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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Fieldgemology Page on facebook

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:

Find our photos using the following Keywords:

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,


An update on Ruby and Sapphire mining
in South East Asia and East Africa.
Summer 2005

Vietnam 2005

By Vincent Pardieu
and Jean Baptiste Senoble

General Presentation:(visit here)

Part 1) Introduction: (visit here)

Part 2) Vietnam:

We left for Hanoi , Vietnam, on April 22, 2005 to meet our local contact. After a visit to his cutting factory near Hanoi, where he is mainly cutting spinels from Luc Yen, we left for Yen Bai, the doorstep of the Luc yen mining area.

Yen Bai is a small city located northwest of Hanoi near the Thac Ba lake dam. It is the beginning of the ruby, sapphire, and spinel mining area known as “Luc Yen”. If the area was already known during the French colonial time for its gems, it became famous after the discovery near An Phu village in 1992 for gem quality rubies. Vietnamese rubies were said to be the equal of Burmese gems. A gem rush happened, but after 2000 the activity began to weaken possibly because some Thai dealers, which are said to control the market, left the area to go to buy gems in an easier place: Madagascar after the discovery of Ilakaka in 1999, and later Vatomandry and Andilamena in 2000.

We visited our first ruby mine a few kilometers beyond Yen Bai near Tan Huong. This area is the major producing center for the Vietnamese star rubies. It was a small private mechanized operation with eleven miners producing mainly star ruby and some dark red spinels. This mine was very close to the former VIGECO mine which has produced some very large stones including some which are now national treasure. The VIGECO mines are now closed and the Vietnam Gem Corporation does not mine anymore in Luc Yen or the Quy Chau area.

(Left to right: Ruby mining in Tan Huong, V. Pardieu with rough star rubies from Tan Huong,
Photos: Jean Baptiste Senoble, 2005)

After the mine visit, we rented a small transportation boat for a cruise on the Thac Ba lake. We were told that the lake level was very low and in some areas many people were mining the lake banks. After two hours cruising, we reached the mining area. Around 1000 miners were there mining star ruby.

(Left to Right: Boats on the Thac Ba lake banks, Mining landscape in the mining area on the island near the lake. Photos: Vincent Pardieu, 2005)

After our return, we continued our trip to Luc Yen city. Along the way we visited red spinel mines near Truc Lau: There, many locals were mining for spinels in their rice fields. Five or six mine holes were then visible, but Antoine told us that within few weeks, many more will be in operation in the area. The Truc Lau area is famous for its red spinels which are darker than the more pinkish or purplish spinels found south of Luc Yen near An Phu.

(Left to right: Red spinel mining in Truc Lau paddy fields. Photos: Vincent Pardieu, 2005)

On Monday, April 25 th, we started our visit of the Luc Yen area by a visit at the local gem market. The market was quite active with around two hundred people buying and selling mostly rough and crystals. Then we rented some Russian made motorbikes to visit south of Luc Yen in the mountains beyond An Phu Village, the area were spinels and rubies are mined in primary deposits. After a forty minute walk, we finally reached the cliff were red and pink spinels are mined. Several tens of people were working there and below the cliff was a small village were traders from the valley were coming to meet the miners and buy their production. Sadly on the way back I realized that my memory card was broken and I could never recover my photos! Passing An Phu, we were able to see some large marble blocs hosting attractive ruby and spinels. In the surrounding rice field, some small alluvial mining operations, typically involving a family, were producing rubies, sapphires, and spinels. Returning to Luc Yen, we visited several dealers and a burner where we were able to witness some ruby heat treatment using a jeweler torch. Many stones in Luc yen area were told us to be burned this way before being sold by the three burners active in Luc Yen.

(Left to Right: Gem Market in Luc Yen, Luc Yen ruby in its marble matrix,
Photo: Vincent Pardieu, 2005)

(Left to right: Watching the spinel hard rock mine before to start walking: It is the white cliff on the mountain...; An Phu spinels
Photos: Jean Baptiste Senoble and Vincent Pardieu, 2005)

The day after we continued our visit of the Luc Yen area, we again visited the market and dealers both in Luc Yen and near Tan Huong. As a conclusion, the visit was very interesting but the mining production in Luc yen was quite low compared to the activity few years ago. Most of the rubies we saw in the area were pinkish or purplish red. We departed in the afternoon for Hanoi where our friend, Antoine Hoang, left us.

In Hanoi our focus came on melo pearls, we visited an important dealer in the conch pearl field: "Indochina Gems Trading". We could see several pearls and study the different kinds of sea snails living along the Vietnam coastline and eventually producing pearls. The conch pearl production in Vietnam is very low and we were told that an average of one or two pearls per year is found.

(Left to right: Diverse sea snales producing Vietnamese conch pearls. Vietnamese conch pearls; Photos: Jean Baptiste Senoble and Vincent Pardieu, 2005)

Then we went to meet and spend some time with Prof. Phan Truong Thi from the Gems and Jewelry Institute of Vietnam. We spent the afternoon trying to verify information gathered here and there, collecting contacts for the rest of the trip, and looking at gemstones. We visited the geological museum where we spent half a day with geologist Do Duc Quang preparing for our trip to Quy Chau.

On Friday, April 29th ,2005, we left for Halong Bay to get on one of my old friend's boats (I visited fourteen times Vietnam as tour guide from 1996 to 2001). We had a cruise to visit a pearl farm in the bay. The quality of the pearls produced in Halong bay is not great and is mainly going to the Chinese market. In the bay, many small boats were selling pearls to tourists. Most of them were freshwater Chinese pearls or plastic.! We also saw several pearls that could possibly have come from the pearl farms in south Vietnam. Regarding to the pearl farming, the pearl farm we visited was the only farm we could find in North Vietnam as the pearl farm in Hanoi on the west lake does not appear to exist any more. Larger farms are present in the southern part of Vietnam.

(Left to right: Sailing in Halong Bay on a Vietnamese "junk". Pearl farm in Halong Bay,
Photo: Pattareeya Junthakeeree and Vincent Pardieu, 2005)

After our return to Hanoi , we left on Monday, May 2, 2005 to Quy Chau, near Vinh, using an old Russian made jeep. We arrived in the Quy Chau area late in the afternoon and visited the city. No gemstones were visible at all. We were told that now in Quy Chau province, the local authorities have forbidden ruby mining and trading. Most of our contacts could not (or did not) want to receive us. So our first challenge was to find the former mines and to be able to visit them. Finally, we found and could visit Mo Coi (also called Doi Thy) and then Chau Binh mine. Both operations were closed. Using my “tea shop” technique, we stopped here and there taking tea and meeting people. Finally we found a “miner cutter” who agreed to show us some stones and bring us to some illegal mining areas in the surrounding hills. Thanks to him we were able to collect some valuable information about the mining situation and see some stones. All the Quy Chau rubies we saw were excellent red color but small in size, they are mined currently in remote area as the police are seriously active against illegal mining. Most of the production goes to the Thai dealer network which was said to be very strong in Vinh and Hanoi. It was not surprising for us as Thais came here as soon as the two ruby mining areas were discovered in the 1990's. Most of the Vietnamese ruby production was said be exported to Bangkok for heat treatment. We were also able to see some blue sapphires possibly from the neighboring Quy Hop area and some aquamarines possibly from Que Phong area near the Laotian border. It was interesting and surprising to learn that aquamarine mining was allowed but not ruby.

(Left to right: Ruby miner at Mo Coi mine, Quy Chau ruby parcel,
Photos: Vincent Pardieu, 2005)

On Thursday, May 5, 2005 we returned to Hanoi and then to Bangkok the day after. To complete this trip, it would have been interesting to go to visit the basaltic blue sapphire deposits in south Vietnam and also the pearl farms which are in operation in the south. But this will be for a future trip…

Part 3: Report about Sri Lanka (May 2005) (visit here)

Part 4: Report about Madagascar (June- July 2005) (visit here)

Part 5: Report about Kenya (July 2005) (visit here)

Part 6: Report about Tanzania (August 2005) (visit here)

Visit also our 2006 fieldtrip reports

Introduction: Presentation of the AIGS, Gubelin Gem Lab, ICA 2006 fieldtrip to central Asia: (visit here)

Part 1: Pakistan: The Central Asian capital of the gemstone trade. (visit here)

Part 2: Afghanistan: Land of beautiful gems and unique people. (visit here)

Part 3: Tajikistan: Gems from the Pamirs. (visit here)

Part 4: China (Xin Jiang): Emeralds from the silk road. (visit here)


Note: For more information and photos about all these different areas, please visit our photo galleries available from our home page.

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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.