Jungle Gems Newsletter May 2003

Hello from the Amazon.
Since we last wrote our monthly newsletter we have grudgingly pried ourselves off the beaches of Bahia and have driven 3800km to the other side of Brasil. This month's edition of the jungle-gems newsletter comes to you from deep in the jungle, near the town of Machadinho do Oeste, in Rondonia Brasil. The road ends here at our Amazon Opal Mine, with the nearest pot-holed asphalt road 255km away. You can click on the maps below for larger versions. (nearest town: Porto Velho)

The photo above is a barraca, taken at our new Topaz Mine, common at all Brasilian mine sites. This is what everyone at the mine site lives in. Barracas have a kitchen, eating area, and sleeping area all under one thatched roof… that is surprisingly dry. It is always a battle to keep insects and reptiles outside the barraca. I also have to smile when we are sweeping the dirt floor, never can get used to that. The miners normally only leave the minesite once a month for a weekend in town, otherwise they live here full time. When we leave the barraca it is only a short walk to a huge hole where we get to spend the day digging in the mud. Even though we love it, any of you readers who are involved in mining would surely agree with me that all gemstones are very under-priced for what we go through to bring them to the world !

Mining News: Our Amazon Opal Mine continues a slow but steady stream of production in lite colors of yellows and oranges, in large sizes, with fine crystallization. We store all of our rough production for a minimum 6 months while evaluating stability against cracking or crazing. Last Octobers production is now ready to be faceted, and we will soon have new goods available. We are still patiently awaiting our fabulous reds to come out of the ground. The nature of the deposit and it’s prior producing history, leads us to believe that when we do finally come into the reds the mine will produce a significant amount. In the meantime, we have available many cut gemstones in yellows/oranges. Please contact us for information on large parcels of our faceted Amazon Opal.

Teofilo Otoni, Minas Gerais Report: While we were only briefly in our main office during the month of May, we noticed a distinct lack of quality tourmaline crystals. This is a continuing trend, ongoing for many years. But it is getting almost discouraging now. Minas Gerais is considered by many to be the largest producer of tourmaline in the world, but maybe that is beginning to change. Demand for fine crystals is very strong. The difficulty we are seeing in finding nice crystals makes the demand even stronger, as buyers become more frustrated from the lack of goods and willing to pay more. I expect prices to rise, as we can no longer get crystals for the prices we have been paying for years. This trend extends beyond tourmaline, now including aquamarine, kunzite, and other stones.

Mining News, Emerald: In early May we briefly passed through the Nova Era Emerald Mine area of Minas Gerais. We didn’t go out to the mines this time, but met with many of our friends and local producers around the old Apollo Hotel, a noted local dealers hangout. As always, many fine pieces of rough were shown to us. All sizes, all qualities, all prices are readily available. Many faceted stones are also always available here… we saw plenty of good buys. We also got some fresh info on some of the available mines for sale. Here at Nova Era, a “mining association” administers the mining rights into “blocks” or “areas” for numerous operators to have access to the emerald deposits. There are a couple of sites available that are generally considered prime spots needing to descend to lower producing strata that the mine owners don’t want to finance and would prefer to sell out. The deeper strata produce very high-grade emeralds, which many pros consider equal to fine Colombian Muzo gemstones. Anyone want to go emerald mining?

Quartz Report: Soon after leaving the Nova Era Emerald region, we arrived in the quartz producing area of Minas Gerais… home of the famous Diamontina Lasers and other fine quartz. We only went to look, but ended up making buys regardless. We found an excellent lot of hard-to-find high quality polished citrine points, but had to pay more than we wanted to. We found a new source for mini-clusters, well classified into 3 grades at an excellent price. The best deal we found was for a rich colored amethyst, polished into points and spheres. We contracted for more of this material and will have it available soon, and for as long as the rough holds out. There seems to be no shortage of Diamontina Lasers, but I found only 3 more lasers with distinct phantoms. I talked to many of the miners about setting aside the phantoms until my next return trip, promising to pay a premium price for them. Hopefully I’ll get some more. Please see the dealer section of our website for a price quote and purchasing details on all quartz products in volume, or contact me direct by email. You might be surprised by our excellent prices.

Mining News, Topaz: Since our mid-May arrival here in the Amazon Region, we have spent much time in the topaz mining districts of Macangana and Caladinho. Gem grade topaz production continues after decades of mining at one of the world’s richest topaz deposits. We visited over 10 working mine sites during the course of scouting sites for our own planned mining project for this year. We have concluded land/mining rights negotiations on 3 sites that we feel are very promising, and we plan to be operational at two of those sites by the end of June. Our sawing facility has already been operational since last year, ready to bring you 100% sawn clean facet grade topaz rough direct from the mines of Rondonia. The photos below show some of Topaz Mining Country here in Rondonia Brasil:

Our Latest New Find: The photo below shows what we found here in Rondonia. It looks and feels like quartz to me, but we are having it tested. It has a lite-green overtone, and the crystals are all very clean inside. I have not encountered anything similar. It is coming from nearby, in the interior of Mato Grosso. The miner sent a stone to Sao Paulo with a topaz lot for bombardment treatment, and says the stones came back “emerald green”. I haven’t seen that stone yet however. We plan to see how it treats. The miner says it is pisolita, or “green amethyst”. Since I’m hardly the world’s best mineralogist, and my reference books are 3000km away, I don’t know what this is. The miner indicates that production could be substantial if a market where found. When we get more news we will let you know how it treats. If you have any interest in a new colored quartz, please contact me.

Diamond update: Our associate and life-long Amazon field geologist Dr. Hugo has recently concluded some preliminary analysis of some very rich diamond producing areas here in Rondonia and in neighboring Mato Grosso. He has been talking about nothing else lately, as he is very enthused about the potential of these sites. They are located on private land, outside the vast tracks of Indian reservations, which hold much of the mineral deposits in our area. We have recently been busy getting the mining rights registered with the Brasilian government. Dr. Hugo has concluded an agreement with our Brasilian firm, Mineracao de Alta-Tecnologia ltda, and we are jointly seeking investment capital to develop some of these sites. We are all very optimistic, and would welcome your participation as an investing partner. Anyone want a diamond mine in the Amazon?

Giant Amy Geode: Our friends in neighboring Uruguay, Gustavo & Freddy, have recently extracted a tremendous amethyst geode. All of these geodes are truly beautiful, but frankly I’ve seen so many amethyst geodes over the years that I am rarely impressed anymore. But this giant among giants really impressed me and I thought you might like to see it too. It is currently still in Uruguay with the mine owners, and it is looking for a new home. It weighs over 4,000 KG, and is over 2.2 meters tall, with deep purple color, large crystals of amethyst with many becoming white calcites. Impressive is the best word to describe it, a perfect piece for anyone’s front yard or living room, maybe poolside. Let us know if you would like to have this fabulous geode shipped direct to your residence or place of business. What a conversation piece eh?

Mining Rumors, Tourmaline: We continue to hear about rich green tourmaline coming out of the region here in Rondonia. I’ve personally only seen over-saturated dark material, but the locals continue to insist that fine color is to be found here. We keep asking to see it, and maybe we will someday. For now, we will keep reporting the rumors…

Mining Rumors continued: We are still actively seeking the source for something we really have had in our hands, and would like to see much more of: clean bright rutilated quartz. The gemstone mining industry here is still very much in its infancy regarding anything other than very traditional goods. Not too many of those in our trade, at least here in Rondonia, recognize that fine rutilated quartz is highly sought after by many dealers. We made a short trip out to a new quartz location and extracted some very clean material, in decent sizes, but nothing rutilated. We would like nothing better than to find a source to compete with the production of Bahia and Minas Gerais, and will continue to pursue our leads as they come in…

More quartz news: Our friend Kleber, from Governador Valadares in Minas Gerais, has a huge inventory of recently producing bright and clean “principe” quartz in large rough as well as polished points. This material is highly suitable for both carving as well as faceting, and prices are not exorbitant.

ATTN DEALERS: We have made some limited progress on our restricted access dealer pages here on the website. This area is where you can find the best possible prices, based on doing volume business. We will continue to expand it in the coming weeks. This access area is on the lower right side of the main page. All dealers must submit some form of verification to receive an access password. Your fed tax ID number is best. For overseas clients, any type of paperwork proving you’re a verified dealer will suffice. We look forward to seeing more of you who need volume and the best price.

Itchy feet anyone? We would like to take this opportunity to ask our readers if there is any interest in visiting the Rondonian Mining region of the Amazon basin. We know that some of you operate/coordinate visits to mines and the gemstone centers of Minas Gerais and Bahia, which are considerably tamer than where we work. Is anyone out there ready for a bigger adventure? Let us know if you have any interest in coordinating a visit to our area to see the wonders of the Amazon Rain Forest as well as the source of much topaz, diamond, amethyst, our Amazon Opal and Amazon Amber… and many other still rumored treasures.

We’ll see you again next month. If you haven’t done so yet, please sign up below to receive our monthly report of gem trade related news and rumors direct from Brasil.

Regards from the Amazon.

Jungle-gems.com newsletter is brought to you by Kirk “Tomas” Bond