It’s excessive pleasure for Becky Scheffler and me, Kevin Whitmore. We’re the gemstone patrons for Rio Grande, and we’re departing on our first ever journey to Morocco, to go to our provider of amethyst. Amethyst is a purple type of quartz, fairly well-liked, and named because the birthstone for folks born within the month of February. Rio has been promoting amethyst for many years. However simply final yr we began providing Moroccan amethyst, which is particular – Moroccan amethyst comes out of the bottom purple, no heating wanted. Additional, we will doc the “mine to market” path this gem takes.
After a day filled with airplanes and airport lounges we arrive in Casablanca, the most important metropolis in Morocco. After clearing the official entry level, we accumulate our baggage and stroll out into the Moroccan solar. We’re rapidly met by our pals – Salahaddine (Salah), the mine proprietor, is flanked by our good good friend (and well-known gem carver) Glenn Lehrer. They rush over to greet us. We’re launched to Andy Lucas, a subject gemologist from GIA, and several other others from the mining concern.
Salah and firm have organized a giant effort for us. We divide the group into two vehicles, and start our journey to Agadir, a significant metropolis on the Atlantic coast. As we drive, I’m to look at what Morocco seems to be like. Close to Casablanca I see some palm bushes, however they rapidly dwindle and we journey alongside a farm belt. I see plenty of wheat fields. We’ve a protracted drive forward of us – it should take 5 hours to reach in Agadir. Morocco makes use of the Arabic language, however I see a few odd wanting street indicators. They inform me that some indicators are in Berber – the language of the Amazigh individuals who inhabited a lot of North Africa earlier than the Arabs arrived.
We arrive in Agadir after darkish. The lodge they’ve organized for us is a stately older lodge – a palace primarily based on how stunning the foyer seems. However after 24 hours of flights and 5 hours of street, I’m able to discover a mattress.
My wake-up name comes at 5:00 a.m. Time to prepare for a giant day! We go away Agadir earlier than daybreak. Salah takes via the Moroccan countryside. The early daylight reveals a wealthy farming belt, the place we see orange groves and several other cloth-covered greenhouses. As we get farther from the coast, an arid and more and more mountainous atmosphere is introduced. It jogs my memory of the geology of the American Southwest. I point out this, and Salah jogs my memory that it’s only April for my go to to Morocco. By August, they’ll see temperatures properly over 50 levels Celsius. He has even seen it get to 57 (134 levels Fahrenheit). Wow!
Within the mountains we cease to view a tree. It’s the Argan. The Argan tree bears nuts. Salah could be very pleased with this tree, explaining that it solely grows in Morocco, and it supplies the dear Argan oil, which is used each as an edible oil and in specialty beauty gadgets resembling cleaning soap. As we start to enter the Anti-Atlas mountains, the street narrows and roughens, and we traverse a shaky single lane bridge over a small gulch. After a few hours we arrive in Igherm. We take pleasure in a small repast, the place the proprietor brings us freshly minimize mint leaves, steaming inexperienced tea in teapots, and a few massive blocks of sugar. We put the mint leaves into the pot together with a block of sugar, and permit it to steep. Our hosts inform us to pour a glass and pour it again into the pot. On this approach the tea will get properly combined. Baskets of bread, and two pans of cooked eggs and tomatoes arrive. We tear the bread into small items to dip in in olive oil, or to dab up among the cooked egg. Salah tells us after we go away that the eight of us loved the meal for about $four.
Again within the automobile, and after one other two hours, we go via a small village close to the mine web site. The boys of the village are very excited, chasing our automobile, hoping we have now introduced candies. The boys are relentless, working alongside the vehicles for fairly some time. We spy a lot of women all gathered collectively sitting by a doorway subsequent to the street. They’re lovely of their stunning attire. However when Glenn factors his digital camera at them, the all flip away and conceal their faces.
When we go away the village by a again street, the going actually will get tough. For the subsequent hour or so, we bounce over the terrain. Finally we arrive on the Berber village subsequent to the amethyst mine. The individuals who dwell at this village are linked to the mine. Salah factors out the brand new pump home. The mine has introduced working water to this village, the place earlier than they needed to haul water over a protracted distance. We proceed previous the village, and Becky spies a couple of photo voltaic collectors. Salah explains that the village additionally enjoys having electrical energy, an enchancment over the previous. Extra bouncing and 6 kilometers later we lastly arrive on the mine web site.
The amethyst mine is presently a pit mine. Salah explains that Morocco has legal guidelines for metals mining and for stone quarries However amethyst mining is a bit completely different than both of those pursuits. So they’re working with the authorities to get the right authorized definitions wanted. Mining started at this web site by pulling away among the rock face. As soon as some rock has been dropped from the face of the rhyolite and “mudstone” wall, staff choose via the rock, and bust open the mudstone with small hand picks. Right this moment the employees are few, and so they merely work on the backside of the dig. However work is winding down for the season as a consequence of warmth. In cooler months the rock is transported to an open subject, and several other staff will every have their very own pile to reap amethyst crystals from.
The crystals differ loads. Some are colorless. However many are pure coloured amethyst. The perfect ones are deep purple. Some specimens are double terminated, and one they present me has amethyst ends with clear quartz within the heart of the crystal. Wonderful. Glenn is particularly excited by these banded crystals, seeing a possibility for his TorusRing™ creations.
We climb all around the web site. The lead engineer is pleased with his web site, and the quantity of untapped amethyst nonetheless ready to be uncovered. The panorama is rugged, barren and breathtaking. Andy Lucas from GIA is eager to every little thing. So am I. Salah explains that the mine is at a crossroads. They need to resolve whether or not to keep up the pit mine strategy or begin tunneling. That is nonetheless an open determination, and the phrases the Moroccan authorities set will have an effect on it. Regardless, the geologist is satisfied the yield will simply get higher as they mine additional into the mudrock.
After climbing all around the mine web site, Becky and I retire to the small village for a respite from the solar. Glenn and Andy wish to conduct some extra interviews with the miners. Though we’re visiting in April, each Becky and I are relieved to seek out some shade.
We calm down below an open porch to the Berber chief’s, home. We lounge on colourful rugs and pillows. Muktar, the chief, begins to laboriously make us inexperienced tea. He pours the tea continuously, again and again into one glass, instantly emptying it again into the tea pot. After some time he stops pouring the tea again into the pot, however as an alternative pours it backwards and forwards between the glasses. This goes on for a very long time. As he pours he’s build up a head of froth on the tea, comparable in look to how a beer can have a head of froth.
He then brings over a really low desk, and serves the tea. A lot to my shock the tea continues to be fairly scorching. Candy and scrumptious too. We chat with our hosts about life within the village, about amethyst, and we calm down as we calm down. A number of the group resolve a nap is so as. As most of our remaining half is napping, I resolve to return out and take photos of the village.
I stroll a brief distance to enter the adjoining oasis. I’ve by no means been in an oasis earlier than. Regardless of what I’ve seen within the motion pictures, I don’t discover a water function. However the oasis goes on for fairly some time, so clearly there’s water feeding all these palm bushes. I stroll again as much as the village and word the photo voltaic panels Becky had observed earlier. I noticed one electrical gentle in Muktar’s dwelling. I’m later advised every home has one gentle.
I get again in time for lunch. Glenn and Andy have completed up on the mine, and our Berber hosts present a small feast for us. It’s clear that the amethyst mine has modified everybody’s life on this village. Earlier than the mine, herding goats was the chief occupation. Now with the amethyst mine they’ve electrical energy, working water and extra wealth.
Again into the automobile and one other 5 hour journey again to Agadir! Becky and I take pleasure in two extra days in Morocco, and our tempo slows down. It’s a perk of our positions that we get to go to Marrakesh and see the Moroccan market, and we get to dine in Rick’s Café in Casablanca (with the compulsory Humphrey Bogart film taking part in within the background).
However the go to to Morocco has been glorious primarily as a result of we have now firmly linked with our amethyst suppliers. Becky and I had beforehand visited Jaipur the place this amethyst is minimize. We’ve skilled the complete provide chain. We all know the mine helps our Moroccan pals enhance lives. We all know the roles in Jaipur chopping the tough are valued by these staff. And we’re proud to share this story with our prospects. I get excited by these beautiful jewels the earth supplies. However I get much more excited by what our inventive prospects will do with these gems. And I do know that our prospects will love realizing the complete story behind this amethyst. It’s a narrative we wish to inform for each gemstone we will.