From Asia to the Middle East, from Africa to South America, Planet holds a thousand and one treasures for minerals and gems exception. Mineral Art is aiming to explore the most remote territories thanks to the trust network that Brice Gobin has established with its local partners in many countries. Each stone that he brings back have been the source of authentic encounters; every stone tells a story ...
Flying from Peshawar to the northern area is truly a great experience… Even if I'm used to jumping on a plane to fly around the globe finding great mineral specimens, this time was my first flight to the Skardu area and I was, let’s say …anxious… Indeed, in a Boeing 733 normally one flies high above anything on the planet, but in this case, you fly so close to the peaks!! From hand on experience, I can tell you it's a rather uncomfortable sensation…
As you start descending, you pass over the summit of Nanga Parbat (26,658 feet – 8,125 meters ) quite a height! The plane then descends and proceeds to zig-zag between beautiful hills and valleys, taking a tight bend, to enter a narrow canyon, the only access to Skardu airport.
You’re still in shock as you jump out of the plane and look around…but it’s simply breathtaking. While admiring the surroundings, you are immediately brought back to earth when an officer says: “Passports please!!”
After the police check at the airport, you are free. You look at the surrounding huge mountains and feel so small, so fragile…Well, at that point I was thinking that it wouldn’t be a waste coming back empty handed without a single rock…It was just worth going, seeing and experiencing these amazing sensations. In fact, when I visited Skardu last time, it wasn't the right time for finding great minerals…too bad, but I knew I’d be back there one day!
For the next trip, I planned to visit Gilgit and the famously beautiful Hunza Valley. Many specimens of aquamarine & fluorite had recently been brought back from Nagar, the Hunza Valley, the week before and were waiting for me… Nagar here I come! Chumar Bakhoor (Nagar Mine) is world famous for beautiful aquamarine crystals of muscovite. They very rarely come in association with fluorite on the same matrix, but when they do and when the quality is there, it makes them extremely desirable to any collector.
On my way to Nagar village I dream about the piece I'm hoping to see. Based on the news we have had, Aziz and Mirwali, my 2 friends in Pakistan are convinced this is going to be the lucky trip.
In Pakistan as with most Muslim countries, as a tradition before any business discussion starts, a welcome tea is offered to you and long discussions can then begin. More green tea and more topics discussed…But this is part of the deal and part of what I love in going to the source: sharing a moment with the people coming from a totally different civilization from yours.
After long and patient moments of waiting, the parcel is finally unveiled. It’s better than what I had expected…I am speechless and surprised to see that on this particular piece, the matrix for the fluorite is the Aquamarine itself! Not just a small one, but a large and great one! The piece is a masterpiece. I take it in my hands and inspect it from every angle as I am sure of finding a problem somewhere, damage, a scratch, an edge with a tiny fault, something that would put an end to my excitement.
In fact there are no faults, nothing that spoils the piece; it is pristine. How is that possible? These guys climb up to 5000m high to collect these minerals and then have to bring them back down to the village once they find them… and the piece has not even a small scratch? I can hardly believe it.
However, my pulse increases as I ask the fateful question: how much??
After a long and stormy discussion with the owner of the parcel we shake hands. I firmly take hold of the piece and pack it very carefully away, as it is now proudly mine.
After a short night and a 22 hour uncomfortable drive, I arrive in my hotel in Peshawar and relax with a hot and welcome green tea. This is all that counts…this is why I travel, why I go to the source. This feeling is unique and addictive. It gives even more value to the stone, not the issue of money…but soul. It tells a story and enables me to share this with my family and my clients.
Then, all the frustration often involved with complicated journey after journey without even finding what we are looking for, is washed away the moment you see the Ultimate Piece. Unfortunately this doesn't happen every time. But would the quest be so exciting if it did?
Such a tourmaline is the kind of piece that you are excited to obtain yet very sad to sell, because you know you won’t have the opportunity of handling such a great specimen for a long time. Never say never indeed, but we know how difficult it is to come across something of that standard. I found this piece directly in Peshawar, in the Namak mandi gemstone market. I knew about it but the piece was “sealed” by the different local owners.
Here's how it happened…
One of my suppliers from Afghanistan called a week before to tell me that he was ready to release his piece and offer it to me. Since the discovery of the piece there hadbeen many stormy discussions concerning the asking price as it was too high and several partners were in disagreement for that reason. Fortunately for me, the main owner of this beautiful specimen was one of my very good suppliers in Peshawar. If the key people involved in this market trust you, it's certain you’ll get a phone call a few days after a great mineral specimen is discovered. This is the reason why it is so important to make a good first impression at a new source of contact when searching for minerals and gems.
I had already held the piece once in my hands a few weeks ago and so I knew the quality was right for my clients. I decided to start the discussion about its price over the phone…I didn’t want to waste my time as I knew the price would be too high! But my friend convinced me to fly to Pakistan, to sit and drink surely ten glasses of tea while looking and talking about this beautiful specimen. I thought, well maybe I’ll find other specimens around and even if I don't decide to buy this tourmaline , I could still be lucky and maybe find something else… It took me 3 days to find it. 2 hours a day of negotiations and loud talking between my two friends and all the partners involved in this piece (most of the big parcels of mineral specimens belong to many different people to reduce the risk of loss of money, if the piece is not sold at the right price). The piece was “sealed” 3 times for me!
Well, if you can see the photo of that piece here, it means that at last it has become mine but that was through tough negotiation! I was of course very happy and proud to have clinched the deal here as I think this is one of the finest bi-colored tourmaline from Paprock ever found. The balance of the piece is great, the tourmaline reflects a pleasant pink colour mixed with a vivid green emerald colour, on a fine white albite matrix combined with a sharp smoky quartz on the side. It made my day of course and then one of my friend's, a few weeks later at the Tucson international fair…
Morganite is the pink variety of Beryl, named in 1911 by G.F. Kunz, “Morganite”, after John Pierpont, a rich banker, collector of gemstones. Pure beryl is colorless and is called Goshenite. However, it may contain foreign elements such as iron, manganese, chrome or vanadium and if manganese is intercalated in beryl, the rather plain, colorless gemstone turns into a beautiful pink color and is called Morganite. The iron gives a beautiful light blue color to Beryl and this is called Aquamarine. When the chrome or vanadium gives a rich green color, this is what we call Emerald.
As far as I am concerned, the shape is of course very important but I consider the exceptional quality of an extraordinary Morganite to be its color. I expect from a Morganite to be PINK, not pink with a touch of orange...!
I obtained this Morganite a few years ago from a private collection. It comes from Corrego du Urucum, in Brazil. I have been working on that collection for some time and it is not an easy task to have access to it. Sometimes I find it much easier to go to the source to get the ultimate piece, leading a simple life, living off sardines in oil shared for dinner with local people from the mine.
I am greatly relieved that the collectors who own such treasures and are unwilling to sell easily, at least, are aware of what they have, and why they are so rare and desirable... We all should realize that the probability of coming across something that is truly at world class level, is infinitely small. In most cases, a rare gemstone or top mineral specimen comes from a remote place, far from the city, or road or any easy transportation access. That said, you can easily imagine how long and difficult the journey towards the stone can be before you actually acquire it as part of your collection.
Africa is a perfect example of this type of journey. In fact, an African miner has to solve a mountain of different problems, even before making the first hole in the ground. Finding money is the first challenge, in order to provide for the family he is leaving in the village for several weeks. On arrival at the mining site, he has to meet the people from the village nearby, offering hospitality and food. He meets the chief of the village and negotiates to stay there and to work at the mine… If the negotiations go well and “friendship” is established, he can then start working in the pit the next day. Sadly, often local army guys hear about him and his team, working at the mine…they then come over to the site… and more money has to be given out. Luckily, he has a pocket with a few little coins! It’s payday. Well payday means bigger problems start…Everyone will ask for a piece of this small cake…
A mine is rarely next to a road, which means that a mineral specimen has to be dug out by hand and carried out of the mine, packed in banana leaves, strapped on the back of a bicycle and proceed on its way to a dangerous and very uncomfortable track road for probably 30 miles. Then, loaded on to a truck with 50 people, chickens, pigs, 300 wooden charcoal bags, corn, manioc roots and plenty of other stuff piled up on top of it ; it is packed and unpacked each time a military check point is crossed, with a little contribution taken from the owner each time it is shown… If the miner gets really lucky and the specimen is still in one piece when reaching the town, someone might just, undergo a feeling of “love at first sight” and buy it… Such is the coming to existence of the precious stone.
“If you don’t know where you are going to, look where you come from…” (an African saying)
We all should remember this. The journey may be more uncomfortable than what we'd thought.
So, when I got the green light from the collector to visit his collection, I didn’t expect to get such a fine example of what I consider to be a killer Morganite! This piece is a killer Morganite in many aspects. It is a complete and very well formed crystal, with glassy lustre and extreme gem material inside. This undamaged and complete floater crystal is one of the finest known in the world and is today owned by a good friend and mineral collector.