Jungle-Gems Newsletter year-end 2003
Hello once again from deep in the jungles of Brasil.
Here it is again, the end of another year. Our year-end newsletter from 2002 was mostly a photo collection of the best goods we saw during the year. This year we spent more time mining and less time buying/marketing, so we dont have a beautiful set of gemstone photos this time. Hopefully our comments on the gem trade and life in general in Brasil will satisfy our valued readers.
The year of 2003 saw many drastic changes in our company strategy, our operations and personnel, and even the company ownership. We hope the changes will help assure our long-term survival in our volatile gemstone business. Our newsletter for 2004 will be changing its content somewhat to reflect our current activities.
To continue writing about gemtrade news, gossip and rumors, I would have to continue seeking out new finds and sources as Ive been doing for decades. Instead, Ill be working our 3 new mining projects, which happen to be in 3 different Brasilian states and spread out over thousands of miles. Ill continue reporting on things I hear in my travels throughout Brasil and try to maintain your interest in reading our newsletter
but, working a mining project doesnt get me out-and-about much. Im literally stuck-in-the-mud during these projects. Well be reducing our frequency from a monthly newsletter to a periodic newsletter. Maybe every couple of months, or whenever I can get one out to you readers.
On a very sad note, our Rondonian topaz and opal mining projects suffered a tremendous loss on Jan 8 with the death of my right-hand man, known in the trade as Shay (Michael Shay Mangiapane). It happened very suddenly, and the best hospitals could not save him from a combination of ills. We have closed all operations for the time being, hoping to regroup soon. Shay was loved by everyone who knew him, all across America and Brasil. He did many gemshows in 2002 working for our friend Joe of Underground Brokers. If you ever met him, you too will never forget his unmistakable laugh. Shay is buried in Ariquemes, Rondonia Brasil. May he rest in peace.
We apologize to all of our friends and clients who looked for us at the Desert Gardens Gem and Mineral show this year. We didnt make it this year due to all the changes going on here, but are planning to be there next year to liquidate our huge inventory of mineral specimens and collector quartz
At our main office in Teofilo Otoni, Minas Gerais Brasil we have been fortunate to obtain the services of Dr. Michael Henry to oversee our operations. His resume is way too long for this brief newsletter and he is vastly over-qualified for his position, but we got lucky when Dr. Mike decided the tropics of Brasil would be a welcome change from San Francisco USA.
Here are some of Dr. Mikes recent comments to a colleague:
<<<< beginning of paste >>>>
I AM CONSTANTLY AMAZED AND PLEASED BY THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND CHANGES THAT I´M EXPERIENCING. MY PORTUGUESE IS COMING ALONG FINE AND THE COMMUNICATIONS AT THE PERSONAL LEVEL BECOME LESS A CHALLENGE EACH DAY. BUT I STILL HAVE A CONSIDERABLE WAY TO GO TO ACHIEVE THE KIND OF FLUENCY AND BRAZILIAN MANNERISMS THAT KIRK HAS ATTAINED.
LIVING CONDITIONS HERE ARE EXCELLENT. COSTS FOR EVERYTHING IS MINIMAL. MEAL COST AVERAGES ABOUT 2.50 (US$) A DAY, SO MOST EATING IS DONE OUT -- OR MEALS CAN BE DELIVERED TO THE DOOR FOR ABOUT THE SAME PRICE. AND THE FOOD IS EXCELLENT IN VARIETY AND TASTE. PORTIONS OF EVERYTHING ARE UP TO YOU. I KEEP THE REFRIGERATOR IN MY APARTMENT STOCKED WITH FRESH PAPAIYA, APPLES, PINAPPLE, BANANAS AND OTHER FRUIT FOR SNACKING. BY THE WAY, THERE ARE SIX DIFFERENT KINDS OF BANANAS, EACH WITH ITS OWN FLAVOR.
KIRK´S ¨PENTHOUSE¨ OFFICES AND THE APARTMENT HE SET UP FOR ME ARE LOCATED ON THE TOP FLOOR (10TH) OF THE BANK OF BRAZIL BUILDING FRONTING THE CITY´S CENTER DOWNTOWN. FLOOR TO CEILING WINDOWS RUN THE FULL LENGTH OF THE OFFICES AND APARTMENT. THEY PROVIDE A BEAUTIFULLY PICTURESQUE VIEW OF THE PARK-LIKE PLAZA DIRECTLY BELOW.-- AND OF THE ENTIRE CITY. THE COMMUNITY OF 150,000 IS BUILT ON THE SLOPES OF ROLLING HILLS, WITH SURROUNDING GREEN HILLS ON THE HORIZON FORMING THE BACKGROUND.
WHEN THE SUN COMES OVER THE HILLS AT ABOUT 6:00 EACH MORNING, IT LITERALLY KNOCKS YOU OUT OF BED IN THE APARTMENT, THAT IS IF YOU´RE NOT ALREADY UP TO ENJOY THE MAGNIFICENT SURNISES. THE CITY AND THE PLAZA ARE MUCH BETTER LIT UP AT NIGHT THAN ARE MOST COMMUNITIES THAT I´VE SEEN IN THE STATES. AND WHEN THE MOON IS FULL, LIKE NOW, IT SEEMS TO HANG RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOW LIKE A LANTERN YOU COULD REACH OUT AND TOUCH.
ACTIVITIES IN THE PLAZA RUN CONTINUOUSLY FROM ABOUT 7 A.M. TO MIDNIGHT. THEN THE PLACE BECOMES LIKE A GHOST TOWN, NOTHING SEEMS TO STIR EXCEPT THE GLITTER AND SHIMMER OF LIGHTS. LIVE BANDS AND SINGERS PERFORM EVERY WEEKEND ON THE LARGE OUTDOOR STAGE IN THE PLAZA. A LIGHTED FOUNTAIN IN THE PLAZA CENTER PROVIDES ITS OWN SOFT MUSIC FOR STROLLERS AND THOSE NEARBY AT THE MULTITUDINOUS PARK BENCHES AND TABLES WHERE CHESS PLAY, PICNICING, AND JUST CONVERSING, ARE REGULAR PASTIMES. WIDE PATHS CRISS-CROSS THE PARK OF FLOWERING TREES AND PLANTS. SMALL EXOTIC ANIMALS CAN BE SEEN FROM TIME TO TIME ROAMING THE TALL TREES -- A VERY PLEASANT AMBIANCE INDEED FOR THOSE TIMES WHEN ONE WANTS TO LINGER, MEANDER AND ENJOY.
SEVERAL SANDWICH/ICE CREAM/SOFTDRINK&BEER STANDS, AS WELL AS NEWSPAPER/MAGAZINE KIOSKS ARE STRATEGICALLY PLACED THROUGHOUT THE PARK. THEY ARE OPEN FROM ABOUT NOON TO MIDNIGHT. THESE ARE SUPPLEMENTED BY A DOZEN OR SO POT-LUCK PORTABLE FOOD STANDS WITH TABLES AND CHAIRS THAT FAMILY ENTREPRENEURS SET UP EACH EVENING.
THE MAIN MEAL HERE IS USUALLY EATEN AT ONE OF MANY GOOD RESTAURANTS BETWEEN NOON AND THREE PM, BUT FOOD SEEMS TO BE READILY AVILABLE WHENEVER MOST RESTAURANTS SERVE BUFFET STYLE WITH ENDLESS VARIETIES OF ANYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF. MANY OF THE ITEMS I´VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE, AND I HAVEN´T THE SLIGHTEST IDEA OF THEIR NAMES -- BUT ONE CAN´T FAULT THEIR TASTE. THE PIZZA HERE IS THE BEST I´VE EVER EATEN AND GOES WELL WITH THE GOOD BEER THAT COMES WITH IT.
THE TRULY AMAZING THING ABOUT THIS PLACE IS THE VIRTUAL ABSENCE OF POLICE, STOP SIGNS OR TRAFFIC LIGHTS. MOST STREETS IN BOTH DIRECTIONS DOWNTOWN ARE ONE-WAY, AND THE TRAFFIC OF CARS, BUSES, MOTORCYCLES AND BICYCLES IS QUITE HEAVY. YET, I HAVE NOT SEEN ONE ACCIDENT OR A POLICE-TYPE INCIDENT SINCE MY ARRIVAL; NOR HAVE I SEEN OR HEARD OF A FIGHT, MUGGING OR ROBBERY WHILE HERE. THIS DESPITE THE FACT THAT HUNDREDS OF GEM DEALERS CARRYING VALUABLE STONES ARE IN THE PLAZA DAILY TO SELL THEIR WARES TO TOURISTS AND OTHER BUYERS AND SELLERS. THE SIGNS AROUND TOWN, PERHAPS APPROPRIATELY, CLAIM THE CITY AS THE GEM CAPITAL OF THE WORLD¨. IT´S EASY TO SEE WHY KIRK SETTLED ON PLACING HIS OFFICES HERE.
AND WHAT A PLEASURE TO SEE THE ABSENCE OF UNIFORMED AUTHORITIES -- OR ANY NEED FOR THEM.
ALSO, THIS PLACE IS A MECCA FOR FAMILIES. SOCIAL ACTIVITIES ARE IN PLACE EVERYWHERE, FROM LECTURES TO MOVIES, CHILDRENS´ DOINGS, CHURCH AFFAIRS, FOOTBALL, CHESS PLAYING AND JUST PLAIN STROLLING AND CONVERSING. BY THE WAY, KIRK IS AN EXPERT CHESS PLAYER.
THE ENTIRE PLAZA IS LIT UP LIKE ONE BIG CHRISTMAS TREE FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON.. EVEN THE LARGE FLOWERING TREES HAVE COUUNTLESS LIGHTS THAT FLOW OVER THEIR TRUNKS AND BOUGHS. AND, OF COURSE, FOR THE CHILDREN, A PAPAI NOEL HOUSE TO VISIT AND EXPRESS CHERISHED WISHES.
WEEKEND DAYS IN THE PLAZA ARE LIKE A MINIATURE, BUT SOCIAL, DISNEYLAND FOR CHILDREN WITH TRAMS, BALLOONS, GAMES AND DANCING. A LOCOMOTIVE ENGINE, PAPAI NOEL´S SLED AND REINDEER AND HIS HOUSE (AND ALL THEIR PARTS) ARE OUTLINED COMPLETELY IN LIGHTS. AND SHADES OF DISNEYLAND: COSTUMED ANIMALS DANCE AND ENTERTAIN THE KIDS. AMAZINGLY, OVER HALF THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC IS IN ENGLISH. QUITE A SURPRISE, AND AT TIMES INCONGRUOUS, PARTICULARLY WHEN SLEIGH BELLS ARE RINGING IN THE SNOW WHILE THE TEMPERATURE OUTSIDE IS A VIRTUALLY CONSTANT 85 TO 90 DEGREES.
>>>> END OF COMMENT by Dr. Mike <<<<
I think Dr. Michael likes it in Brasil so far. Lets see what he has to say after we get him to the Amazon mine sites
well keep you loyal readers informed about Dr. Mikes experiences in Brasil during the coming year.
I agree with everything Dr. Mike says about Teofilo Otoni, Minas Gerais. But not all corners of Brasil are that rosey. Life in Ariquemes, Rondonia (deep into the Amazon region, bordering Bolivia) is a different story
I wake in the morning to the hum of the air-conditioner and the screech of Macaws and Parrots. I live on a walled-in estate, complete with helicopter landing pad (no, I have no helicopter). Nice place, beautiful in fact. Huge pool, vollyball courts, horse stables, orchard, even a roofed Bocci court. Sounds better than what Dr. Mike has in Teofilo Otoni eh? Well
We have to remain armed on the grounds at all times and we have armed nightwatchmen on duty. My topaz saw-shop was assaulted at gunpoint this year, as were numerous others. Some of my competitors quit the topaz business here after being robbed numerous times. One topaz buyer was shot twice in his own office here in town. Rumor has it that 90% of the miners in the topaz fields have killed at least once, sometimes over as little as R$10 (about US$3.50). The roads here are an adventure in themselves. There is one highway that connects our state capitol in the north, Porto Velho, with the rest of Brasil via Cuiaba Mato Grosso. There are stretches of this 2 lane road that are so pot-holed that the traffic has to leave the road and ride the dirt shoulder, while running in first gear. There is no beautiful praca downtown here. Instead we have a cheap rundown central shopping district surrounded by thousands of miles of jungle on three sides, and the Andes Mountains a couple of hundred miles due west of here. It is still a wild frontier atmosphere, reckless, and almost lawless. But its not all bad. There is still a lot of topaz in the ground around here
probably the last great topaz deposit on Earth. We have the only Amazon Fire Opal Mine here, and we lucked into finding Amazon Amber here as well. Weve seen local aquamarine, fine quartz, rutilated quartz, amethyst , and diamond. Ametrine is nearby in Bolivia. The plant life is just incredible. Dont bother coming here unless green is one of your favorite colors. The wildlife is all youve ever imagined it to be. The local seafood restaurants are superb. Fishermen come here from all the continents after huge exotic freshwater fish. There is no place like the Amazon Jungle
Well, enough of that
here is the status on gem materials from the Amazon:
Our Amazon Amber find has produced some new material that is now being worked into finished polished stones in Teofilo Otoni. Most of our goods have been contracted to a single buyer who will be showing at all the major gem shows around the world. Keep you eyes out for Amazon Amber at the next gem show you attend
Our Amazon Opal Mine continues to produce goods in lite-yellows/oranges only. We are doggedly still waiting for more of our gorgeous Red Amazon Opal. Youll hear about it here first when we finally reach our objective.
The local source (Amazonia) for rutilated quartz is undergoing major changes to accommodate IBAMAs environmental mandates. The mineowners are building retaining walls for settling ponds to allow for clean water runoff back into the Amazon headwaters. With some continued work the mine should re-establish production soon.
As a sideline to our main mining projects we have begun to buy and amass many fine smoky quartz points, which we find from various sources here. The material is clean inside but has an unattractive opaque skin. We are setting up a quartz polishing facility here in Ariquemes Rondonia and will be in production sometime in April. We expect to provide the market with many kgs of polished smoky quartz points during 2004.
Amethyst in the Amazon: We continue to encounter many sources for amethyst. The goods seen to date have very nice color with very poor crystallization. The producers have no consistent market for this low quality material, so the price for quantities is extremely low.
During the remainder of 2004 we will continue a periodic update of gemtrade related news, rumors, and gossip. We are still in discussions regarding various projects that must remain private for the time being. As things progress we will inform you of some new and exciting endeavors we hope to begin soon.
Please remember that we are liquidating everything on the website
all reasonable offers will be accepted.
Regards from the Amazon ~ Kirk Tomas Bond, pres. Jungle-gems.com