Day 7/8: Tanzanite Gem Cutting in Tanzania

March 30, 2018

Day 8 has come and Steve and Matt Bigelow are ready to get back to work. Did we skip Day 7? Nope, but it was a rest day for both of them. Steve Moriarty and Matt Bigelow have been out so many days and nights, that they just wanted one day to just relax and take a break from work. Matt noted that it was hard not to go out and explore this beautiful country, Tanzania, but it needed to be done...everyone needs a break...even when in Tanzania.

Cutting Faceting Tanzanite


So Steve and Matt planned on doing quite a few different things today. The first thing on the list was to go by a local dealer's office and do some gem cutting. You might be wondering why not just take the rough back to the USA and get it there. Well it is illegal in Tanzania to export any rough greater than 1 gram (Learn more here). So this means that if Steve buys any stones in the rough that are over a gram, he needs to cut and polish them, so they are in a "finished state". This then allows his to legally export them out of Tanzania. Why do they do this? It helps Tanzania keep Tanzanite within the country, as this is a huge part of the economy here.

This is the cutting and polishing machine Steve used while over in Tanzania. He has been cutting gemstones for over 25 years (see many of his stones here). The machine is water cooled and uses blades to cut the stones. Watch out for your finger Steve!

Once Steve was finished, he was able to hand over all the stones he cut in about an hour or two over to the dealer's men. They will then do the finally finishing process to get them ready to take out of the country. Amazing how many services like this are available in Tanzania.


Many of you may know that heating gemstones can cause them to change color. Typically it lightens the color of the gemstones and if you heat it for too long, it can actually cause the stone to be clear in color...not something you want usually, especially with Tanzanite. Steve has previously bought some Tanzanite that was pretty dark in color and wanted to see if he couldn lighten them up a little bit. Great luck that the Tanzanite dealer has an alcohol lamp and Steve got to work lightening up his stone!

Now this is what Steve basically did for Day 8. This is all in the job. Matt, who was with Steve, and is actually a professional photographer decided this was the day to take some pictures of the local tribes in Tanzania. For a great story and some amazing pictures of the tribe, head over to Matt's Blog here.


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