chang presenting a piece of sandstone introduced with a vein with a beautiful emerald mineralization and on the right Alex girl friend is presenting a lovely Davdar emerald set on a ring a lotus Chinese design. It is not that common to see the miner and the final consumer together... I wish this lovely couple all the best!
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
This congress was not just about giving a presentation and writting an article about Davdar emeralds with JC Michelou: Alex came with some new samples from his recent production in order for me and the GIA Laboratory Bangkok gemologists to continue working on these interesting gems. These samples will be useful in order to continue our studies on Davdar emeralds and to increase a little bit more our knowledge about these fascinating gems. He also provided me some new photographs of the recent mining activity there. If I was not able to show these photos during my presentation to the people attending the ICA congress I will nevertheless add them soon on the Emeralds from Davdar page and they will be also useful to illustrate our coming article on the subject on GIA Lab Research pages.
"ICA Networking" As an illustration about what ICA congress are about: People meeting other people sharing the same passion: Here are several "emerald people" around Davdar Chinese miner Anyur (Alex's mother) holding a Davdar mineral specimen:
Left to right:
Gabriel Angarita, the young president of the ACODES (the Colombian association of gemstone exporters), ICA Vice President and emerald connoisseur Jean Claude Michelou, gemologist Dietmar Schwarz from the Gubelin Gem Lab., one of the world's leading gemologists regarding emeralds I had the pleasure to work with at the Gubelin Gem Lab on the Davdar emeralds and finally American emerald dealer Ron Ringsrud who just published a beautiful book about emeralds.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009
Participating at the ICA Congress I had the pleasure to meet finally Ron Ringsrud who was present with his new book on emeralds: "Emeralds, A Passionate Guide".
That book was my best gemological litterature surprise for long: It is a book about about the passion for emeralds and about emerald people. It contains a lot of very useful information for all people interested by this gem. Truly it is a book that all people from the hardcore gemologist to the lady curious about the gem she was given as a present, should consider to read as they will probably enjoy it and learn a lot from it.
On my side: I love it and I'm happy to recommend it.
Bravo Ron! All the best!
Finally it was again a great congress where we were all able to network with many new people and meet again with good friends. We were able to speak about different new projects which I hope will be succesful and useful for the gemological community and the gem trade. The fact is that the ICA congress are wonderful events to meet people, network and initiate projects. I would like then to thanks the ICA and the people from China to have organized such a nice event in Pan Yu. It was a pleasure to have participated and I hope that this would have been useful for both ICA and GIA.. All the best,
GIA "On-Going Research" publication: Apr. 30, 2009: "Sapphires reportedly from Batakundi/ Basil": Visiting Peshawar in Pakistan during summer 2006, I saw some unusual milky purple sapphires with strong red color zoning. Recently, similar stones came for examination at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok where I work and we started a preliminary study on this unusual material reportedly from the Batakundi area a remote valley in Pakistan controlled Kashmir not very far from the Nangimali ruby deposit I visited in 2006 with Guillaume Soubiraa. Sadly at that time we had lost several days because of the numerous landslides in the Neelam valley and we had then no time to try to visit Batakundi. The present preliminary study is the result of the work of all the gemologists of the GIA Laboratory Bangkok on the samples we got from the Bangkok market. As the material is very unusual, we feel that it was a good first step to document these stones and share our results with the rest of the gemological community. You can download the study on the GIA Laboratory Bangkok "On-Going Research" (follow the link) where you will find also many other interesting gemological studies from my friends and colleagues at GIA Laboratory Bangkok.
(A group of rough and cut sapphires we studied at GIA Lab Bangkok and reportedly from Batakundi placed on a map presenting the area they were probably mined from.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)
The next ideal step would be probably a visit of the mining area in Pakistan control Kashmir. Located just few kilometers away from the 1972 cease fire line between Pakistan and India, the region is beautiful but very remote: This is where the Hymalaya is joining the Karakoram. But visiting the Batakundi/ Basil area is not possible now as we were reported that the mining is only possible there in July and August... I will keep you informed but if you want to help, please contact me at the GIA Lab Bangkok indicating of course my name. All the best,
GIA "On-Going Research" publication: March 22, 2009: Rubies from Niassa Province, Mozambique: At the end of September 2008, I was informed by my friend Abdul Msellem, a Tanzanian gem broker that some new ruby material was available in the local gem market at Mpwapwa, the Tanzanian gemstone trading center close to the Winza mines. Since my return in Thailand in December 2009 I started enquiring about rubies from Mozambique while visiting Chanthaburi during my week end field expeditions. Week end after week end I was able to collect more information and also some material for study. The present preliminary study is the result of this work. You can download the study on the GIA Laboratory Bangkok "On-Going Research" (follow the link) where you will find also many other interesting gemological studies from my friends and colleagues at GIA Laboratory Bangkok.
(A group of rough and faceted rubies reported to have been mined in the Niassa Province of Mozambique. Note: The oval stone on the first row on the right might have been mined fon Winza in Tanzania.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)
The next step will probably a visit at the mines in the Niassa province of Mozambique. But first I will wait for the rainy season to stop and I will need also to find some good local contacts in Mozambique! I will keep you informed but if you want to help, please contact me at the GIA Lab Bangkok indicating of course my name. 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.