Jungle Gems Newsletter July 2003

Hello once again from beautiful Brasil. We are writing this newsletter direct from our home office located in Teofilo Otoni, Minas Gerais Brasil. This is the first time this year that we have written to you from home. The photo below shows you the view from our office into Praca Tiradentes, the heart of our town and the gem center of Brasil.

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We are happy to report that the 15th Annual Feira Livre de Pedras Precioso, which ran from July 9th through July 13th 2003, was a better than expected success. A full report is beyond the scope of this brief newsletter, but I think a few items merit special recognition.
There is a plentiful supply of extraordinarily beautiful Dendrite Quartz available in town for the first time in many years. I consider this to be one of the most under-rated and under-priced stones on the market, due to its beauty and rarity. There is so much of it in town that the prices are at all-time lows and will surely rise again as the supply dwindles. Maybe someday it will fetch the prices it deserves.

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On the other hand, there was an appalling shortage of finer quality gem crystals. We saw just a very few tourmaline or aquamarine crystals and nothing worthy for a discriminating collector. We have standing orders for finer crystals from many of you readers, and we were unable to procure a single crystal of note. This is an extremely disturbing trend that I commented on a few months ago, and I still see nothing on the horizon but more of the same. I predict a sharp rise in the price of finer tourmaline crystals, with other better quality crystals following along the same price curve soon.
A more positive trend is coming from northern Bahia, around the Campo Formosa area and the Carnaiba Emerald Mine. Most of you have probably seen the carvings and sculptures done from the matrix rock with in-place emerald crystals incorporated into the artwork. In lieu of turning into a commercial grade repetitive carving “factory”, the Bahians are moving more into the direction of “one-of-a-kind” pieces. We are definitely not art critics, but we were impressed by some of the work we saw at the show.

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Teofilo Otoni, and Minas Gerais in general, are already preparing for the next show. The coming 13th Annual Feira International de Pedras Precioso (FIPP) is set for August 19th through August 22nd 2003. We too will have a booth at this show, under our Brasilian name of Mineracao de Alta-Tecnologia ltda. This is the high-end show where everyone brings the best of the best. The praca, outside the main show, will again be displaying more commercial quality goods, including specimens and faceting rough. The hotels are all full of reservations already, and we are expecting another successful show. Only at the gem stone source would it be possible to do two shows within 2 months. We hope to see some of you newsletter readers here in Teofilo Otoni for the show. Please come up to the top floor of the tallest building in town, the 10th floor of the Banco do Brasil, and drop in for a visit with us…

Big News of the Month: Even though our source for this comment has requested anonymity at this time, we recently heard a new version of a rare but classical gemstone story which has led to a significant new find: cats-eye-emerald in the State of Bahia. Our source for the story has already registered the mining rights and an associate has bought the land, all in a huge hurry for fear that someone else would somehow beat them to it. They managed to get it done in less than a month from the beginning of the story. We hope to tell you readers the whole story once our friend settles down from all the excitement and feels he is in control of his new mine. It involves an innocuous encounter in a back country bar, where our friend was offered a “green rock which nobody knew what it was”, has turned into a potentially multi-million dollar find. The US$60 unknown green rock was recently sold in Teofilo Otoni for almost US$10,000.00. The lucky finder of the “green rock” is already negotiating his newly registered mining rights for hundreds of thousands of US-dollars. We wish him well, and might even someday work at his mine, but for now we will respect our friend’s wishes and not comment further…

Speaking of cats-eye gemstones: I had the pleasure this month of seeing my old friend Marcao the Austrian, known in some circles as Rubber Man. Maybe I’m the only one who calls him Rubber Man, but I don’t think he cares. His Alexandrite cats-eye mine is being developed in a methodical and professional manner, and Marcao says he is in no rush to get at his production. Marcao has plenty of experience from years of working in the Nova Era Emerald Mines, and he knows how he wants his new mine set up for long-term production. Perhaps fine cats-eye alexandrite will be coming to market later this year. Marcao hopefully will allow me to report the good news when he is ready to go to market.

Topaz: We continue to see a strong demand for topaz. So strong in fact that I must take this opportunity to apologize to those who have requested topaz from us and we have had to turn down those requests due to limited production. We are currently in the process of opening new fronts at the topaz mines, but this takes time to get set-up and operational. This is the first and only time in the history of our small mining company that orders have outgrown our supply capabilities. We are looking for a few good men to help us work more mining fronts and increase our production of topaz. Anyone want to come and live in a stick hut in the Amazon? We offer low salary with high adventure and a potential to make money when the mines are producing…

How about some Amazon Amber/Copal? We have contracted an excellent cutter/polisher for our limited supply of Amazon Amber, and will be showing our new goods at the August 2003 gemshow in Teofilo Otoni. My associates in the Amazon tell me they have found more, but I’ve yet to see it and remain skeptical for now. For those of you who enjoy the Amber vs Copal debate, we have not concluded a carbon-14 dating test as yet, but have received a preliminary opinion from Dr. Stephan Palmer in California USA. His opinion is that our Amber has at least one extinct species, which would allow us to definitively call our goods amber and eliminate the use of the word copal. FYI: the GIA/USA classifies amber as petrified tree resin over 1-million years old, and any other younger amber is to be called copal. We are trying to live up to recognized standards in the trade, but until our tests are concluded we will continue to call our own find amber/copal. By the way, ours may not turn out to be the oldest once the tests are done, but I still think it is the prettiest amber on the market!

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Tourmaline News: My old friend Jean Claude Nydegger, a 20-yr resident dealer here in T.O., is still reporting positive results from the Itambacuri/Santa Rosa Tourmaline mining area in spite of my comments about lack of tourmaline specimens on the market. He is working with his mgr Axel, and they remain optimistic that high-end, “almost” paraiba piscina blue tourmaline is coming soon. He is so optimistic that I failed in my attempts to lure him out to the topaz mining fields of Rondonia. I’m still waiting to see Jean Claude’s tourmaline crystals, but I too believe they are there to be found. I personally saw some material like this when I worked tourmaline mines in the Santa Rosa area in 1997/98. At that time we were introducing GPR scanning technology to the area and inspected the mine that JC is now working. We wish him well and hope he helps resolve the market shortage on fine tourmaline crystals. We are hoping that JC will give us the whole story when those pretty blue crystals are sitting in his Teofilo Otoni office.

Our friend Fernando, from the Goias/Tocantins area of Brasil, was in town this month with some nicely crystallized chloride layered quartz, and some nice quartz points. He continues to produce, and needs a market for the “layered quartz”. Check out the photos below and let us know if you’re interested in dealing direct with the mineowner on this material. Fernando also has chrysoprase and aventurine quartz from his area of Brasil…

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News from Rondonia: We will be returning to Rondonia for most of the month of August. Even from afar we continue to hear more rumors about tourmaline. We’ll see. If these long reported rumors ever turn into a specimen in my hand, you will see it first here in the jungle-gems.com newsletter. We’re still hearing about and looking for rutilated quartz, aquamarine (which we have actually seen), and petrified wood.
The clandestine Roosevelt Reserve diamond deposit, located on Indian reservation lands, continues to be big news in Rondonia. The Cinta-Larga Indians are still dressed daily in warpaint and rigorously patrol their area seeking to deter any clandestine/illegal mining activities. They are being supported by FUNAI (Indian Affairs Dept. of the Federal Gov.), IBAMA (Ecology Dept. of the Federal Gov.) and the Brasilian Federal Police. Rumors have it that the Federal Government is allowing “Indian Justice” to be used on any encountered miners. I won’t go into what that means here in the newsletter as it is not a pleasant topic. The local newspaper recently announced that it is now illegal for any small planes to over-fly the area without prior written approval from the Brasilian Government. Apparently prior efforts by some influential politicians to legalize the area for diamond mining by agreement with the Indians have all fallen through. We no longer expect to see any diamonds from this area for the foreseeable future.

You can find Ebay offers coming direct from Brasil by searching for jungle-gems.com. We will continue experimenting with different goods throughout the month of August. If interest and sales merit we will continue the auctions. So far, we have received a poor response to lots of faceted stones, and some interest in mounted jewelry pieces and specimens. If any of you readers are ebayers, please check us out.

My recently semi-retired ex-partner Jeffrey Gale has been leisurely scouring the praca for finer gemstones. He has picked up some of the finer emeralds to come to town, and has reports of top-red Imperial Topaz, top-blue Aquamarines and other fine goods passing through the praca. If your needs are high-end faceted gemstones, please let us know.

Those of you who follow my monthly diatribe may remember the arrival and experiment with the “polar bear from the Faroe Islands”. Well, the polar bear went back to the Arctic regions to tend to his boat dealings, and we have managed to contract a replacement. We are pleased to announce the arrival and addition to our staff of Mr. Rob Jewell from Tucson AZ. Some of you might already know Rob, as he has developed our website and worked in association with us for over 3 years. We are experimenting with some marketing ideas in the main office in Teofilo Otoni, including ebay auctions and customer relations, but Rob may yet be joining Shay out at our Amazon Opal and Rondonian Topaz mines. Rob is a very talented and skillful man that we are lucky to have here with us, and we hope he adapts well to Brasil and remains with us for many years.

In closing, we apologize for being late with the July issue of the Jungle-Gems.com newsletter. In fact, I’m finishing up the newsletter while on the plane to Rondonia. We sometimes get very busy at the home office and writing is best done away from the hectic scene at a gemstone buying office like ours in Teofilo Otoni. In next month’s issue we will have fresh Rondonian news and rumors, and a report on the 2nd gemshow of the year in Teofilo Otoni. I’ll even try to get it out before the end of August! Hope to see you for the show…

Regards from somewhere over Brasil at 33,000ft ~ Kirk “Tomas” Bond