I have an exciting project I’m finally ready to announce officially–ANZA Gems!
Many of you know that I have traveled to East Africa several times since 2014. You can read about my adventures going into a mine, buying rough gemstones, and why you need to pack toilet paper.
I was struck by the passion and perseverance of the people working in the gem industry in Tanzania and Kenya when I visited with the film crew of the jewelry documentary Sharing the Rough. After the trip, Africa was constantly on my mind and in my heart. A few months later I had an epiphany: I could connect the dots from the gem dealers to faceters to gorgeous designers, and create capsule collections using the gems. Even better, a percentage of sales could go to schools where the gems originate, feeding a circle of development. More education leads to more skilled Africans in the gem trade there and means that they keep more of the value in their communities. I chose the name ANZA Gems: “anza” means “begin” in Swahili. We have to start somewhere.
The journey begins with the rough gemstones…
Rough gems were purchased in Tanzania and in Kenya, from gem dealers vetted through people with years of experience. I also spent a fair amount of time in the bush there, crawling into mines. Part of the goal is to create a totally transparent chain from the dirt to the finished jewelry. Tsavorite, spinel, aquamarine, iolite, rhodolite garnet, Umba sapphires, tourmalines, Tanzanite…I bought them all. Literally every hue in the rainbow, some looking like rough rocks, some like shiny pebbles attracting the magpie that I am. Along the way, I had guidance from master gem cutter and experienced African traveler Roger Dery. My model is to buy as close to the source as possible, even though there is some risk buying gems rough: you never truly know what you’re going to get as a finished gem.
Revealing the beauty through faceting…
Once imported, with taxes and duty paid, the stones went to several gem cutters to facet: Roger Dery, Peter Torraca, Beth Stier and Ryan Quantz. This is where rocks are transformed into gems and become something to admire and covet. It takes skill, experience and some mathematics (stay in school, kids!) to coax out the angles that result in scintillating beauty. The results were breathtaking.
ANZA Gems designer jewelry capsule collections
Several designers at the forefront of American jewelry design participated for this inaugural collection: Jennifer Dawes, Vicente Agor, Rebecca Overmann, and Erika Winters. Each designer tells a story through their designs and each has a distinctive voice and palette. They all worked with recycled or fair-mined materials around these ANZA gems.
The result, as you can see, is beyond my wildest imagination of what this project could look like. The beauty of the jewelry can be admired from a purely aesthetic standpoint. But truly knowing where each of these jewels originated, their traceable journey, and the end impact is nothing short of thrilling.
This is jewelry that is more than the sum of its intrinsic parts. The jewelry in this collection represents beautiful gems and jewels that make a difference in the lives of the people who live and work in Tanzania and Kenya. It also supports gem cutters and independent jewelry designers who are making jewelry from responsible materials right here in the United States. US-made faceted gems and finished jewelry are becoming a rarity, and we need to support and preserve that.
Now the jewelry is ready for the next chapter of its story…
This jewelry is available for purchase through our company, ANZA Gems. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ten percent of the sale of the jewelry will go to a primary school in Tanzania, and a couple of gem trade schools in both Tanzania and Kenya. These are schools that we visit multiple times a year to monitor progress. Our dream is for the East African gem community to collaborate and fully participate in the global gem trade, including gem sorting, grading, faceting and even jewelry production. I’d like to thank Meghan Dahl, Roger and Ginger Dery, Okeno, Erika Winters, Peter Walberg (the logo is gorgeous!), Vicente Agor, Jennifer Dawes, Rebecca Overmann, Peter Torraca, Beth Stier, Ryan Quantz, so many supportive friends and family, and especially my husband Dave for listening, believing, and making this a reality. Dreams really do come true.