Thursday, July 5, 2012

In the finest traditions of how Chrome Tourmaline "should" look. 4.65cts in one of my favorite styles of oval.

We were continuing to find nice quality Zircons in various colors. They were not all so distinct in their colors as some were more muted, but we've done so well with the Orange's, couldn't resist another one. 4.83ct

I don't believe I still  have a photo of this rough, but the final product turned out better than I anticipated. Blue Spinel in a classic square cushion, from Tanzania.
*photographed on an off-white background, though the photo was not adjusted for color. It really was THAT blue.

Probably one of largest, and nicest selections of Rhodolite Garnet we've seen in Tanzania for a long time. They look larger, but are actually all in the 3gram to 6gram range. Some are pinker and more desirable than others, but all very sale-able items.

*and this is still from the January 2011 trip to east Africa

And there was more....
This is Merelani Mint Garnet from a small pocket located in mid-December 2010. Our team arrived only a couple of weeks after these were uncovered from a site normally producing Tanzanite. Fantastic goods.

Have been back to east Africa a few more times in late 2010 and early 2011. We found some amazing gem rough to play with during 2011. Here's a small parcel of Sapphires from Umba Valley. As you can see, they arrive in various colors ~ and these are not yet treated!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Photos of rough - July 2009 Tanzania trip

Here's some pics of a portion of the rough I picked up on this trip.

Classic red Garnets are found in numerous locations through out east Africa. These are from the Tanga region.

Scapolite. Doesn't look like much here, but when cut properly, and on the proper axis, it really comes to life.

Spessartites from the Loliondo property in northern Tanzania.

Zircon crystals from the Tanga region. After some gentle heating, they may convert to red or orange.

 Aquamarine from Mozambique

Malaya Garnet

Malaya Garnet

Very fine Congo Tourmaline

Congo Tourmaline

Chrome Tourmaline

Chrome Tourmaline

Umba Sapphire

visiting villages in Merelani and Lolatema

Day IV - July 2009
We eventually worked our way out of Arusha as we all had a desire to visit with local miners and to visit the no-name villages scattered throughout the district. Our broker was not convinced this was a good idea. But we all wanted to see exactly where the goods came from. So we were able to visit one village that we could drive to, and was less than two hours away from Arusha's city centre.

Picking up more accurate directions from the locals.

Of course the directions only get us to another village, but not the one we wanted to visit.

From the above village, we were able to acquire a more accurate picture of how to get to this very small village shown below.

And here's where we met up with some of the local boys. They didn't have a command of english, but we had fun with them anyway.

These were just huts in the village, but the locals have been collecting crystals they find on the ground as they graze their animals. And that is why we were there. It was kinda funny for us, as they were asking 5 or 10 times what we could buy the stuff for in town. But we kept at it for over an hour and eventually the price came down out of the stratosphere and we were able to buy some.

Buying action in Arusha

There were moments of intensity as we all looked at goods. Here is one of those moments... as we contemplate spending serious funds on green stones, Tsavorite that is.

 Even as we came and went on the street, opportunities presented themselves. Like this one...

And this one.

We're up on the 3rd floor of the dealer's building. Looking down out the back door, we have a view of the street dealers working the area. The building visible on the right side of the photo also houses a local lapidary school - though we weren't allowed to visit it until over a year later.

Monday, June 14, 2010

the buying action begins - July '09

Workin' day II
We have now recouped from the flights and had a day to walk around Arusha so that we all can get acclimated to the city and the climate.The weather here is not much different that what we were experiencing back home in the US.

Our primary broker has arranged for us to view what is available this week. This is through a handful of local dealers, runners and cutting firms. Sometimes we end up with some nice surprises.... like this fabulous Tanzanite.


Nice juicy blue/purple Tanzanite trillion - beautiful stone, great look, but badly in need of a recut. We were really trying to focus on acquiring rough, so this was outside our thinking at the time. If I recall it was near 15cts or so. Maybe next trip.

So here's the two guys I'm traveling with. On the left is Peter Torraca of Houghton, New York. And on the right is Gene Flanigan from Millersburg, Pennsylvania. I think they are having some fun, but I should wait until later in the trip to see how they are doing.

Basically, every 5 to 10 minutes a fresh parcel shows up for us to review. And generally, we take turns on who goes first, but sometimes it really does not matter as we all have different interests. I tend to prefer the larger roughs, so many of the parcels were not a good fit for me. Whereas, other cutters have a different view of what they want to work on.

Here is a parcel of light-toned Grossular Garnets from the Lolatema Hills area just south of the Tanzanite One location near Mererani. The largest piece is about 2 grams, with many smaller goods that would not normally be suitable for me. I ended up with a small batch, and Peter cherry-picked some pieces as well. It finishes out ever so slightly richer in color than what you see here.

And now, the find of the day....

This, is a really premium parcel of pink to red Mahenge Spinels. They were not large crystals, but what color! Both Peter and Gene worked through this and made a nice score. Did I mention they were very pricey??

More to follow as we work through day III.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Summer 2009 - back in Tanzania

With some planning, I was able to get myself back into Tanzania for another buying trip. As it has been my preference over the years, I really like to tackle the more difficult travel situations with other like-minded 'gem people'. And so this summer I invited two of my friends to travel with me. They are both gem cutters and excellent at their craft, but this is their first time working in Africa.

On our first day, since we have a short wait to meet with our brokers, we take a tour of the city centre of Arusha. This allows us to 'get our legs', and shake off some of the jet lag.

As we move through the day, we come across an 'infamous' piece of signage that we laugh about as we walk the town.

Then, as head back to our hotel before lunch, one of the guys takes a photo of a street vendor directly across from our hotel.

As we work our way through town, we walk past buildings that were constructed in the 1950's and 60's when the British were still investing in the country. Independence came to Tanzania in the mid-60's, and there has been little re-investment into infrastructure since then.

Being in a tropical location, we find fruit is abundant - and it is everywhere.

We're still in our first day, and our brokers are near ready for us. So we are heading off to the building where most of the gem and rough trade are located. Along the way we are accosted by a multitude of street vendors who are hawking their wares - this one happens to be primarily maps. Of course.... I am sharing with him that I don't need a map that I already know my way around town. He chuckles to himself...... and I hear him say as I'm walking away "stupid muzungu".

Here you can see this really is an industrious area. This is early afternoon, and it appears everyone has something to do, or someplace to go.

As we get close to the broker's building, we can see some interesting additions to the architecture nearby.

We've now entered the building and have worked our way up to the second floor. As we wait for everyone to show up, we have a look around. Lots of activity on the street below, and it is either food related, or gem related.

And then we watch as some kind of deal is 'going down'. If this was in a city in north america, we may be thinking some other kind of 'deal'.

As I move into the next post, we will begin to see some more action with regards to actual rough buying.

Preparing for next African trip - completing final projects

4.75ct Zircon custom designed pear shape

3.75ct Chrome Green Tourmaline triangle outline

8.72ct Golden Scapolite emerald cut with a barion-style pavilion

1.36ct Tsavorite Garnet in an asymmetrical trillion