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by Steve Moriarty March 30, 2018
It's day 6 in Tanzania and today Steve Moriarty (owner of this website and Moriarty's Gem Art) and Matt Bigelow (professional photographer and family friend) decided to head back to the minds. If you want to check out what happened on day 5, click here for that!
On the way to the mines, Steve and Matt found many interesting sites along the way. From women carrying bananas, to men on bikes (bringing cooking materials to the men at the mines) to donkeys carrying water to and from the mines. Even the trucks bringing miners to and from can be found. It's amazing how much work is being done for Tanzanite.
Unlike the previous trip to the mines where Steve and Matt actually went into the mines, this trip was going to be different. They were going to take our chances and look to buy Tanzanite in the mining area, not in the actual mines. Because Steve has done this before, he knows you can make some good finds. This is because many miners in Tanzania are actually paid in Tanzanite gemstones, so they are willing to bargain to sell their stones.
So how is this done...it's pretty crazy as you can see. You basically drive into the Tanzanite mining area, park your car and wait. When a buyer like Steve is in the area, the word gets around the camps and very quickly your car is surrounded by miners looking to sell their stones. This looks very intimidating, but Steve has been doing this for decades and knows what to expect. This type of thing gets him in his element where he really shines.
When Steve and Matt finally arrived in the mining town, they decided to work with the local dealers instead of working in the street. This town was known for being a little sketchy and rough, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Plus when you come into a new town and work directly with the dealers, you don't stop on anyone's toes...this makes it even more safe for you.
The Tanzanite Dealers
One thing to know is that when you come to these mining towns, the dealers you meet with actually don't own all the gemstones you see. They are sort of like middle man. It's their job to provide you with a safe and comfortable working environment from the street sellers. They help connect the street sellers and you...this way you are not rushed from everyone in town. So what do they get from this if they don't actually own the stores? On average the dealers get 1-5% commissions on all profits for offering this 'protection'. This day in particular though, the prices were sky high...almost 3x as much as buying at the mines.
Steve and Matt started outside, but the street traffic was just too much, so they moved the buying indoors.
Matt commented that when they went to inside office, it was the strangest office he has encountered yet. There was basically a small waiting room (10x10). Then, the weirdest thing, in the corner of the room was a small 4ft miniature door. Through this ultra small door, was an even smaller office with a desk and 3 chairs...and yes, this is where they were to do the buying.
Steve and Matt spent a little over 2 hours in this small, dark, cramped office. This was not thehighlight of Matt's trip...lol. After doing some bargaining with the dealers, Steve ended up with some great stones!
So when all was said and done, they headed out. But because this process took so long, they got done after dark, which is not something they wanted. As mentioned before, this was not the safest town to be in, even more so after dark. Sune, our driver even did a few loops around town to make sure they were not being followed out of town. After doing some major buys all day, the locals pretty much know who you are and the kind of car you drive, so you need to be very careful. They made it back to the hotel safe and sound tough. Time for a rest day!
Steve Moriarty has been in the jewelry industry for over 30 years. Steve is not only a jeweler, but a gem cutter and designer. He has traveled the world in search of gemstone rough and has owned a retail jewelry store for 20 years located in Crown Point, Indiana.
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