This week's obsession: travel and gemstones

This week's obsession: travel and gemstones
Perhaps you are already planning your trip to some exotic country and why not try your hand at buying some local gemstones. There are many amazing countries to visit...

...that is at the source of spectacular gemstones. For example, Tanzanite is only found in northern Tanzania. It is one of the rarest gemstones on earth, and one local geologist estimates its supply may be entirely depleted within the next 20 years.  Excited? So what do you need to know before heading out and living your own "Jewell of the Nile" adventure? We have some questions and tips to consider.

There are countries that produce gemstones that are completely unique to that region and they can only be found in that one place in the world. As I mentioned, tanzanite can only be found in a six-mile stretch of the earth in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania; a special type of diaspore named zultanite (now known as csarite) can only be found in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey, and Larimar is only sourced in the Dominican Republic. Australia has a unique range of opals, some specific to a region.

The most important thing is: "Know Before You Go". Doing your research is the best thing you can do to get the best out of your trip and avoid making unfortunate mistakes.

How can I spot a fake?
Tip: If you are not a gemmologist yourself, definitely ask for a gem certificate from a reputable gem lab.

Am I going to the right country?
Tip: Check the rules before you leave, for example, it’s forbidden to take raw uncut gemstones out of Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Myanmar.

Where should I buy my gemstones?
Tip: Visiting a gem market is a great adventure but be prepared for the hustle and bustle and have your wits about you.  If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is and you should walk away.

Top Gemstone Countries:


First of all watch The Jewell of the Nile before heading out to this luscious, beautiful South American country! Brush up in your "Gracias!" (thank you) and "Por Favor"(please), you will be amazed how much that will be appreciated.

Colombian emeralds account for 70–90% of the world’s emerald market and are said to be among the purest emeralds in the world.

The most important thing to be aware of when buying a Colombian emerald is the quality of the stone versus the price. Those that cost very cheap are younger emerald formations which are more opaque and light in colour. On the other hand, the emeralds that are going to have you parting with thousands of pounds formed over almost 40 million years and are translucent and dark green. Even a tiny little stone of this quality is going to cost a minimum of a few hundred pounds.

While the colour of the stone is key in determining the price, it’s also important to inspect the stone for inclusions – such as air bubbles or internal crystals – which can lower the price. A lighter stone with fewer inclusions than a darker one is likely to cost more, in spite of their respective colours.

The best place to buy emeralds in Colombia is undoubtedly the emerald market in Bogota. Bogota has a dedicated Emerald District near La Candelaria neighbourhood, between 12th Street and 6th Avenue, and this is definitely the best place to buy emerald jewellery in the city. There is also the Emerald Trade Centre of Bogotá on Avenida Jiménez, which is a great place to pick up a good quality stone. If you do decide to buy emeralds or emerald jewellery in Colombia, then you can rest assured that you will be buying a beautiful stone from the home of the world emerald trade.

Given that you are in a jewellery/gemstone mood already, you might want to take a small peek at Bogotá’s Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) is the most popular (and possibly the most interesting) museum in the city, and its home to more than 30,000 pieces of gold. There are three floors filled with artifacts collected from Colombia’s pre-Hispanic cultures, each focusing on a different theme.

The food is delicious and do not forget to go dancing and enjoy their wonderful Cumbia music!


Besides, the volatile political history of this amazing country, Myanmar (formerly Burma) is famous for its rubies and their excellent fake rubies. So definitively, try to buy from a government registered store, get a certificate and stay away from the gem markets, however, the food and trinket markets are amazing, so do visit those.

At one point in time, the ruby mines closed and anyone who had a ruby from Myanmar more than tripled their value just for this reason. And although the mines have been reopened the prices have stayed high. Rubies are expensive, period. If you think you are getting a very good deal, think again. If you can get a ruby for the fraction price of what you have seen another similar ruby, you indeed are getting a top-of-the-line very beautiful red glass bauble.

True story, a client of mine went off to get her "ruby" at a fraction of what we were selling it to her, only to come back and have us set a beautiful piece of glass. On a positive note, she had an amazing time.


Romantic, magical, fun Carnaval and legendary beaches is what you have to look forward to when visiting Brazil. There is another legend other than Pele coming out of Brazil. 

Paraiba tourmaline is named after its location, Paraiba, a small town in Northern Brazil. While tourmaline has been known as a gemstone variety for hundreds of years, this particular vibrant neon variety was only discovered in 1989. The mine yielded Paraibas for five years, then production stopped and the mines closed.

The electric colour of this gem will hypnotize you and steal your heart! It seems to hold all the magic and vibrancy of Carnaval in it's little heart. And to make sure you don't get your little heart broken, it’s important to ensure that you’re purchasing from a trustworthy source as some unscrupulous retailers can try to pass off imitations as the real thing. Ask for certification and if the stone has undergone any treatments.

Paraiba tourmalines are among the most expensive tourmaline varieties. Prices can vary depending on the quality and size of the stone, but in general, a high-quality Paraiba tourmaline will cost thousands of pounds.

Samba your way around Brazil, suntan in Ipanema, right next to Leblon, Rio's posh neighbourhood. Visit Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf) sure it is a long way up but did you know you can paraglide your way down? You can also take the cable car if you don't want to ruin your hair.

I would definitively recommend visiting H. Stern. They have a fabulous tour where you can follow the whole process from rough to fabulous! FYI Hans Stern was a Brazilian jeweller and businessman. He was dubbed the "king of the coloured gems" by The New York Times and acclaimed by the international media.


Wildlife, beaches, friendly people, fascinating cultures, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Mt Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Archipelago – Tanzania has all these and more wrapped up in one adventurous, welcoming package. Oh, and of course it is the home birthplace of TANZANITE!!

It’s not just the migration that’s great in Tanzania – though the wildlife (and specifically the game of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater) is what draws most visitors, there’s much more to discover in this diverse East African nation.

Roam around the old streets of Stone Town and relax on the palm-fringed beaches of Zanzibar; spot birds around Lake Victoria or chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains National Park; dive the clear waters around Mafia island; or climb Africa’s mightiest mountain, Kilimanjaro – all 5,895m of it. Other must  great outings:


  • Follow the huge herds of Katavi National Park
  • Discover Tanzania’s Indian Ocean-side national park – Saadani – and it’s largest reserve, Selous
  • Visit Tanzania on an overland expedition through East Africa
  • Climb Africa’s highest mountain – take the trek up Kilimanjaro
  • Walk with the Maasai over the plains of northern Tanzania
  • Stroll the spice island of Zanzibar
  • Follow the wildebeest as they set out on the Great Migration across the Serengeti


Wanderlust tips
Smile and greet people with a friendly “Jambo!” to kick off any exchange. Learning a few words of Swahili will help break the ice in many situations. Try to stay relaxed and maintain a sense of humour, particularly when dealing with transport – punctuality isn’t as important here as it might be in your home country.

Tanzanite is only found in northern Tanzania. It is one of the rarest gemstones on Earth, and one local geologist estimates its supply may be entirely depleted within the next 20 years. The precious stone's appeal lies in its variety of hues, including green, red, purple, and blue.

  • 7 km (4.3 mi) long and 2 km (1.2 mi) wide) is the approximate area in which Tanzanites are found

*1960s when Tanzanite was discovered in commercial quantities

*2nd most popular blue gemstone only after the blue sapphire

  • 600 degrees Celsius is the temperature vanadium-bearing zoisite is heated, so the oxidation state of the vanadium is changed and that change causes or improves the blue colour.
  • 109 million carats is the estimated total tanzanite reserves according to a study, published in 2018 by the National Bureau of Statistics of Tanzania.

Sri Lanka

Travelling to Sri Lanka is an adventure in itself. This beautiful island in the sun is flanked by golden beaches from all sides while its jade green interiors hide scenic mountains, luscious rain forests, abundant wildlife, and a rich and vibrant culture. A visit can prove overwhelming as travelers never lack entertainment, but planning your trip is always a good idea, so here are 10 things you absolutely must do while in the country.


  • Hit the beach
  • Explore wildlife
  • Visit the rainforest
  • Explore the 8th Wonder 0 Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress located in the Matale district of Sri Lanka is truly a marvelous sight. 
  • Visit the Dutch fort
  • Frolic with elephants
  • Go whitewater rafting
  • Whale and dolphin watching
  • Visit the temple of Tooth Relic
  • Visit the Tea Country

And of course, shop for gemstones!

In addition to being known as The Spice Island, Sri Lanka is also referred to as the Island of Gems. Indeed, some of the most famous and beautiful blue sapphires in the world came from the alluvial gem mines of Sri Lanka. Even today, these gemstones, and several others, still come from the country, with the star sapphire being the most beautiful.

No trip to the island is complete without a visit to the many retail shops selling gems and jewelry in Colombo and Galle. If you are a jewelry designer and gem cutter, then a visit straight to the source in Rathnapura is a must.

Jewellery production in Sri Lanka has evolved over the years, adapting to a younger generation. Classic gem-cutting and jewellery manufacturing follow international guidelines to create the best gems in the region. Moonstones, tourmaline, cat’s eye, and more are available for visitors to buy as single stones or in all sorts of wearable jewellery. A favourite gem miner, cutter and jewellery manufacturer is Tash Gems & Jewellery. They mine the rough stones, cut them, and expose a special kind of sapphire to heat, which causes it to turn a more vibrant blue.

You can find other coloured sapphires in Sri Lanka, as well as, rubies, alexandrite, amethyst, and many more.