Gem Hunt and Sharing the Rough: Going to Africa

My arm hurts, and I’m kind of happy about it. I just had Yellow Fever and Polio subcutaneous vaccines, the third and fourth–or more, I forget–in a series of inoculations. The reason? In January, I am going to Africa to visit gemstone mines in Kenya and Tanzania.

If you read this blog, you already know that I am interested not just in gems, but where they are from. So, I get to go straight to the source and see where some of the world’s most incredible Ruby, Sapphire (in a rainbow of colors), Spinel, Tanzanite, Garnet, Zircon, Chrysoberyl, Tourmaline, Quartz, plus Apatite, Scapolite, Danburite and others come from. I want to see the whole story, from the beautiful to the poignant. And I get to take you with me.

Roger Dery Gemstone Cutting Images

Gemstone cutting images, courtesy of Roger Dery.


What makes this trip take on a shimmery, once-in-a-lifetime quality is that I’m not just going to Africa, but I am going with a film crew. Yes, you read that right. I get to see the gem trade up close and in person, as part of a jewelry documentary film Sharing the Rough. Sharing the Rough will be a film about jewelry, from the East African mine to the final, finished sparkle. And with all the human touch and drama imparted to the stones along the way.
Sharing the Rough

Sharing the Rough Film.


I am traveling with Roger Dery, respected gemstone cutter and dealer, teacher, traveler and philanthropist. “This is Africa” is Roger’s (trademarked?) phrase that we may be using a lot while we’re there. In other words, this is not your average pleasure trip. Electricity is optional and frequently a non-starter. There may be physical dangers. There most certainly will be eye-opening emotional encounters.
Golden Scapolite from Tanzania

This Golden Scapolite from Tanzania won Roger Dery an AGTA Spectrum Cutting Edge Award in 2007. Photo courtesy of Roger Dery.


To prepare, Roger has sent no fewer than 12-13 emails so far, outlining and detailing everything from visa applications to inoculations to hydration at 4500 feet above sea level. There might have to be a whole post devoted to What Would Monica Wear: Africa Edition (you should know that I don’t wear beige. Ever.).

Rough gemstones

Rough gemstones.


I can’t wait to send missives–everyday, hopefully–about life in Africa, our experiences, and the look into the miner’s lives. I say hopefully everyday, as that will depend on the vagaries of our situation there. I may be patching into my Macbook Air via InReach satellite, plugged into a field generator. I want you to feel like you are with me, a vicarious experience. But without, you know, the shots and malaria pills, and the massive time difference.

Share Your Thoughts!