Unearthing Ruby and Sapphire in Malawi
GIA researchers explore one of the oldest and least documented mines in Africa
CARLSBAD, Calif. – Nov. 20, 2014 – In 1958, a ruby and sapphire deposit was discovered about 145 kilometers south of Malawi’s capital of Lilongwe on Chimwadzulu Hill. Although this is one of the oldest known gemstone deposits on the African continent, very little has been published about its production in recent years. In late September, GIA Field Gemologist Vincent Pardieu, videographer Didier Gruel and expedition guest Stanislas Detroyat journeyed to Malawi to collect samples for GIA research activities, and to document and share their findings from the deposit.
During the expedition, the team learned that rubies from the Chimwadzulu deposit are associated with amphibole, mica and feldspar. “We discovered that this deposit shares a very similar metasomatic type geological environment with the Montepuez ruby deposit located in nearby in Mozambique, as well as Winza, Tanzania and Didy, Madagascar,” said Pardieu. While the Chimwadzulu deposit is known for its rubies and orange sapphires, it produces mostly pale green, blue and yellow sapphires.
In 2008, Nyala Mines Ltd. began to work the deposit, while Columbia Gem House Inc. took charge of cutting, marketing and selling of the stones. In 2013, Malawian national Abdul Mahomed acquired 80% of the mining operation. According to Mahomed, the acquisition process is expected to be completed soon and the Malawi government and a local consortium will hold the remaining 20%. Since then, the mining operation has been renovated and the areas originally worked in 1958 have been further explored. Production is expected to begin in 2015. In an effort to support the local community, Columbia Gem House has set up the Dzonze District Development Fund and is supporting two villages near the mine through a school at Kandoma and a hospital in Katsekera.
In keeping with its mission to ensure the public trust in gems and jewelry, GIA regularly conducts research field trips to important gem and jewelry centers around the globe, incorporating findings into research practices and education programs and providing information to the trade and public. GIA appreciates the access and information provided during these visits; however, they should not be taken as or used as a commercial endorsement. Findings from the Malawi field trip will be featured in an upcoming issue of G&G, as well as in field reports and video documentaries on www.gia.edu.