VOL. 22, #1, Spring, 2004

Tucson '04, Collecting Brazilian Alexandrite, International Market Updates, Notable Quotes, Collectors Corner, Auctions, Gemstone Price Trends:1975-2003, In The News

  Apr 7, 2004   admin


Tucson '04
By Robert Genis

More than 36 individual shows at 40 different venues comprised this years Tucson Gem Shows which ran between January 30 and February 15.

Originally a strictly gem and mineral show, the Tucson scene has morphed into an anything goes international event. For example, there were nearly 100 African dealers selling items such as furniture and cultural objects. More than 4000 exhibitors displayed in the community center, hotels, motels, tents, warehouses and along the local freeway.

It was estimated over 50,000 buyers were in attendance.

Move North
While most of the shows remain concentrated around the Downtown area, the northern foothills saw more activity. This year, the Westin La Paloma and Westward Look Resort hosted mineral and jewelry trade shows.

The Westward Look show included 23 exhibitors who specialized in high-end minerals. La Paloma was the home to the high-end by invitation only Centurion Jewelry trade show. The 100 exhibitors showcased the latest fashions for jewelry buyers.

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show celebrated its 50th (Golden) anniversary this year. They exhibited the largest collection of gold ever displayed in the US.

The show highlights included:

* The gold of the SS Central America. In September 1857, the SS Central America was bringing 3 tons of California Gold Rush gold to New York City. The ship sank in a hurricane about 160 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C., in 8,000 feet of water. More than 400 people died. In the late 1980s, the ship was found and much of the gold recovered. The largest gold bar, named Eureka weighs 80 pounds, sold for $8 million in 2001 and was on display at the gem show.

 * The original Gadsden Purchase document (where the United States paid Mexico $10 million for a strip of territory what is now southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona) from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. was on display. Also, Twelve exhibits of minerals extracted from the Gadsden Purchase territory were shown.

The Main Shows
Manning House has dropped out of contention as a diamond show and now displays high end art. The big three remain the AGTA, GJX, and GLDA shows. However, GLDA is moving next year to the exclusive Star Pass Resort in the western foothill area. This has caused a great deal of consternation among the GLDA exhibitors. Many dealers want to keep the finer gems centrally located and fear if people have to find Star Pass they will not visit the new location. It is rumored the Idar-Oberstein dealers have already decided not to move with the GLDA. Instead, the GJX will expand their tent to accommodate the dealers who want to stay downtown.

A major dealer in demantoid garnet, spessartite orange garnet and Nigerian rubellite stated, "The first day of the show was the best and traffic at the AGTA hit a new record. People were buying aggressively and all qualities of gemstones were selling. Consumer confidence and the stock market are both up. I am really upbeat about '04 and my sales were definitely up from '03."

Bear Williams of Bear Essentials of Jefferson City, Missouri stated, "We had a good show and feel positive about '04. The gem market is definitely improving. We heard traffic was up about 10% from last year's AGTA show." They believe buyers are still on the conservative side and most of their sales were under $5,000. According to Williams, "The big hitter collectors have not returned to the market, yet." They mostly sold "bread and butter material."

A colored diamond dealer stated, "We had a decent show neither good nor bad. The traffic was consistent and similar to last years show. The buyers seemed pretty serious and there remains a great interest in fancy colors." Most of his sales were between $2,000-$10,000. He also sold "exotic, weird diamonds" to jewelers for their collectors. He reports yellows and pinks remain hot and blue and greens are almost impossible to obtain. Browns remain difficult to obtain because dealers are buying the color for high pressure treatments.

According to Alan Roup of G.E.M. Namibia, Jerusalem, Israel said, "Our sales were equal to last year. Probably the hottest request was for 6 mm round mandarin garnets. We sold out soon and probably lost sales because of lack of goods." Regarding his mandarin garnet mine, Roup stated, "production is way down and we might not be able to produce anything for 6 more months. We have come to an area where it is too dangerous to mine."

A Burmese spinel dealer stated "We have had our best show ever." He believes this is a direct result of the Burma ban. He continues, "People want to load up on Burma goods now because they fear they might not get the goods next year. Many people complained our prices were too high, but we are paying insane prices for stones in Burma. It is really hard to purchase and last month we saw a 6 carat pink spinel in Burma that was not negotiable at $25,000."

A Burmese dealer at the GLDA brought his Burma goods into the US before the Burmese ban on imports. He is unsure if he is going to return to the Tucson Gem Show next year because he is taking his Burma goods out of the country. He said, "I came with high expectations. The Japanese market is hot now because of the increasing yen which makes my goods inexpensive there. I expected this years show to be phenomenal. It was simply better than last year."

Gemstone Trends
There were no major gemstone finds introduced in Tucson this year. However, a new pocket of Brazilian alexandrite was seen at the show. They change from a raspberry red to a blue green color. No one gem dominated sales this year, although Russian green demantoid and Brazilian alexandrite were in demand. There was some supply of Nigerian Paraiba-like blue tourmaline. This market remains firmly controlled by the German dealers and prices are higher than last year.

A new discovery of sunstone from Asia was evident. Interestingly, one dealer had an alexandrite from Mong Hsu, Burma. One of the most difficult stones to buy at this years show were gem red clean Burma spinels because most of the material was pinkish. Also, very little unheated gem red Mogok Burma rubies were seen at the show. There were ample supplies of heated Mong Hsu ruby and the new Nyala ruby from Malawi was seen. Supplies of Madagascar and Ceylon blue sapphire seemed good. Overall, prices were surprisingly strong.

Burma Ban
The controversy at the show this year was the Burma ban. It was surprising how many dealers had goods claiming to be Burmese. Most dealers seemed to abide by a "don't ask don't tell" policy. When entering the United States they simply wrote "ruby" on the custom declaration without mentioning the country of origin. Some dealers argued since they bought the rough in Burma but had the stones heated and cut in Thailand, they had substantially transformed the material enough to change the country of origin. The major gemstone organizations discussed forming a political action committee to get an exemption for gemstones from Burma. A major retailer is rumored to have stopped selling Burma goods because they are politically incorrect.

Heat vs. No Heat Issue
Not so many years ago, people who searched for non-heated stones were restricted to the collector market. Now the desire for not heated or not enhanced gemstones seems to have taken over the entire market.

Dealers had special sections with large displays of supposedly not treated goods. Many of these stones are selling for double the premiums of heated stones. What is bothersome is that many of these stones are supposedly "proved" to be not heated or not enhanced came with unknown or foreign laboratory reports. As one dealer said, "I have never seen so much junk or trash paper" in one place.

Some dealers had outstanding shows, some moderate and some bad shows.

This year we heard a wide range of comments, however, the spirits of the dealers and sales of most exhibitors were dramatically up from 2003.

A New Pocket of Brazilian Alexandrite
by Robert Genis

Alexandrite from any source is one of the world's rarest gems.

Reportedly, this gem was discovered on Czar Alexander the Second's birthday in Russia in 1830, and hence its name. This is one of the few gems that actually change color. The stone appears green like an emerald in natural daylight, and ruby red in artificial light.

Interestingly, these were the colors of the Russian Imperial Guard. The major deposits of alexandrite in the Ural mountains were depleted long ago. Tiffany was instrumental in marketing Russian alexandrites to Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tiffany liked to sell large alexandrites that were mounted as center stones. Most of these stones are in family vaults and are passed from generation to generation. These stones are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to buy today. Sometimes, Victorian jewelry can be found with smaller alexandrites.

Today, the main sources of alexandrite are Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania, India, Africa and Brazil. In 1987, a new find of alexandrite was discovered in Nova Era, Brazil. Until this find, Brazil had always been known as a producer of inexpensive gems. Presently, there is some new limited availability of these goods. A new person has taken over the old Hematita mine and they are mining deeper into the mountain. No one knows how much more the deposit can produce but the material presently is high quality.

Color Change
A color change gem is a stone that changes from one color to another color depending upon the light source. Color changes are complicated science. In a nutshell, the color change which occurs in alexandrite is probably the result of the presence of chromium and its effect on the way light is absorbed and reflected.

In an ideal perfect world, alexes change from red to green. However, this is not usually the case. They tend to change from a brownish reddish raspberry to a grayish bluish green. Some stones only partially change color. What you are looking for is a dramatic 100% change. When buying alexandrites, remember the color change is the most important factor in determining the value of the gem. What was amazing about this find is many of the top Brazilian gems have a dramatic color change. Although they did not change from ruby red to emerald green, they change from a pleasing raspberry red/pink to an indicolite blue/green color. As a general rule, if the blue side is good the red side is good. If the blue side is greenish, the red side is a lighter raspberry pink. Beware of alexandrites that "bleed", or you can see the two colors at the same time under a single light source. You are also trying to minimize gray or brown in these stones. Clarity is a minor issue, as long as the inclusions do not affect the gem's durability. Although the color change represents the majority of the value of a color change gemstone, do not forget that brilliancy, cutting and finish also affect the gem's final price. The more vivid the colors of a color change, the more valuable the gemstone. Ideally, you want a dramatic color change with a medium tone and intense color.


The two main markets for the material are manufacturers and collectors. Natural alexandrites are one of the most sought after gems by collectors.


Prices for the new material range the entire gamut. For example, jewelry manufacturers can obtain the material in 2 mm rounds for only $250 per carat. Top gem carat sized alexandrites range frrom $5000-$10,000 per carat. Fine and large 5-8 carat sized alexandrites can easily reach $25,000 per carat. An 11.08 alexandrite sold for $382,680 or nearly $35,000 per carat to an Asian buyer in 1998 at Christie's. Any alexandrite over 10 carats is beyond rare. The most famous alexandrite is the 66 carat Sri Lankan gem currently in the Smithsonian Institute. These stones are most commonly cut into ovals or cushions with an occasional round or emerald cut.

Brief Gemology

Gems that show unique optical effects are known as phenomenal stones.

Alexandrite is a phenomenal stone and a gem variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. It is a hard stone with a Mohs of 8.5 and no special care is needed in handling the material.

Imitations and Treatments

Many in the jewelry industry have had clients bring in "supposed" natural large alexandrites into their stores. Usually the stone arrives with a great story of how it was purchased years before overseas and the stone is worth undoubtedly a great deal of money. In most cases, however, the stones are actually synthetic color-change sapphires colored by vanadium. These synthetic color-change sapphires have been made since the early 1900's and are only worth worth few dollars per carat.

While it is unusual to find a treated alexandrite, sometimes oiling is seen. Of more concern is the fact excellent synthetics do exist. Consider an independent lab report for an expensive alexandrite.


This is an excellent stone to collect for your portfolio. if you have sufficient funds, we recommend this gemstone now while there is some production. The last supply was short-lived.

International Market Updates


US Secretary of State Colin Powell recently suggested that the US market would remain closed to imports from Burma. Under the legislation, the import ban must be renewed each year and expires after three years. The law requires the Secretary of State to report to Congress about the efficacy of the sanctions 90 days before their renewal date in late July.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's gem production has been falling. New gem lands are soon be auctioned in plantation areas in an attempt to revamp dwindling gem supplies. The land will be primarily around river beds. The new move of legalizing river bed mining is also an attempt to curb illegal river bed and river bank mining. This practice is prevalent in rural areas, which takes place hastily and ends up creating environmental damage.

Notable Quotes

"Tired of treatments, more dealers were going back to nature than ever before this year, offering certified unheated sapphire and ruby. While some retailers were quicker to embrace this idea than others - especially at a price premium of 30 to 50 percent - it's a strong niche market. With fine-quality unheated corundum being so rare, it may never be more than that, but the concept has strong appeal. "
 Morgan Beard, Editor Colored-Stone March/April 2004

"Tanzanite in general is not rare, but fine quality tanzanite is a thousand times more rare than diamonds."
Joanne Smollan, African Gem Resources - iafrica.com Mar 23, 2004

Collectors Corner

Emeralds and Infrared Spectra

A method of identifying an emerald's country of origin was announced in 2000 by researchers at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. They showed the oxygen isotope ratio in an emerald is characteristic of the region it was mined. The downside was measuring the ratios required expensive equipment and vaporizing a tiny amount of the gem, which was not popular with the gem owners. Now the researchers have unveiled a new method that solves these problems.

The new procedure is non-destructive and looks for lines in emerald spectra that correspond to known samples. The group collected samples from 46 emerald mines worldwide and found that their spectra fell into five different groups that corresponded to geographical regions. Even within a group there were differences between individual mines. The researchers have already used the method to show that a supposedly Colombian emerald for sale at a gem fair in Basle, Switzerland, was in fact from Afghanistan. The team is now discussing the possibility of licensing the technology to the Colombian government, as part of an initiative by the government agency for education and training to establish a gemologists' training center in Bogotá.

Gemstone Guitar

C.F. Martin & Co.'s recently built its millionth guitar with diamonds, emeralds and intricate pearl and abalone inlays. The company crafted the guitar to celebrate its 171-year history. Martin has made guitars for Eric Clapton and Johnny Cash. The cost to build the guitar has not been released. However, the company is offering 50 less intricate guitars based on the milestone instrument for $100,000 each.

(A standard Martin D-45 sells for $7,979.) The millionth instrument contains 141 gemstones, including 65 diamonds; ivory, copper, silver, and yellow and white gold; a portrait of the company founder, and angels and cherubs cavorting with Martin-styled instruments. The back is made of an ultra-rare Brazilian rosewood and the top is made of spruce.



The Important Jewels auction on February 24, 2004 was held in St. Moritz. They sold $15.3 million or about 85% of the 387 lots offered.

A rectangular cut, 81.21 carat, D colored, VS1 clarity diamond sold for $2.2 million or $27,250 per carat. A 5.11 and 1.13 pear-shaped fancy, vivid blue diamonds, SI2 clarity sold together for $1.6 million or about $255,000 per carat. A 20.62 carats oval-shaped fancy, vivid yellow colored, IF clarity diamond sold for $1.2 million or $57,500 per carat.


Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oil tycoon, has bought The Forbes Collection of Fabergé collection of nine Faberge eggs. The eggs were collected by Malcolm S. Forbes, the former publisher and editor of Forbes magazine. He began collecting the items in the 1960s and continued until his death in 1990. Only 50 Imperial Easter Eggs are known to have been created by the House of Fabergé. The collection includes the very first Imperial Egg, the Hen Egg and the last Easter egg, the Renaissance Egg. It also includes the Rosebud Egg, the Coronation Egg and the Fifteenth Anniversary Egg. The others are the Lilies of the Valley Egg, the Cuckoo Egg, the Orange Tree Egg and the Order of St. George Egg. Experts guess the selling cost was around $100 million. Vekselberg plans to make the collection available to the Russian public in some way, probably exhibiting the collection at the Kremlin or the State Hermitage Museum.

Gemstone Price Trends: 1975-2003


In The News

Hold everything: keeping valuables safe at home.
By Holly Hubbard Preston (International Herald Tribune)
Saturday, January 24, 2004

Many collectors constantly inquire about how to keep their gem collections safe. Here is an excellent article regarding the various theories of protecting your assets. (ED)

Leon Cronkright has seen it all. As a dealer in gold coins in San Diego for the past 30 years, he has catered to all types of investors, neophytes as well as sophisticates, at all points in the investing cycle.

But one thing has remained constant: Despite warnings from him and the best advice of insurance agents and law enforcement officials, Cronkright's clients often insist on storing at least a portion of their valuable holdings at home, rather than in the safe-deposit vault of the local bank.

Although Cronkright does not recommend home storage, he has felt compelled to look into the best way to do it so that he can advise clients - and, perhaps, prepare them for the worst-case scenario.

"I tell them to have two safes," Cronkright said. "A cheap one that is filled with a wad of cash, some papers and costume jewelry that is placed in a master bedroom, and then a second safe that is in a less obvious place where you put your valuables."

Whether it is paranoia over an imminent crash in the financial markets or the seeming peace of mind that comes from having ready access to one's hard assets, home storage is a popular concept - and one that is likely to grow.

U.S. Bancorp, a Minneapolis-based investment house, noted in December

2003 that the global security industry generates more than $120 billion in annual revenue with personal safety products like safes, vaults, locks and fire suppression equipment accounting for about $19 billion of those sales. While it said that the industry had been growing at about 7 percent since the 1990's, Piper Jaffray projected annual growth of 8.5 percent or more over the next few years, driven by fears of crime, terrorism and other security threats.

That heightened risk profile does not seem to be deterring people from home storage.

Often the reasons are emotional. An American gemstone collector, who requested anonymity, made no apology for spending thousands of dollars on an in-home security system so that he could have ready access to his gems.

"I wanted to be able to take them out and enjoy them when I want and where I want," said the collector, who estimated his collection to be worth half a million dollars. So far, he still has the baubles.

The main problem with home storage, insurance and security experts agree, is that most people just do not do it right.

Jan Weyhrich, a senior personal property insurance executive for State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Illinois, said he was amazed at how many seemingly sophisticated clients entrusted their valuables, usually jewelry and currency, to a portable lock box stashed in a nightstand.

"That's the first place thieves look," he said - and, not coincidentally, the first reason many insurers would deny payment of a claim.

Other people concentrate on buying a top-of-the-line safe but neglect to protect the home in which it sits. John Sims, a manager in London for Chubb Group European Division, said that "no matter how good safe is, if someone walks in with a firearm or knife, what's in the safe is gone." Sims added that most of his clients - people who tend to have insurable hard assets in excess of $200,000 - come to him already in possession of at least one home safe.

But while a home safe may not be the ultimate line of defense against burglary, it can provide protection against fire - if it is rated resistant enough. That may not occur to owners of hard assets like coins, but it should: Cronkright said he had clients who stored coins at home in safes, thinking that they would be secure, only to have them melt down within the safe during a house fire. Owners of South African Krugerrands or Canadian Maple Leaf coins, for example, would suffer minimal loss, since the intrinsic value of the metal had not changed.

For those who had rare or numismatic coins, however, the losses were exponential. Once melted down, "a rare coin worth $100,000 is worth nothing but the ounce of gold it weighs," Cronkright said.

Insurance experts like Sims and Weyhrich insist that the best place for valuables is a bank safe-deposit box: fireproofed, behind a vault door, and patrolled by security personnel. Although banks do not typically carry insurance for the items in the boxes - "There's no way for them to know what's in there," Sims said - companies like Chubb will write cover for individuals.

And in the end, whether your insurer will cover you is probably the determining factor in whether you store your valuables at home.

Whatever the item, clients who want to store any meaningful quantity of rarities in their home will need to make a compelling argument in order to get Chubb to underwrite them.

"We have to understand the logic of why someone wants to have these items at home," Sims said.

Having ready access to precious jewelry or even a well-documented coin or stamp collection will very likely fly, Sims said, but having a small mint of ingots, bought for investment purposes, may not.

Clients who want to store assets that seem logical for a home safe can go along way to winning over their insurer by having a well-thought-out security system in place. That can be easier said than done and involves more than just buying a top-of-the-line safe - although that is a good start.

Prices for safes can vary wildly from a couple hundred dollars to $5,000 depending on their features and laboratory ratings. Safes are generally rated for the amount of time it takes a burglar to break in as well as for their resistance to fire. A home safe made by Browning of Morgan, Utah, among the most reputable names in the business, will cost $1,600 to $2,600 for its most popular model, the Browning Medallion gun safe. Gun safes, like those made by Browning, which is also a leading supplier of firearms, are often used for storing other assets.

"How you deploy a safe or vault is as important as selecting the device itself," said Duncan Long, author of several books on industrial and residential security. "What I found most in visiting crime scenes was that a person had bought an expensive safe and then not anchored it down and some gang of thieves had carried it off."

Likewise, a vaulted, steel-reinforced door, like one made by Browning, might cost about $1,500 to $2,500. But anyone paying that much needs to ensure that the door is sealing a room or closet that has also been properly reinforced. Such an installation might cost $10,000 or more.

No matter how expensive the device or prolific its bells and whistles, no safe or vault is impenetrable. Even Browning's highest-rated models for home use only offer about three hours of resistance to burglary tools. Fire-rated safes, which can be as much as 75 percent more expensive than those that are only burglar-tool rated, guarantee only so much heat tolerance.

Whether it be theft or fire, security experts agree that it is important not to rely solely on one device to safeguard your assets.

One expert recommends that his clients have at least two deterrents in place, in addition to the safe, which should be anchored into the ground and then reinforced by concrete.

The first, he said, is an in-home alarm system. Cost can vary but, as a benchmark, many analysts use the home system marketed by Brinks, which charges $20 to $30 a month for its remotely monitored system, on top of an installation fee that starts at $99 and can go much higher. If that seems steep, remember that insurers look for an alarm system along with the presence of a safe, Sims said.

Next, a thorough check for should be done for hazards that may not be obvious. In some communities, the police offer such a service; otherwise, private security consultants do, too. The security expert looks for windows covered by trees and hedges that could shelter a burglar doing surveillance. He also looks at the kind of locks on the windows; if they can be easily opened from the outside, that is good for family members who lock themselves out, and good also for burglars who want to get in.

Finding someone reputable to install a security system is critical, but checking credentials may not be all that easy. Government regulation of the global security industry, though an increasingly popular idea, is still in its infancy in many markets. Britain has moved ahead, creating the Security Industry Authority to license all security officers working for private companies as of next year. The license will include a criminal record check and a training requirement.

In the absence of government regulation, consumers can check with industry trade associations, which do fairly comprehensive checks on their members and their employees. Banks and local law enforcement officials can also be the source of referrals for reputable service providers.

These are two final points on which experts agree:

Avoid private security deposit companies, since they are not subject to the same regularly monitored security audits as government-regulated banks.

Forget about such things as cleaning bottles and fake juice containers as minisafes. "A criminal knows all the tricks people use to hide goods," an expert said, adding that he had seen houses torn to shreds, cleaning products included, by thieves looking for those hiding places.

The Gemstone Diggers of Erongo
All Africa.com, January 16, 2004
by Catherine Sasman, Usakos

This is a fascinating article about the hardships of mining for gemstones in Namibia, Africa (ED).

Ûi-ba aô means to look for a life, a living. This is the name given by small gemstone miners of the area just off the national road some 30 km from Usakos. The irony of the name is not lost to the occasional visitor, for the life that the people of the area have sought for themselves is everything else but easy. These miners literally have to dig up a living from hard rocks in the most difficult of circumstances - at the most basic of takings.

"It's a hard life," said George Skoppelitus, a small miner in the area for the last ten years. His eyes squint against the stark desert sun, his skin toughened like leather around his face, his hands rough from work.

"The small miners here are mountain people. We climb the mountains to look for gemstones," he said.

"We drive out towards the mountains but cannot go too close because the areas around the mountains belong to private farmers. The farms are camped along the mountains so we have to leave our cars outside the borders of the fencings because the farmers do not want us to drive on their property. We then walk with our equipment eight to 10 kilometers," said Skoppelitus.

* Often equipped with the bare minimum, these people roam the formidable rock-like mountain faces of the spectacular Spitzkoppe and the Erongo mountains for gemstones. Their equipment: a shovel, an iron bar, a hammer, and on their feet "normal sneakers".

"Some people go up with ropes, a portable generator and a drilling machine with enough hitting power to bite through the rocks. They pull up these heavy machines with the ropes," said Skoppelitus. "But the people with these machines are the ones that stand strong. They have enough money to buy the machines. The rest of us just climb with our basic tools."

Groups of miners - men and women - go out for three, four, five months at a time to forage the sides and tops of the mountains, camping on the slopes of the mountains, off farmers' land.

"After many years of digging up stones you get a sense of where you can find nice pieces," he continued.

"We dig holes next to rock faces and chisel away at the hard stones to get to the gems. There must be thousands of holes in the mountains by now," he said. The holes dug out in the mining process, he said, are not covered afterwards. "But the holes are out of sight for the most part because they are on the top of the mountains."


Accidents also happen often when people slip and fall. "But the worst accident we've had was two years ago when a digger was in the hole and a large rock fell on him, cutting his body in half.

"Yes, the work is very dangerous but you have no choice because it is your bread and butter," said Skoppelitus. "To do this you have to be a good mountain climber, one that takes chances where no-one else would."

The area is known for its aquamarine, tourmaline, crystals, topaz, and garnet (in red, green and yellow). "Most of the gemstones we find in the Erongo Mountains. The Spitzkoppe are nearly mined out," said Skoppelitus.


"The stones sell for from US $1.00, up to US $30.00. Sometimes you can even get up to US$7500 for a nice piece. But it is not allowed to sell the big stones here on the spot. Those have to go to the towns," said Skoppelitus.

And how do they decide on prices for the gemstones? "Many people do not quite know how to price the pieces or what the actual value is of a piece. Often we have to go with what tourists are willing to pay."

Skoppelitus said the 25 small miners of the area would prefer a standardized pricing of the pieces. "We have set up a Ûi-ba aô committee to look at these matters but it is in a mess because everyone does what he wants to. People do not take the committee seriously."

He also said that over the years more and more small miners have come to mine in the area. "The tables [where the stones are sold from] are becoming too many, just like the houses around here."

The houses the miners live in are nothing more than oddly constructed corrugated iron dwellings. These stretch the length of the flat arid plain along the national road. The tables from which they sell their goods are old plastic garden tables, and makeshift car tires with planks on top. With the stones on display in this way, the miners stand in the sun all day long without any shading, patiently waiting for a car to stop.

"The sun and wind chase away our customers. We would like to get organizations to help us to put up nice sign boards and toilets - not for ourselves but for the tourists - and shelters from the sun," said Skoppelitus.