Seeking Ruby and Sapphire in MalawiPlay
In this video, you will experience the “warm heart of Africa,” as GIA field gemologists visit Malawi’s Chimwadzulu ruby mine for the very first time. Although this is one of the continent’s oldest-known ruby and sapphire deposits—discovered in 1958—it’s largely unknown to the gem trade or public at large.
Malawi is one of the smallest African nations, bounded by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique to the east, south, and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by the waters of Lake Malawi.
“I read about Chimwadzulu a very long time ago…and this is a place I’ve wanted to come to for a very long time,” says GIA Field Gemologist Vincent Pardieu. The deposit’s geology is very complex, he explains, and the mine’s sapphires provide a key to understanding it. Although the Chimwadzulu deposit is known for ruby and orange sapphire, it produces mainly pale green, blue, and yellow sapphire.
As always, a core goal of the expedition is to procure samples for GIA’s research programs, but understanding the gems as part of the geology and the mining operation—along with the people who labor to produce it—is also tremendously important. “When you look at the stone, you don’t view it the same way when you have the story of the stone, too,” explains Pardieu.
The country is struggling to develop, and ethical stewardship of its gem resources is a part of the solution. Some of the possible benefits to local communities are a hospital and a school funded by the Chimwadzulu mining operation—a consortium between Nyala Mines Ltd. and Columbia Gem House, Inc.
Pardieu and his team were able to visit the facility and observe the difference it makes. “In many African countries, the right access to education and health is really a luxury,” remarks Pardieu. “…you’re bringing to these people what is normal for us, but a luxury for them.” They also visited the elementary school, gaining a snapshot of the country’s youth and their boundless potential if Malawi’s resources can be harnessed for the good of all its citizens.
This GIA Field Expedition (FE56) took place in September 2014. Besides Pardieu, the participants were cameraman Didier Gruel and field gemologist trainee Stanislas Detroyat.