Friday, February 7, 2014

Gemstones of Kenya

Kenya is famous for Tsavorite Garnet, and is also home to a host of other gems including amethyst, aquamarine, iolite, ruby and sapphire.

Ruby has been mined in Kenya for many years and a recent discovery near the town of Baringo in the Rift Valley is now providing the region with ruby and pink sapphires.
Tsavorite was first discovered in Kenya by Scottish Gemologist Campbell Bridges in 1970 after he traced his initial find of the gemstone in Tanzania across the border into Kenya’s Tsavor National Park. It was later named Tsavorite by Tiffany’s in honour of the location of its discovery.

Since the 1970s there have been dozens of discoveries of small deposits along a 120 mile long belt, but none have turned into full scale mines.
Most of the Tsavorite mining takes place in south-east Kenya in areas such as the Taita Hills, Voi, Kasigau, Migama and Kuranze. All of these mines are worked by small groups and gangs with nothing more than the most basic hand mining tools.
Towards the end of 2004, Kenya experienced its second amazing find of garnet. This time it was a colour change garnet. It looks a brownish green in daylight and a reddish pink when viewed under artificial light.

In the Taita Hills to the west of the Tsavo National Park, there is currently a flurry of mining activity for tourmaline, with colours ranging from golden yellow through to vivid greens.
Little has been done by the government to regulate the industry. Cartels control the gemstone markets - and their agents buy up the gems and take them to Nairobi, making a huge profit.

Miners are often poorly paid and locals are often cheated of their land and resources. They live hand to mouth and would sell the gemstones just to eat a meal. They sell minerals worth more than $1,000 on the world market for as little as 150 Kenyan shillings ($2) on the black market.