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Commentary: The Business

Gem Cutter Drawn to the Source of Tanzanite

Exploring mines becomes a family affair as sons join their dad.




FOR THE PAST 40 years, I’ve journeyed to captivating destinations, including Tanzania, Madagascar, Thailand, and beyond. My love of travel is more than a hobby; it’s a cornerstone of my profession, intertwining my passion with my career.

These experiences have been personally enriching and added a distinctive touch to our business, setting us apart as experts who have been to the source of the gemstones we cut and sell.

From the moment Sune Marasheki extended the invitation to explore the fabled tanzanite mines of Mererani, I felt the stirrings of excitement. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, and with my sons, Michael and Jeff, by my side, we embarked on a journey that promised the thrill of discovery.

We started our adventure from the Kibo Palace in Arusha. As I gazed out of our SUV, I witnessed the transition from the verdant vicinity of Mount Meru to the semi-arid landscapes sprinkled with shrubs characteristic of Mererani. The tales of the tanzanite mines that I once shared with Michael and Jeff now seemed to come alive as we drew closer to our destination.

The first sight that met us upon our arrival was the protective wall encircling the tanzanite mining region. I had only heard stories and seen pictures of this new security measure. The government had clearly taken steps to safeguard this precious gem reserve. Before I could even absorb the moment’s significance, we were joined by a military escort tasked with ensuring our safety throughout this expedition. Their presence was a poignant reminder of the value of the gems we were about to seek and the lengths that the government would go to protect them.

The journey to Sune’s claim, known locally as Natonya Camp, was like entering a different world. Sune, ever the gracious host, gave us a quick tour. The old entrance to the mine looked like a relic from a bygone era, guarded as it was by nature’s own barbed wire, “the wait-a-little-bit thorns.” I chuckled as Michael joked about the intimidating first impression it gave.


We were then shown a newer entrance with carved steps leading into the Earth’s belly. The air felt cooler as we began our descent, a hint of moisture clinging to it, making the atmosphere heavy. The realization dawned on me: We were about to venture nearly 2,000 feet underground.

Inside, we were introduced to some of the miners: Oloo, Sabatoor and others. Their faces told stories of dedication and perseverance. As I conversed with them, I couldn’t help but be awed by their expertise. These men, with their hands caked in dirt, had an intimate knowledge of the Earth and the secrets she held. They showed us the telltale signs of tanzanite and demonstrated how they brought bags of dirt to the surface using a rudimentary pulley system. It felt like a dance they had perfected over countless days and nights.

The camaraderie I felt with these miners, with Michael and Jeff by my side, was unexpected. Here, deep beneath the Tanzanian soil, we connected over a shared passion and respect for the Earth and her treasures. I left with an unyielding appreciation for their resilience.

Emerging from the mine was akin to a rebirth. The bright Tanzanian sun greeted us as we climbed out, gasping and marveling at our adventure. Above ground, we listened to more miners, their tales weaving a rich tapestry of dedication, dreams and the occasional great find. My heart swelled with admiration.

Sune’s mine had recently been subjected to blasting. I could see the anticipation in his eyes, and we all shared the hope of unearthing some exquisite tanzanite specimens.

Later, back in the town of Mererani, Michael, Jeff, and I were surrounded by an array of gemstones that dazzled our senses. Tanzanite, of course, but also chrome tourmalines, vibrant rubellite, and the captivating hues of pink and lavender spinel. It was a fitting culmination to a day filled with discovery and wonder.


As the sun set on this unforgettable day, I reflected on our journey into the bowels of Mererani. The miners, their spirit, their dedication, and the mesmerizing world of tanzanite mining will forever remain etched in my memory.

The adventure, however, was not over. We waited with bated breath for news from Sune about the results of his recent blasting. The anticipation of unearthing tanzanite treasures, the memories of our descent into the Earth, and the bonds formed with the hardworking miners would forever fuel my passion and remind me of the ever-present allure of the unknown.

In those moments, with the Tanzanian horizon stretching out before me, I was reminded of the timeless human thirst for adventure. It was a journey of discovery, not just of tanzanite, but also of the enduring human spirit. And as we bid our farewells to Mererani, I knew this wouldn’t be our last tryst with its hidden wonders.

Sharing tales of my adventures with loved ones has always been a delight, but nothing compared to the joy of exploring Africa alongside my two sons. This trip was beyond my wildest dreams, and watching my sons embrace the experience makes me confident that our family legacy will thrive for many generations to come.



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