My Field Gemmology Experience
Updated: Jul 1
I met Vincent Pardieu in July 2016 when he was the guest speaker at our London GIA alumni event. At that time he was Head of Field Gemmology at the GIA in Bangkok, Thailand. His fascinating talk on collecting rubies in Mozambique had me gripped from the start—ruby is my favourite gemstone.
Vincent Pardieu speaking at the GIA alumni event on 1st August, 2016
Before he had even finished his talk, I had decided that my future with gemstones wouldn’t be in a laboratory, but out in the field, where I could nurture my love for gemstones while exploring the world.
After Vincent’s talk, drinks were served, and networking started. I boldly approached him, introduced myself and expressed my wish to travel with him. Vincent explained that he only travels with people he knows well and can’t risk having someone who is a liability or slows up the team. Some of his trips might involve 16-hour treks through dense jungles so stamina is of huge importance. He made it very clear that he is not a tour guide and has no interest in being so again. His trips have a very clear purpose—to build a reference collection for the GIA to determine a gemstone’s origin. Point taken.
Three lunch meetings later in Bangkok and London, Vincent invited me to join him to photograph his next expedition in Thailand. My passion and persistence had paid off.
Little did I know that I would find myself back at the very same Khao Ploy Waen sapphire mines I had visited at the end of 2016. After spending 7 months in a classroom studying gemmology full time, I had been desperate to go travelling again, so had treated myself to a celebratory field gemmology trip to Chanthaburi. What a happy coincidence!
So, in April 2017, I flew to Bangkok to join Vincent. I was expecting to head to Chanthaburi the following day, but received news that the trip was delayed. Vincent had been caught up in an ongoing media frenzy relating to a sapphire rush in north-east Madagascar six months earlier. It was a troubling time for Vincent and for the gem industry as a whole.
I spent a tense 3 days waiting in my hotel. Thankfully, Vincent was eventually able to give us the green light, and off we headed in the minibus to Chanthaburi. For the first day or two, the media handling of the sapphire rush continued to be the topic of heated conversation.
Vincent Pardeiu talking with the young gemmologists about the importance of research
The field trip was incredibly interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of Vincent’s team. It’s always more fun when you have people to share the experience with. I learned a lot from Vincent, including one very strange incident which taught me some important lessons…
Vincent stopped me in the street and to my surprise put a gemstone in my hand.
“What is it?” he asked. I looked at it.
“At first glance it looks like a very nice star ruby,” I replied. He told me to look again more closely. I took my loupe out and examined it more closely. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at. He told me to look for the gas bubbles as it was a lead-glass filled ruby. I explained that I had never actually seen one before (or, indeed, known of their existence) at which point Vincent berated me for not looking where I was standing whilst I was examining it. I was speechless, given that he’d been the one to stop me in the street and give it to me. I had no idea where he had got it from. He took it back, turned around and gave it back to an elderly man who was no doubt trying to find a naïve tourist to hoodwink. I felt even more stupid because I had obviously fallen for it! I kept my eyes a bit wider open from then on.
Field Gemmology – counting the mines across Khao Ploy Waen, Thailand 2016.
Field Gemmology – learning about culture around Chanthaburi town in Thailand 2016
Talking about history, inside Khuk Khi Kai Chicken Pooh Prison in Thailand
Talking about Field Gemmology at Khao Ploy Waen mine with Vincent Pardieu
Boat trip to Lion Island – setting up the drone camera
Enjoying the Thai hospitality – shade and refreshing coconuts!
Making a video at the mine in Chanthaburi – Vincent Pardieu talking with Justin K Prim
End of another day learning about Field Gemmology with Vincent Pardieu, Thailand 2016
Probably the most important lesson Vincent taught us all about field gemmology was ‘always expect the unexpected.’ That three-day delay was unexpected and it was certainly a surprise when out of nowhere he popped a beautiful 30 carat lead-glass filled star ruby into my hand!
It’s a lesson I have since applied to every single trip I have made while writing my Gemstone Detective series. Older and wiser, I automatically expect the unexpected. In today’s day and age, it’s a good life lesson to learn.
After the trip, Vincent Pardieu published a video of our field gemmology trip, which I’m pleased to be able to share with you.
Kim Rix GG GIA
Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence