After a very long series of flights and delays, my wife and I arrived at the show on Thursday afternoon. In traditional African style, the show did start late, so I didn't miss much. Exhibiting at the show were around 40 vendors, with a mix of rough, cut and minerals. My main interest was of course the rough stones. Overall, I'd say that the initial asking prices for most stones was about double what I had just paid in Tucson back in Feb 2012. As the show developed it seems expectations lowered and prices started coming down.
Most dealers were initially interested in selling entire large parcels, which were clearly out of my range. The first day I did pick up some pieces of Tanzanite.
One of the highlights of the show was the dinners in back of the hotels. The AIGJMF had set up beautiful tents and had arranged for a variety of entertainment each night. On the first night were a very entertaining performances of traditional African dances and music.
What proved to be very fun for us was seeing so many familiar faces from other shows. We ended up having dinner the first night with Steve from New Era Gems, Bill Larson and his son from Pala Internationa and Steve Avery a gem cutter. The next night we had dinner with David Pearl of East African Gems and Arnold Silverberg and his wife from AJSGEMS in Bangkok.
Both food and drinks were provided complimentary for those attending the show. The organizers really worked hard to put on a first class show. The only down side really was the very high prices being asked for by those exhibiting.
It was nice to meet up again with Roger Dery and of course my friend in Tanzania Jamal Mbarak.
The Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha was the site of the gem show, and also the hotel we stayed in. A beautiful hotel by any standards, with excellent service and accommodations. A little bit outside the city, but a perfect place for an event such as this.
Friday morning I did buy some more Tanzanite at the show along with some Tsavorite garnet and Winza Ruby/Sapphire. In the afternoon I went back to the office of a friend Jamal in the city of Arusha. Jamal had some very nice natural blue Tanzanite, Umba Sapphire, and some interesting Zircon from Mozambique. The zircon was a nice light pink/lavender color that I think will cut very nice stones. We spent the afternoon with Jamal as he brought in some miners to show us their goods.
Sunday after the show, they had arranged for a number of mine tours. We elected to go to the green garnet (tsavorite) mine in Lemshuko. The mine is about a 2.5 to 3 hour rough drive outside of Arusha. Once we got about halfway we were joined by a few armed guards in a Toyota Pickup. This mine was run by Eric and Mark Saul a few years ago, the current group mining is working in tunnels rather than open pit as it was done by Swala.
This is some of the open pit mining area previously worked.
Currently the miners are working a tunnel that is 150 meters long into the side of one of the hills. The photos below show the start of the mine, and what was pulled out the past week.
As the rock is chipped away from the tunnel it is hauled out in sacks, then examined for any gem material outside the mine.
The picture above represents about a weeks worth of work. Not much gem material here, actually only one stone that could be faceted. I asked the guy running the mine how often they find a facet grade stone, and he told me about every 2 or 3 weeks
This was the only facet grade stone found from the work from the previous week. The stone had several large fractures and would need to be cut into 3 or 4 small stones.
The small village above was located near the mine site.
We spent a few hours at this shopping center in town. All locally made artwork and trinkets. I think prices were adjusted based on the customer.
The man above, is actually a pretty famous wood carver, who carves mostly in ebony wood. He actually had a photo in his shop with Bill Clinton who had purchased one of his pieces. We ended buying several of his carvings, including a rather large bust, that was a real chore getting home on the plane.
We stopped at a barbecue place along the road and bought some meat. No idea what it was, could have been anything from the bush, had it cooked up and brought it back for the dogs. The local guys must have thought we were crazy buying meat to feed the dogs. The poor things were starved and ate it down in a nano second.