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:
Introduction to Kenyan gems and gemstone mining in Kenya: (Page updated on March 25, 2008)
Gemstone mining in East Africa does not have the long history like gemstones mining in Central Asia (Afghanistan), South East Asia (Burma) and South Asia (Sri Lanka) but during the last few decades countries located on the East African Mozambique Belt like Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar have become important gemstone producers.
As I'm not myself a geologist, I will use the words of Dr Cedric Simonet, a French geologist who studied and worked for several years in Kenya as manager of the Rockland Ruby mine in Tsavo ( also known as the John Saul Mine) from his “Presentation of the Kenyan gemstone deposits in his “General setting of coloured gemstone deposits in the Mozambique Belt of Kenya. Preliminary consideration”:
“Gemstone deposits in Kenya occurs in different geological settings. However, although some gemstone deposits are associated with Tertiary volcanic rocks such as the Turkana sapphire deposit, most of them are located within the Pan African Mozambique Orogenic Belt. Gemstone deposits in the Mozambique belt are highly variegated , and can be classified into four categories: 1) Magmatic deposits include apatite, feldspar, tourmaline and/or beryl bearing pegmatites, and sapphire bearing monzonitic pegmatoids. 2) Metamorphic deposits are the result of isochemical or sub-isochemical metamorphism, they include a wide range of deposits of gemstones such as kornerupine, moonstone, tourmaline, garnet, ruby and sapphire. Metasomatic deposits are very common in the Mozambique Belt and usually produce gemstones of high quality. They are the result of interactions between various lithologies and fluids under metamorphic conditions. 3) Metasomatic deposits include some tourmaline ruby and sapphire deposits as well as most iolite and rhodolite deposits. 4) Last, hydrothermal deposits include tanzanite and amethyst deposits.”
Ruby and sapphire deposits in Kenya, Oct 2007 (from Simonet, 2001 and personal communications with miners in 2005 and 2007. Legend: Square: areas visited by the author in 2005 or 2007, Star: Areas not yet visited by the author.)
Gemstone mining in Kenya started to be noticed mainly during the 1970's as rubies and green garnets were then discovered in Tsavo National Park, one of the largest African National park, a beautiful area famous for its man eating lions inspiring the Hollywood movie “The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996), its "red" elephants and for the movie “Out of Africa”(1985) which was partially turned there:
An elephant encounter in Tsavo, July 2005 Photo V. Pardieu,
In 1973, American geologist John Saul discovered rubies in the south of Tsavo, at a location which will become famous as the “John Saul mine”. Soon after, a second deposit was discovered nearby by Tim Miller at “Penny Lane"..
"John Saul mine" ruby crystals, cabochons and small faceted gems of about 1 carat each. Stones courtesy Rockland Kenya Ltd, Photo: V. Pardieu, Oct. 2007
In 1974, Henry Blatt, president of Tiffany and Co introduced the new vanadian grossular garnet discovered first in Komolo area of Tanzania in 1968 and in Taita hills near Tsavo in Kenya in 1970 (Bridges) as “Tsavorite”, this name was rapidly accepted by the North American gem trade but in Europe some prominent gemologists preferred to name it “Tsavolite”:
Rough and cut Tsavorite (Tsavolite) from Tsavo Kasigau area, including a 7 carat faceted gem.. Stones courtesy Tsavolite Mining Ltd. Photo: V. Pardieu, Oct 2007
At the time of our two visits in 2005 and 2007, ruby and Tsavorite (Tsavolite) were the most important type of gemstones mined in Kenya:
Ruby main mining area in Kenya was still in 2005 and 2007 the Tsavo area, nevertheles rubies and sapphires have also been found in other parts of Kenya but mining in these new occurences was not very active at the time of our visits (See our “ Kenya map” and Simonet “General setting of coloured gemstone deposits in the Mozambique Belt of Kenya. Preliminary consideration”, page 3). We visited nevertheless the promising Baringo-Bogoria ruby mining area discovered in 2001 and the Simba area discovered in 2005, two interesting magmatic type deposits.
ICA ambassador to Kenya Suzie Kennedy presenting rubies from Baringo Stones courtesy Corby Ltd. Photo: V. Pardieu, Jul. 2005
Tsavorite is mainly mined in a large area from the south of Tsavo to the Tanzanian border. Voi, a small city located on the road linking Mombassa to Nairobi, is the local tsavorite trading center. It was told us to have been built with “Tsavorite money”.
During our first visit in July 2005, my focus was on ruby but my assistant Jean Baptiste Senoble interest about green gems like emeralds falled in love with Tsavorite (Tsavolite). A passion that turned to be contagious when I found myself "surrounded" by Tsavorite enthusiasts like gem dealer Kennedy Khamwathi and Tsavorite miner and earliest fan: Scottish geologist Campbell Bridges. We added then to our visit program several Tsavorite (Tsavolite) mines, an easy event as they were also located near the ruby mines in the Tsavo area of south east Kenya. I experienced then a fascinating green fever which, I've to admit still affect me....
Jean Baptiste Senoble at the Aqua mine (Tsavo) trying to convert me to Tsavorite... Stones courtesy Aqua Mining Ltd. Photo: V. Pardieu, Jul. 2005
Kenya was the fourth country in the 2005 gemological exploration program I had with Jean baptiste Senoble, a young French gemologist recently graduated from AIGS in Bangkok, Thailand. It was for Jean Baptiste and myself our very first trip to Africa. We were very curious and impatient to travel in this new continent and discover Kenya ! In order to help us to prepare this expedition I asked the support from ICA (International Colored stone Association) Vice President Jean Claude Michelou and ICA Ambassador to Kenya Suzie Kennedy.
Suzie and Kennedy Khamwathi helped us like rarely we were helped in a gemological expedition: They contacted Kenyan miners to help us to organize our visits. More, Kennedy Khamwathi decided to come with us as he wanted also to visit with us all these mines and miners. The visit was limited to the Tsavo and the Baringo areas for time and security reasons. I invite you to consult our 2005 Kenya expedition report
The main concern of most Kenyan miners we met during our 2005 expedition was that they were needing more exposure and more promotion about their stones. Many small operations lacking machinery were searching for partners willing to invest and work with them. In May 2007 an ICA group visited Kenya after the Dubai 2007 ICA Congress and I was told that things were positive.
I hope that these pages about Kenya and its gemstone mines will help people interested in gemology and East Africa to discover and understand the Kenya gemstone wealth and potential. If after your visit to these pages you are interested to contact kenyan miners, I advise to contact the ICA and its ambassador to Kenya: Suzie Kennedy...
I returned in Kenya in October 2007 in order to complete my visit of the Kenya ruby and tsavorite mining areas. This short expedition was part of a longer expedition to Tanzania with gemologist Richard Hughes.
On the way to Tsavo, Michael Rogers and the author with travel addicted gemologist's best friend: "Ruby and sapphire" by Richard W. Hughes. Photo: Guillaume Soubiraa, Oct 2007
Introduction to the "Kenya gemstone mines" pages (Edited on Oct 11, 2008)
The following "Gemstone mines of Kenya" web pages presents the result of the two gemological expeditions to East Africa in Jul. and Aug. 2005 and Oct. 2007.
The Jul. and Aug. 2005 expedition was a join expedition financed by the AIGS gemological Laboratory in Bangkok, Thailand (where I was then the Laboratory Director), the Gubelin Gem Lab, in Lucerne Switzerland and Jean Baptiste Senoble, one of my former AIGS gemology student, which was interested after completing his gemological studies to discover where the gems which were fascinating him where coming from. It was possible thanks to the support of the ICA (International Colored stone Association).
The Oct 2007 expedition was also part of a larger expedition to East Africa initiated by Richard W. Hughes, the author of "Ruby and Sapphire". I was then gemologist at the Gubelin Gem Lab. Two young gemologist and former AIGS students: Guillaume Soubiraa and Michael Rogers, and one of Guillaume friends: Philippe Brunot joined us in this expedition to Kenya.
The purpose of these expeditions was to visit ruby, sapphire, alexandrite, emerald, tsavorite, tanzanite and tourmaline mines in Kenya and Tanzania for gemological research purpose. Origin determination of gemstones like rubies and sapphires is my passion and an important part of the work I have to do while working in gemological labs like AIGS or later Gubelin. It is then important for a gemologist willing to specialized himself in the origin determination of gemstones to collect data on gems not only studying the reference collection inside the gem lab but also directly at the source. As a former tour guide, turned into a gemologist, it is my pleasure to share the benefit of these expeditions with you and I hope that it will benefit to the people who welcomed and helped us in the field.
Special Thanks: To all the Kenyan authorities we met which provided us support and help. I would like also to thanks particularly the Kenyan Commissioner of Mines and Geology Mr. L.K.Biwott and all the Kenyan miners who welcomed us at their mines, shared with us their time and their life. Your support and welcome was much appreciated!
I hope that this report will be useful to all people we met in Kenya and to all the people interested in the gem trade from the production areas in Kenya to the consuming markets and for all gem lovers around the world.
Now I would like to thanks particularly to the following people as they travelled with me and as without their help in the field, and their support, I would not have succeded in these expeditions:
First thanks to my traveling companions which helped to finance, to organize and to make this expedition a succes:
Jean Baptiste Senoble currently working for the Nomad's company in Bangkok was my gemology student at the AIGS, in Bangkok and became then one of my regular traveling companions to gem markets and mines around Bangkok. He was my traveling assistant during the 2005 gemological expeditions to Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Kenya and Tanzania. We returned together in Tanzania and Madagascar in 2008. Without his help and support these expeditions would not have even been possible. All the best to you JB!
Guillaume Soubiraa (from SMDA in Madagascar) and Mike Rogers, two former students of the AIGS in Bangkok and Philippe Brunot, one of Guillaume childhood friends from Madagascar were my traveling companions while visiting Kenyan ruby and tsavorite mining areas in October 2008. Thanks to their presence, support and presence this expedition turned to be a pleasure and a success.
All the best guys and great thanks!
These 2005 and 2007 expeditions to Kenya tsavorite and ruby mines would not have been possible without the help of local members of the Kenyan gem trade:
Suzie Kennedy is the current ICA Embassador to Kenya. With her husband Kennedy Khamwathi, they are some very active members of the Kenyan gem trade. Our 2005 and 2007 expeditions were possible thanks to their help and support.
The presence of Kennedy each day during all our 2005 expedition was very much appreciated and so useful to the succes of this expeditions. Really thanks to both of you!
Genson Micheni Musa is a Kenyan ruby dealer which turned into a tsavorite miner in Kasigau area. His mining company "Tsavolite" is located just near the famous Tsavo National Park. Micheni was a wonderful and friendly guide during our October 2007 expedition. His knowledge of the Kenyan gem trade and of the Tsavo area was very useful to the success of our expedition. Thanks Micheni!
Interesting Links and recommended readings about gemstones mining in Kenya:
Interesting Links and recommended readings about ruby and sapphire from Kenya:
"Geology of sapphire and ruby deposits - The example of the John Saul Ruby Mine, Mangare, Kenya": The PHD thesis of Dr Cedric Simonet. A must to read work for those interesting in Kenyan ruby and sapphire deposits. "General setting of coloured gemstone deposits in the Mozambique Belt of Kenya" and other publications about gem deposits in Kenya on Cedric Simonet's kasigau.fr website. "Geologie and gem deposits of Kenya" "The Kimbo ruby deposit": An excellent study of the John Saul mine by Dr Cedric Simonet, a former manager of the mine for Hard Rock Mining. "The John Saul Ruby mine": On Swala Gem Traders website, an interesting article about the discovery of rubies in Tsavo by American geologist John Saul. "Savanna rubies ": by Creative Gems, an interesting attempt to brand rubies from Tsavo. "With Open arms" A Kenyan farmer found precious bounty in his barren fields. By Denis Maina Gathanju "Star sapphire from Kenya", N.R. Barot, A.Flamini, G.Graziani, E.J. Gubelin, Journal of gemmology, 1989,21,8 "A new sapphire deposit, turkana, Kenya", T. Themelis, Gemological Digest, Vol.2,No.4,1989 "The Growth of rubies in south -east Kenya" R.M. Key and J.O. Ochieng, Journal of Gemmology,1991,22,8 "Pink sapphire from Kitui, Kenya", Dr N.R. Barot and Dr R.R. Harding, Journal of gemmology,1994,24,3 "Chemical fingerprinting of some East African gem rubies by Laser Ablasion ICPMS" A.H. Rankin, J. Greenwood, D. Hargreaves, Journal of gemmology, 2003,28,8,pp.473-482 "Kenyan rubies exported to Thailand", Gems and gemology, Winter 1986, p.247 "Update on ruby output in Kenya", Jewelry News Asia, No170, October 1998, p.63 "An update on the John Saul ruby mine", Gems and gemology, Winter 1999, pp.213-214 "Exotic origin of the ruby deposit of the Mangari arera in SE Kenya" A.Mercier, P.Debat, J.M. Saul, Ore Geology reviews, Vol.14,1999,pp.83-104 "The Dusi (Garba Tula) sapphire deposit, central Kenya - A unique Pan African corundum-bearing monzonite" C.Simonet, J.L. Paquette, C.Pin, B. Lasnier, E. Fritsch, Journal of African Earth Sciences, Vol.38,No.4,2004,pp.401-410 "Saphirs et rubis, Classification des gisements de Corindon", Le Regne Mineral, No.55, Jan-Fev. 2004 "Rubin, Saphir, Korund, Schon, Hartselten, kostlar", extraLapis No15, 1998
Interesting Links and Bibliography about Tourmaline in Kenya:
"Golden tourmaline from Kenya" Gems and Gemology, Summer1996, pp.135-136 "Colour-changing chromiferous tourmalines from East Africa" Prof. Dr H. Bank, Dr U.Henn, Journal of gemmology, 1988,21,2,pp.102-103 "Geology of theYellow mine (Taita-Taveta district, Kenya) and other yellow tourmaline deposits in East Africa" Dr.C.Simonet, Journal of gemmology, 2000,27,1,pp.11-29 "Les tourmalines magnesiennes d'Afrique de l'Est", C.Simonet, Revue de gemmologie AFG, Septembre 2006, pp.4-7
Interesting Links and Bibliography about Tsavorite:
"Gemstones from East Africa" by Peter C. Keller (1992)
"Ruby and Sapphire" by Richard W. Hughes (1997)
Interesting links and bibliography about Tsavo
"The Man-Eaters of Tsavo" by Colonel J.M. Patterson. Hardcover: 346 pages. Publisher: Saint Martin's Press (Jan 1986), ISBN: 0312510101 "The Lions of Tsavo: Exploring the Legacy of Africa's Notorious Man-Eaters" by Bruce D. Patterson. Hardcover: 324 pages. Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education (Sep 2003), ISBN: 0071363335 Romanticized Hollywood movie: The Ghost And The Darkness  ; DVD ~ Michael Douglas; Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment (UK); DVD Release Date: 3 Dec 2001; Run Time: 105 minutes
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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.