Similar to Day 3, today we focused on purchasing. After all, this is the main reason that we are here. Being that today was similar to yesterday, I’ve thrown in a few extra pieces of fun to keep things interesting. 🙂
Today we actually decided to start our day with breakfast (if you could call it that) at somewhere aside from our hotel. We were meeting with another dealer today, so we figured we would grab a cab into town, grab a bite and then the hop a ride with the dealer to his shop.
Turns out the place that we had coffee on Day 1 ended up having a pretty wicked menu — brick oven pizza being the top on the list. Even though it was only 10am, I figured I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Pizza for breakfast it was!
6 minutes in the oven and it was ready to rock.
“Hawaiian” style, with ham, pineapple and basil.
Not long after breakfast (lunch?), our friend Jamal (the dealer) arrived. Situations like this are definitely a bit strange, as neither Steve or I even know what the guy looked like. Steve has of course had extensive contact with him, but until today has never met him in person. Considering we were the only white men (or Mzungu, as they would say in Tanzania) in the coffee shop, we figured it wouldn’t be tough for him to spot us.
Sure as heck, Jamal didn’t have a problem finding us. We hopped in Jamal’s car and took a short ride over to his office!
Let the show begin!
Steve uses his LED flashlight to look for inclusions (imperfections) in the rough pieces of stone. While using a light in this way causes the stone’s colors to look amazing to the eye, Steve explained that it is not a true representation of what the stone will look like after being cut and viewed in natural light. Instead, using this type of light on the pieces of rough helps to spot inclusions inside of the stones. When the light hits the cracks or imperfections, they are much easier to see. Another main reason that Steve used this method of light is because the power actually ended up going out at Jamal’s building. As we discussed in Day 2, power outages in select areas of Tanzania are not the least bit uncommon. In fact, in the short four hours that we were at Jamal’s office, we experienced two or three long outages.
Once the power was back on, Steve was able to use a much more accurate tool for viewing the stones. This lighting tool seen below gives a much more accurate color representation of the stone, as well as it being more pinned to a particular part of the stone. Sometimes when using the LED flashlight (as I started to notice when browsing through stones myself), the excess light can shine on the surface of the stone, making it difficult to see what’s beneath the surface (where it really counts).
When viewing so many stones of different shapes and sizes, its extremely important to understand ahead of time what types of final cuts and shapes you can make from each stone. You might find a stone that is perfect in color and is free of any imperfections, but it might have a very strange shape that doesn’t allow you to cut a useable piece. In this case, the stone would practically be useless.
Once the stones are inspected and are passed, Steve will often take measurements on the stones to make sure that a particular cut that he has in mind will work for the stone.
Jamal had a LOT of Spessartite Garnet. Unfortunately, most of it wasn’t too clean (free of inclusions) and was pretty small in size. This is part of the gem purchasing process that can take so much time. Going through every single one of those tiny stones piece by piece can be an extremely tedious process. None the less, patience ultimately paid off, as we were able to find a good selection of great stones!
He’s a group of Spessartite Garnet being weighed that made the final selection.
Coffee break! I had no idea before visiting here that Tanzania had such INCREDIBLE coffee. Crazy thing is that most places only offer a can of instant coffee. Its a shame, but still appreciated none the less. After so many long days, late nights and early mornings, we were ready to take anything we could get our hands on!
Steve gave me a few pointers on how to spot a good stone. I’m starting to see how someone can get so interested in what Steve does! Even with that huge pile of stones, I wanted to look at every single one of them. Between Steve and I, I think we got through about 3/4 of the lot. Not too shabby.
Coffee and a lack of sleep will make you a bit slap-happy.
After all was said and done, Steve made his first chunk of purchases for the trip. It wasn’t a huge buy, but it was a great start! Here’s what he picked up:
Rhodolite Garnet — 16.04 Grams
Zircon — 7.41 Grams
Spessartite Garnet — 23.74 Grams
Merilani Mint Garnet — 1.46 Grams
Star Sapphire Yellow or Chrysoberyl Cats Eye (this stone is actually still somewhat of a mystery, but he will be doing some testing to find out soon) — 1.84 Grams
Steve leaving Jamal’s a happy camper!
Tanzania’s beauty still ceases to amazing me. Here are a few views from our ride on the way back to our hotel.
A little girl carrying a few things down the road…
On a side note, here’s a little look into my travel setup for the trip. With so much back and forth, I wanted to keep things as compact and light as possible, while still having redundancies and backup where necessary.
The tablet is a Surface Pro. This has been a great option, as its super light and compact, but still allows me to run Lightroom for processing my photos on the go. For hard drives, I have two Western Digital My Passport Ultra 500GB drives. I am actually running these as identical copies, again, for redundancy. The last thing that I would want to happen is for one of them to fail and to lose all of my data from the trip. As a further precaution, I make sure to keep one of them on me at all time (on my person), while the other is left in the hotel room. To finish out the main component of the setup, I have a travel external battery, which is the silver box under my phone. This is an incredibly useful tool for traveling, especially when you aren’t sure when you might have power sources available. This particular battery has enough power to recharge my tablet 1.5 times and my phone somewhere around 6 times. If we’re on the road to towns without a sure power source, as we will be tomorrow and the next day, this will come in handy!
Starting tomorrow, we will have a bit more exploring to do! We will be leaving town mid-day and traveling to a few villages in the area, the farthest being about 4 hours away. We will actually be staying overnight in this village (of which I can’t recall the name), and then heading out from there early the next morning. I’m sure we will have some amazing images and stories coming in the next few days, so be sure to stay tuned! Due to the locations we will be staying, I might not have a chance to follow up on the blog for a few days, but I will most definitely get them up as soon as possible!
Thanks again for staying tuned and I hope everyone is enjoying sharing with me in these adventures!