Thanks and disclaimer:


Important Note: The author: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok . GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.


Conservation Gemology. org

This website is home for:

Vincent Pardieu (B.Sc., GGA, G.G.). Vincent is "Supervisor, Field Gemology" at GIA Laboratory Bangkok. He is a gemologist specialized on "Origin determination of gemstones" and for the past 10 years has focus on visiting gem mining areas in Asia and Africa. His writtings can also be found in


It is also home of several of VP regular traveling companions. Among them are Jean Baptiste Senoble, Lou Pierre Bryl and Stephane Jacquat who were with VP in the field in Mozambique when the concept behind this website was suddenly making a lot of sense.
It is also home for another friend with a genuine passion for gemstones, conservation and development issues:

Laurent E. Cartier is a geologist and gemmologist based in Switzerland. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences on the sustainability of  marine pearl farming, but also continues to work on gemstones. His current projects on pearl farming can be found at


“Conservation Gemology” is very similar in many aspects to its twin-website: but will not focus on presenting traditional field expedition reports. Instead you will find here blogs and articles with a focus on the conservation aspects related to gem mining in the areas visited by the author.


What is gemology?


Gemology is by definition the knowledge about gems; it is fascinating to the author as it is covering many aspects like science but also history, geography, trade and art. Most websites and publications are dealing with technical and scientific aspects of gemstone identification or trade aspects but other aspects like history, geography and art should not be neglected as they are really interesting and useful to understand gems, their trade and the reasons why they fascinate people.


What about conservation?


Conservation is basically an ethic of resource use. Its focus is upon maintaining the health of our planet in order for the future generations to be able to continue to enjoy it. Conservation does not means keeping away people out from nature, but its goals are to help men to find sustainable ways to use natural resources for future generations to be able to continue benefiting from these natural resources.


Conservation and Gemology?


To associate "Conservation" and "Gemology" might look unusual as gemstone mining is not really sustainable: Indeed a gemstone which was mined will never be mined again. Nevertheless, in a world where conservation issues become day after day more and more serious and where more and more people are getting conserned about issues dealing with the future of our planet, many people inside the gemstone industry but also some people just enjoying gems show an increasing interest in the origin of these beautiful gems and are bring to think about issues regarding the way gems are produced nowadays.


Thanks to the fact that in many cases at least for rubies, sapphires and emeralds, origin determination of gemstones is in most cases possible, then people have some information about the places where gemstones were mined. Recent events like the US and European ban on "Burmese rubies" have shown that the idea about origin and origin determination might, we like it or not, going now beyond the simple idea of romance.


As the author could see during the last 10 years traveling to gem mining areas in Asia and Africa many gem mining area are truly beautiful.

Gemstones can be found sometimes within areas dedicated to conservation. With East Africa, a region famous worldwide for its national parks, beconing more and more a major source of colored gemstones, thus it might be interesting to think about a way for gemstone mining to be an ally of conservation, instead to be one more thread people interesting in the conservation of these beautiful areas will have to face: If the arrival of hundreds of illegal miners can be a disaster for a protected area, on the other hand a well managed ethical gem mining operation concerned about conservation issues could help to finance conservation programs which could benefit to the whole area including its local population.


Visiting such gem mining areas, and in particular a new ruby mining area located inside the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique, I was aksed by conservationists working for the reserve if I could help.

Since my childhood in countryside France I'm deeply interested in nature and conserned about conservation. The fact is that during the last 10 years I was given the chance to travel and to visit many gemstone producing areas where i could see some interesting things and many things which could have been avoided. I decided then to build this website as a tool to help people working in conservation and others working in the gemstone industry to understand that they might benefit a lot working with each other.


- - -


Should the Niassa lions be afraid of gemstones?


To illustrate that question the author choosed to place on the top banner of Conservation Gemology a lioness and a blue star sapphire. The first to remember our adventures trying to visit a new ruby mining area located inside the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique and the second as a symbol of luck, faith and hope.

May be the Niassa Lioness should not be afraid about the gem, but it probably could be conserned about the people getting a gem fever and coming to Niassa mining gemstones.


The whole question is about people as this is what the gem trade is all about: People. If the people mining there are conserned about conservation, then the lioness has nothing to be worried about. But if not, then gem mining areas in Niassa might become very hostile areas for Niassa lions and a serious consern for conservationists trying to protect this area for the future generations.


Could gems found in areas dedicated to conservation be a chance for conservationists?"


These are important question at least for people like Dr. Anabela Rodrigues and Vernon Booth from the Niassa National Reserve are asking themselves during that Winter 2009 while the author is working on this website.


It is an interesting question question which can be applied to the whole region where gems are found in areas dedicated to conservation.


Could the gemstone industry become an ally of conservationists to protect the gems of the living world that are truly National Parks and the unique East African Wildlife?


Could gems bring some sustainable job opportunities for the local population to help them to develop and protect Niassa for their own benefit and the benefit of the rest of the planet?


This is what conservation gemology is about.


You will then find here some blogs and article about gem mining and conservation. We hope that you will find them interesting and useful.


All the best,



Vincent Pardieu, December 15th 2009.



Website Map


Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog

About the Author

About me : How did a countryside Frenchman became a "Shameless Travel Addicted Gemologist and Conservationist"? ( Under construction)


Contact the author:


Write Comments:

Fieldgemology Page on facebook



"Conservation gems: Beyond Fair Trade?", by Laurent Cartier and Vincent Pardieu, Jan 2012


"Fair Trade and Conservation: “When origin matters", 14th ICA Congress, Brazil, 2011.

Find our blogs using the following Keywords:

     Fair trade
     national geographic

Find our photos using the following Keywords:

     Ha Long
     Minh Tien
     pearl farm
     star ruby
     Tan Huong

Discover Conservation Gemology newsletter:
(One of these days...)



THANKS for their support
for our field expeditions since 2005:


about gems, gemology, field expeditions, studying gemology, minerals, jade, pearls or jewelry?
We recommend these FORUMS
where the author is contributing:

Interesting reference website regarding CONSERVATION and GEMOLOGY

To finish here are some BOOKS about

Conservation and Gemology
the author have read and appreciated and would like to recommend to people willing to learn more about gemstones, gemology and the places where gemstones are found:



Creative Commons License

The photos and articles on are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Feel free to use the photos and articles with links and credits. No commercial use without permission.
All the best,

October 30th, 2012 | Keywords:Madagascar , Didy , conservation Travel |
Blog Title: ASM-Pace_Didy

Artisanal and Small scale Mining (ASM) in Madagascar protected areas?

This case study is available on website since June 2012

Ocotber 3rd 2012: One of my friends, a gem miner in Madagascar, sent me few days ago an email telling me that he met there the author of a very interesting report on the issues related with the ruby and sapphire rush in Didy and more widely the issues associated with ASM (Artisanal and Small scale Mining) and conservation in Madagascar.

The report is from ASM-Pace, a partnership between Estelle Levin Limited and the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to address the environmental impacts of artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) in some of the world's most important ecosystems. Interestingly the program is funded by the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, World Bank’s Programme on Forests (PROFOR), WWF Netherlands, WWF USA, WWF DRC, Africa Biodiversity and Conservation Group (ABCG), and with the logistical support of WWF’s Central Africa Regional Programme Office (WWF CARPO)... Madagascar case study

ASM-Pace madagascar case study: Photo:

The Madagascar case study has an interesting chapter on what happened in Didy from Aoril to June 2012 (from pages 73 to 75), and the report is nicely illustrated with some aerial photos provided by Tom Cushman. The report covers also what was going on in other parts of the country where sapphires are found like:

- around Ilakaka were gems are found since 1999 in an extended area including a small part of the Isalo and most of the the Zombitse - Vohibasia protected areas,

- near Ambondromifehy where blue yellow and greeen sapphires are mined since 1994 in an area covering a part of the Ankaranana protoected area

and it report also about what they saw near Andranondambo, where the first commercial quality blue sapphires were found in Madagascar in 1992.

People interested in gemstones and conservation will probably interested to read that case study. Furthermore the rest of the website including some other case study (about Liberia and Gabon) of the website, including some other case study about Liberia and Gabon is also worth reading.

August 30th, 2012 | Keywords:pearl , conservation Travel |
Blog Title: Pearl farming and conservation

Pearl farming as a sustainable development path?

This article by Laurent Cartier and Saleem Ali is available on website since August 2012

August 2012: Laurent Cartier informed me of a recent publication he had on pearl farming related to environmental issues: Do you want a cleaner ocean? Well, a nice idea could be the promotion of pearls...

Here is an interesting article by Laurent Cartier and Saleem Ali on the subject. The fact is that to grow fine pearls oysters need to be healthy. To have healthy pearls we need a healthy ocean. As the author saw when he visited a pearl farming area in Megui archipelago (Burma) in December 2007, succesful pearls farming is performed in wonderful pristine environment as these are the condition nevessary for fine quality cultured pearls to be grown. Promoting pearls farming is thus a way to motivate people to keep the sea clean as with an archipelago with clean water revenues from pearl farming can be obtained. Furthermore as oysters can be seen as natural filters for the sea, the oyster from pearl farm contribute to a cleaner sea.

pearl farming development

ASM-Pace madagascar case study: Photo:

Some other articles on the same subject can be found here, and of course on "Sustainable".
Enjoy the reading.

May 8th, 2011 | Keywords:conservation , ICA , presentation Travel |
Blog Title: ICA Congress Brazil

14th ICA (International Colored stone Association) Congress, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (April 30th - May 04th 2011):

Few days ago the author put for the first time in his life his feet in South America as he attended the 14th ICA congress. In the following blog once is not the rule, it will not be about the author and some friends going on an expedition in an exotic gem mining location around the world. To the inverse, it is about a congress where the author was asked to give a presentation. As in Panyu (China) in 2009, Dubai (United Arab Emirates) in 2007 and Bangkok (Thailand) in 2005, the ICA congress taking place once every two years are not really something that could be qualified as "field gemology" but it was nevertheless about traveling, meeting gem people and learning from new experiences and encounters.

The congress was cozy and comfortable; it was taking place in Copacabana beach. This time the congress was dedicated to "Ethical Mining and Fair Trade, certification challenges from mines to market" and on the following photos you will not see the author dressed like an Afghan or like a guy ready to go to the African bush...

"Last minute preparation of the author presentation..."
The day before his presentation the author was cought still working on his presentation by the official ICA photographer while his neighbor Hanco Zwaan looks more focus on what is going on on the stage.
Photo: ICA, 2011

The congress was very interesting regarding many aspects:
Brazil has some very strict environmental laws compared to many other colored gemstone producing countries and several Brazilian presentations were very interesting. The author particularly appreciated the conclusions of Marcello Ribeiro presentation:

"In mining, more money can go to the ground than come out of it. So, you should not act as a treasure hunter, but as an investor, managing risks in pursuit of profitability."

That was reminding the author of the words he was told in 2005 by Campbell Bridges while he was visiting his tsavorite mine near Tsavo in Kenya:

"For a gem mining operation to be successful you need to master three things: The geology, as you need to understand where are the gems, the mining engineering as you need to find a safe and profitable way to mine these gems and the security as you cannot afford to be stolen your production. If you fail on any of these 3 points: You mining operation will be a loosing money operation..."


"ICA Vice president Jean Claude Michelou, speaking to the author and Philippe Scordia from Dior"
Photo: ICA, 2011

The author also particularly appreciated some other presentations like the one from an Ian Harebotle from Gemfields. Gemfields is one of the largest colored gemstone mining companies in the world. Being big means that, potentially they are a target for some activists. Aware of that fact they have adopted a proactive strategy and are one of the leading gemstones mining companies regarding fair trade and conservation issues. The company while doing its best to be profitable is also supporting several interesting programs about development and conservation in association with the World Land Trust. The author found the "Emeralds for Elephants" program particularly interesting as here gems are used to promote and finance conservation. The success of that operation might motivate other members of the gem trade to consider also associating their gems with conservation efforts...

That aspect was the main subject of the author own presentation "Fair Trade and Conservation: “When origin matters". In that presentation the author acknowledge that if fair trade is a very interesting concept for non-durable products, with products like colored gemstone the concept has some major limitations particularly because gemstones, unlike bananas or coffee, are a durable product.


Discover here the author presentation "Fair Trade and Conservation: “When origin matters" given during the 14th ICA Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That presentation was following the article written for InColor about "Rubies from Niassa, A Chance for Conservation?" in the Summer 2010 issue pp. 26 to 29 (also available online here)

Indeed most of the gemstones currently in the stock in the safes of the gem merchants, the jewelers or in the jewelry boxes of ladies around the world were mined more than 3 years ago. Furthermore many gemstones found in auction houses were probably mined tens or even possibly hundreds years ago.

That idea was given to the author about 10 years ago during a discussion with a Parisian gem merchant while the author, then a young wannabe gem trader, was trying to see if he could build a business with fair trade gems. That merchant words were not really what I expected, I remember to have been quite stunned by them and few days after that discussion I decided to explore other possibilities to start something in association with gems. His words were more or less:

"Well Vincent, I will be honest with you: I don't want to promote Fair Trade: The reason is quite simple: Most of the stones in my stock like these Mughal emeralds (that are probably more than 300 years old) are old stock. Of course I've no information about the producer or the miner... They are probably dead for centuries. So promoting your stones as Fair Trade might just make people think that my other stones, that cannot comply to fair trade rules, are may be bad... This is not an idea I want to put in the head of my customers. And I don't want to get everyday people asking me for Fair Trade emeralds: I don't have any in my stock. And even if I wanted I need first to sell what I have in my inventory..."

The Parisian merchant was right on spot as if most of the bananas today available in our fruit markets were probably grown less than few months ago, only a small percentage of the colored gemstones existing today were mined by people that are still alive. Asking the colored gemstone industry to make efforts on fair trade issues means somewhere to put a lot of pressure on a very small percentage of the stones currently in the trade while you will have difficulties to get support from the people with stock full of old stones...

Of course most people agree that it is important to improve the working conditions of the gem miners, but a good question might be the following: Is it fair to ask the miners working today to do alone all the work required for the gemstone industry to looks good and save the planet? Or may be we could find some ways for the gems mined in the past to participate in the process? Could we find a way to interest people like the Parisian jeweller I met to participate in some efforts to make the situation around gem mining areas better?


"The author giving his presentation about Conservation and Origin"
Photo: ICA, 2011

Traveling in Niassa to visit a new ruby deposit in 2009 the author spent 3 days under arrest in the Niassa bush. During this long hours and the following days and months working on Mozambique rubies, he spent a lot of time communicating with conservationists in charge of Niassa and brainstorming with them about conservation and gem mining. It woke up something that was a little bit sleepy for many years inside the author who started to think seriously to think about conservation and gemology. Because if origin for gemstones matters, then what is going on where the gems are produce obviously matters. From these days was born.

The author was then introducing the concept of "Conservation Gemstones" as something possibly more adapted to the gem trade than "Fair Trade Gemstones": We could imagine that any gemstone, even mined several hundreds years ago could be used to promote and finance good ideas.

Technically it could be quite simple to put in place: An individual gemstone dealer or jeweler could decide to start using his gemstones to promote and finance this or that good idea associated with conservation. We could imagine a jewelry designer with a passion for lions creating a jewelry collection using Mozambique rubies willing to support the work of Dr. Colleen and Keith Begg for their Niassa Lion Project. On a larger scale some African gem trading association could find interesting to collaborate with conservationists in East Africa on a joint project using gemstones from East Africa to support East African National Parks and as the same time to using the fame of these national parks to promote gems of African origin.
In fact it does not have to deal only with conservation: We could imagine people deciding to use their gems to support some projects about the education of children in this or that gem mining area. In such case all gems could be useful, not only those that are extracted today...


"GIA time"
During that congress, 3 speakers from GIA (Andy Lucas, Robert Weldon and the author) were invited to give presentations. It was interesting to see that from three different perspectives, we were both providing more or less the same message.
Photo: ICA, 2011

The fact is that the issue of ethical and fair trade are not as simple as they look. Simple ideas are sometimes very complicated to become realities. The presentation by ICA Vice President Jean Claude Michelou was interesting as it shows how complex is the supply chain from mine to market and thus how difficult it is to change the world into a perfect or even more modestly into a better one.

Another presentation was in that sense of great interest in the author opinion: It was the presentation by Douglas Hucker from AGTA about how the trade was able restore public confidence in Tanzanite after the suggestion by some articles few weeks after 9/11 that there was a link between tanzanite smuggling and terrorism. The trade was able to react efficiently and prove that these suggestions were not based on facts and took measures to ensure the legitimacy of the supply chain and protect it from criminal abuse.

The idea that what is happening at the origin matters regularly came back in other people presentations and not all the time as problems but also as opportunities: Steve Bennett from Rock Color ltd and Gems TV said that by working directly with miners whenever possible, he is not only able to track gems from the source, but also track the people who bring it to market, and share their stories. According to him:

"The more you tell, the more you sell".

Of course all depends of the story you have to tell. Then the obvious next step might be to do the right things to get better stories to tell. Conservation gemstones? The author proposal at the end of his own presentation:

"Associate yourself with the good guy today in order not to be associated with the bad guys tomorrow",

was very similar to the final advice given by his colleagues from GIA Andy Lucas and Robert Weldon at the end of their own presentations:

“Do the right thing in all that you do. You will know it, your supplier will know it, and so will your customers".


"Men in Black?"
Left to right: Etienne Marvillet, Vincent pardieu, Flavie Isatelle, Thomas Hainschwang, ICA Vice president Jean Claude Michelou and Philippe Scordia. ICA congress are great place to meet people, network, exchange ideas and initiate projects.
Photo: ICA, 2011

Now many nice words, interesting ideas and succesful examples were heard and discuss about during these few nice days days in Rio de Janeiro. The author hopes that it will motivate and help people in the gem trade to make things better. Of course: Rome was not built in one day. The author knows that... but hopefully one stone at a time, things might go in the right direction.

The author would like then to thanks the ICA and the people from Brazil to have organized such a nice event in Rio de Janeiro. It was a pleasure to have participated and I hope that this would have been useful for ICA, the GIA, Brazil, the whole gem trade and also the people involved in conservation or just trying to make a living near the places where colored gemstones are mined.

All the best,


Important Note: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok. GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.