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Tanzanite mis-information

All, In a recent post someone wrote in suggesting that a recent
article in the Wall Street Journal suggested that Osama Bin Laden
was involved in the Tanzanite Mines in Tanzania.

Last night, in an interview on P.B.S., that same author was
interviewed on the subject and it turns out that he had no hard
evidence of Laden’s involvement in Tanzanite nor was there any
indication that Laden had an ownership interest.

His only “evidence” was the contention that because the traffic in
Tanzanite sometimes involved people who were Muslim extremists, some
of the rough and cut stones found their way to Dubai where trade in
stones and gold were freely exchanged by persons of all backgrounds.

Lets get real ! The wild and wooly commerce in gemstones in Africa
has no controls and the marketplace is dominated not by nefarious
political entities but, rather, by the almighty dollar. Anybody can
play the game and it is buyer beware!

I have dealt in gems in both Tanzania and Kenya and I can assure you
that no game of chess would ever approach the African gemstone
marketplace for excitement and intrigue !

Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Hi, Ron-

OK, lets get real. How many jewelers and gem dealers currently selling
tanzanites would stop purchasing and selling them if it turns out that
sales of these stones support terrorist activities? I ask, because
despite some recent talk of “conflict diamonds” I am not hearing much
about a change in purchasing habits. And why would I? Back when the
prime source of diamonds was apartheid South Africa, when De Beers
diamonds were the product of virtual slave labor by black Africans
for the enrichment of white Afrikaners, I did not hear much about that
issue either.

The truth is, a lot of the stones and jewelry currently sold, while
they may not support terrorist organizations, certainly support unsafe
working conditions, child labor, starvation wages, smuggling, and
other unsavory practices. This is no secret. Based on that
observation, it seems fairly clear that the gem and jewelry industry
as a whole, when forced to choose between ethics and income, opts for

So I’m with you, Ron, let’s get real, and lets get real about
motivation. If those in the jewelry and gem trade really made
purchasing decisions on the basis of right conduct rather than
immediate profit, the industry would look a whole lot different.

I’m curious; how many of you will commit publicly to stop trading in
tanzanites if proof is produced that the sale of this gemstone
finances terrorism?
Lee Einer

Lee, What is still left out in this whole equation is, awful as
conditions are, it is the sole source of income for many of those
laboring to extract these and any gems in underprivileged parts of
the world. To boycott or in any way interfere with the livelihood of
those at the bottom needing the income at all is far more cruel. As
far as terrorist money, freeze the accounts as is currently being
done in some places, that way the original wages had already been

It is easy to sensationalize the hazardous conditions under which
many work. Gets wide media coverage and many talking heads spouting
out what should be done, all while sitting warm and well fed in the
US or the Continent. Making life better for all begins with
education. Teresa

Not only would I stop buying tanzanite but I would make it my
business to inform my clients. Did you not see what happend in
Isreal over the weekend, or NYC Sept. 11?

The caveat though is making sure that my is correct.
There are a few countries that have very bad histories of human
right offences. I try and avoid buying items from these countries,
unless they are essential, and I buy no means buy luxury status
symbols from these countries. It is really hard because sometimes
their items are the best, but I do not always have to have the best.

Quite frankly, it was not until I saw an episode on Law and Order
did I find out that history of what happened to Black’s in South
Africa regarding diamonds.

Luckily you now can find diamonds that are mined in Canada.

Teresa and All, I agree with you that the people at the bottom of the
heap will suffer first. I see their suffering as the only way that
the strangle hold their suppressors have will be changed. Bottom of
the heap people will never get an education because they will never
be allowed to become educated. Social revolution is the only means
by which the structure of these societies will be changed. Social
revolution can be arrived at by many methods. War being the most
widely used. I would rather see internal social revolt spurred by
economic necessity. In this way maybe the ones at the bottom will
only have to suffer for one or two generations and not centuries as
has been the sad history of these peoples. Closing down the
gemstone routes will help start revolution from within the
countries. Concerted, coordinated effort will be required by a
coalition of nations to make it work. Failure occurs when greedy
entrepreneurs find ways to bust the embargo for their own quick
profit. Look at the problems with Iraq sanctions. Greedy countries
have eagerly undermined the sanctions allowing Sadam Hussein to stay
in power. That is what we deal with in our world. Greed often
trumps ethics and the dirt poor become even poorer.

Gerry Galarneau

Hello Lee. For your curiosity’s sake, I believe the most important
factor in the boycotting of gemstones profitting terrorism would be
the reaction to said proof by the general public. If there was
widespread publicity on the subject, jewelers wouldn’t need to decide
their ethics on the matter - it would be decided for them. How many
would be willing to share that with their customers? Not
many, until their stocks of such stones was depleted, I’ll bet.
Seems to me if a customer still wants “tainted” goods, the jewelers
will provide. The market speaks

Pat, who doesn’t use many stones anyway

Gemstone miners have been exploited for centuries. As a friend of
mine who was involved with Burmese Ruby trade said, “almost all
gemstones have blood on them”. The Gem trade in the field is
nothing like the gem trade at the AGTA show in Tucson. A lot goes
on getting the stones from the ground to the show room. Not all of
it is nice. Even the gem miners here in the US have a tough time
protecting their investments and lives from those who would like to
have what they have without the work involved, IE thiefs.

As for the terrorist exploiting the Tanzanite and Diamond markets, I
think the same might be said about the stock market. Are we going
to boycott that also?

 Luckily you now can find diamonds that are mined in Canada. 

And just how do you tell one that is mined in Canada, or Colorado,
South America, Australia, or Africa apart? To my knowledge there is
no known way to certify origin. In stead you have to rely on the
word of the dealer, who might be several hands removed from the


    I believe the most important factor in the boycotting of 
gemstones profitting terrorism would be the reaction to said proof
by the general public." 

I wonder what would happen if independent Jewelers started putting
notices in their windows and on their displays that said “We don’t
sell conflict gems!” “All our gems are ethically mined!” and so on.


It is always easier to boycott, or promote a boycott, especially in
the face of an abhorrent condition. Boycotts do not work. They in
fact produced some of the most abhorrent conditions on the planet:
Hussein’s rein of power is but a minor example!

The best chance to change, truly, conditions for the poor, is simply
to make the poor NOT poor anymore. The world economy, being
capitalist, by nature produces the down-trodden. Maybe i’m having a
star trek dream…but there is merit in abolishing the existence of

well, that’s a penny’s worth: back to the bench! Sunny in Ontario,
Canada, right now :wink: erhard.

Excuse me for attempting to be objective and factual when it comes
to discussing reality in conjunction with Tanzanite mining and
commerce…it seems that many tend to get on a soap box ranting
about pet peeves based on un-related matters.

The real dilemna in conjunction with Tanzanite and many other mining
situations is that when artisinal mining is permitted it leads to
chaos and smuggling. When the Tanzanite mines flooded, killing
dozens of artisinal miners, it is very likely that it would not have
happened if the mines had been operated in a sophisticated and
coordinated way. Furthermore, approximately ninety per-cent of the
product during artisinal mining was smuggled out of the country and
thus did not contribute taxes nor did it promote indigenous
employment through processing. Instead, the bulk of the profit did
not benefit the economy of its country of origin. It did, however,
benefit the German, Kenyan, Israeli and Indian economies.
Furthermore, the smuggling activiies greatly benefitted the
nefarious entities such as the Mafia, the Sene-Sene and various
criminal elements. There are benefits from allowing artisinal mining
and there are the aforementioned advantages of controlled mining.
Since the Tanzanian government just recently leased out the bulk of
the Tanzanite properties to one large corporation, it remains to be
seen which of the two options will best benefit the various parties
involved. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

First of all, I doubt whether anyone could HONESTLY state “no
conflict gems” or “all ethically mined.” For most of us, there is NO
WAY to know the actual source, much less the entire route taken by a
gemstone fom mine to show window.

That said, I believe that 99% of our customers have not given this
subject a moment’s thought. I know that I certainly HAVE, and as a
fourth-generation diamantaire, I wish I could have a clear
conscience about abuses in that industry. I don’t think that the
"general public" is very concerned.(But I’m a cyniic.)

David Barzilay

How could any one say " I don’t sell conflict stones" with
reasonable certainty? To me it would look like a cheap marketing ploy
to see such a sign. I am pretty certain Bin Ladin didn’t pull the
tanzanite from the ground so if he benefited from the gem trade it
was somewhere between the miners and us (US). My point being that
most end users are so far removed from the gem at the mine a boycott
would be very difficult to target in order to hurt the ones we want
to hurt while helping those we would like to help. I was also under
the impression that the tanzanite mines were for the most part closed
since the flooding. That no tanzanite was coming from the ground and
that we as users of that stone should be on the look out for
synthetic now more than ever. Sam Patania, Tucson

How could any one say " I don't sell conflict stones" with
reasonable certainty? To me it would look like a cheap marketing
ploy to see such a sign.... 

You don’t sell emeralds or rubies or any other stones unless your
supplier can confirm the mine they came from and the financial route
that they reached them through! A reputable supplier will be able to
confirm the provenance of a stone or tell you that they have no idea
what the source was.

I certainly have qualms about all emeralds and rubies at the moment
and I’m anxious about diamonds since De Beers cache of material that
came on the market this year may have been in storage for anything up
to 50 years.

Gold has a similar questionable background. But it is possible to
carefully select materials (such as Welsh gold) and produce a line of
articles that are genuinely “conflict free.”

Maybe a better sign would be “We carry conflict free jewels”


Maybe a better sign would be "We carry conflict free jewels" 

And how do you certify that. A customer comes in and wants a 3mm
ruby or Tanzanite Are you going to spend several hundred dollars
worth of documentation and research on that $20 stone? Get real.
There is no way any jeweler can guarantee that the stones they carny
are “Conflict free” unless they have personally dug them from the
ground and faceted themselves . Anything less than this is relying
on someone else’s word. and this does nothing other than give you a
warm fuzzy that “you are clean”. To state that “We carry conflict
free jewels” is nothing short of a marketing ploy.


  We carry conflict free jewels" is nothing short of a marketing

Don, you sound really angry!

I don’t think it is a marketing ploy.

I think that it’s almost impossible to source some types of stones
"conflict free" - so I wouldn’t attempt it. Rubies and emeralds are
amongst the most difficult to source. But it is possible, where you
already know material to be so, to market it as such.

Australian saphires and opals, canadian diamonds, lab grown stones
can be made into items and sold as such. Economically a
client/customer can be charged extra for the research.

I think you’lll find that people who want an ethically clean piece
will happily pay the extra.


    Don, you sound really angry! I don't think it is a marketing

I don’t think I’m angry, just disappointed in the business. There
are to many people who are telling customers anything to make a
sale. I had a customer come into my store with a ring she Sandrahad
bought at the mall. She was getting really mad at the Mall jeweler
who sold it to her. It had a faceted synthetic opal in a 14K
setting. The stone was loose. She had taken it back twice to have
it tightened up. After the second time, she sheepishly brought it
to me to fix. First the Mall jeweler had broken the stone trying to
reset it and more importent, had not told her it was a synthetic.

Another mall jeweler had sold a customer of mine, a “Lightening
Ridge Opal”. He had pointed out that you could see the lightening
bolts through the stone. What he had sold my customer was a piece
of badly crazed opal.

These are just two examples of people who should not be in the
business. I have no doubt that either of these stores would have
been happy telling a customer that the stone they were looking at
was a top grade natural Burmese ruby, or great Yogo Sapphire, and
because of its 5ct size was a great buy at only $100 a ct. They
tell the customer anything to close the sale. and it is all to
prevalent in our business.

So, when a store states that their “Diamonds are conflict free” or
that their “stone are free of terrorist money” or that no
treatments have been done to the Emerald you are looking at, I
would ask them, How do you know this? Have you personally monitored
the stone from it’s recovery from the ground through the cutting
process, through the distribution channels, to your display?
Unless you can answer this question YES, the you have no right
stating that these are true statements.

I have hundreds of stones in my inventory which I don’t know, 1. the
origin of the stone, . or 2. the treatments done to the stone. I
sure don’t know who has been involved with that stone, who has made
"dirty money" from the sale of it. All that I know is this. I
bought the stone from a dealer who I trusted. I examined the stone
and from my Gemological training and experience determined it to be
the stone I am selling. I never claim origin of a stone unless I am
very confident that the claim is true. I never make a treatment
statement that I am not comfortable with. I am more than
comfortable in saying that a stone is a Natural Blue Sapphire, that
has most likely been heat treated, and I don’t know the origin of
the stone. The stone is priced assuming that it is of un-known
origin, and has the commonly know treatments. I feel that this is
as honest as I can be with my customers. To make claims that I
can’t verify would not be honest.

This is my disappointment with the trade today. Some stores are
more inclined to say what is needed to close the sale rather than
say the simple statement, “I Don’t Know”


Dear Fellow Orchidians, Hopefully this release will clarify this

Please also note there is absolutely no evidence linking diamonds
either - that was also pure speculation. For more info on conflict
diamonds, please see the list of URLs at the end of this post.

Finally, I’d like to pass along that Afghanistan’s Corundum mines
(Jegdalek) were of no interest to the Taliban and the 7,000 year old
Lapis Lazuli mines, along with Spinel, Aquamarine & Emerald mines
were within Northern Alliance territory.

Anyone is welcome to email me privately on these matters - I’ll do
my best to direct inquiries to reputable sources I’ve
relied on through my experiences as a member of our trade’s press.

Respectfully, Jeanette K

The Tanzanian Mineral Dealers Association Press Release November 21,
2001 Re: Alleged Tanzanite Connection to al Qaeda The Tanzanian
Mineral Dealers Association (TAMIDA) represents 90% of the tanzanite
dealers in Tanzania who handle the majority of the tanzanite
transactions at the source. An article by Robert Block and Daniel
Pearl that appeared in the Wall St. Journal on November 17th, 2001
is causing great upheaval in our tanzanite industry and could
seriously harm our trade because of allegations by the authors that
supposedly link tanzanite gemstone sales to al Qaeda operatives.

What follows are our opinions about the story:

  1. We are disappointed and alarmed by the story in the Wall Street
    Journal on November 17, 2001. It represents a classic reflection of
    the American media’s present obsession with linking anything that
    they can, with terrorism. a. Robert Block, a WSJ staff reporter
    based in South Africa, whose visit to Tanzania and whose intentions
    are under investigation by the Tanzanian authorities, apparently
    concocted a story that has no foundation in reality and is obviously
    ground in cheap sensationalism, rather than facts.

  2. In any crowd, anywhere in the world, it is not unusual to find
    either pro bin Laden or anti American sentiments, or vice versa.
    This does not mean that people in Mererani’s tanzanite trade are for
    bin Laden, or are forced to sell to Muslim extremists. Tanzanians
    have also not forgotten that bin Laden murdered their fellow
    citizens in 1998.

  3. Obviously, the writers did not consider the economics of these
    alleged connections. It makes no economic sense for anyone to buy
    tanzanite here and ship to a market like Dubai that is not even
    known for or deal in tanzanite, when they can easily send dollars,
    bought officially, to whomsoever they please, anywhere in the world.

  4. Tanzanian Muslims have other priorities such as food; shelter
    and education that take precedence over bin Laden and his
    activities. Therefore the whole premise of trading in tanzanite for
    bin Laden is illogical.

  5. Mr. Magayane, a zonal mines officer, and not a spokesman for the
    Ministry of Energy and Minerals, was quoted in the Wall St. Journal
    story. In a sworn affidavit he denies having told Block anything
    about a tanzanite connection with bin Laden. He denies categorically
    the quotes attributed to him.

  6. Upon investigation of the radical Mosque described in the story,
    TAMIDA has found it staffed by a young cleric, 27 years of age
    called Mudir Omar Suleiman of the Ansari sect of Sunni Muslims. He
    denies having talked to any American or South African reporter,
    period. In fact, he says he does not know much about tanzanite nor
    does he deal in it He came to Merelani this March of 2001. He has
    sworn to this in his religious capacity and his sworn statement is
    on file with TAMIDA.

  7. “Sheikh” Omari, as described in the article, is in fact not a
    Sheikh, and Aman Mustapha, also so described, appears to be an alias
    because three days of intense investigation has failed to uncover
    anyone by this name. Mudir Omar also does not know of this
    individual and is definitely not a teacher at the mosque. Further,
    the Mosque described in the story is not under construction, but
    rather a completed shack of corrugated sheets and discarded timber.
    Mudir Omar asks people to look at this humble mosque, which barely
    holds 30 people, and states that if he were dealing in Tanzanite,
    the mosque would not be in this condition.

  8. Because of the author’s inconsistencies, lack of understanding
    of our trade, and because of the story’s tone, TAMIDA feels that
    Block’s report smacks of ulterior motives and cheap sensationalism.
    It is a journalistic failure at best. Everything in the report
    appears concocted, even the opening photograph of someone holding up
    a piece of tanzanite rough with a pair of diamond tweezers in the highlights That is akin to a neurosurgeon using a cleaver.
    Inaccuracies in the story were rampant, from the legends the authors
    related, to the technical data they supplied. For example, the
    temperatures used to obtain permanent color changes in tanzanite are
    closer to 1050 degrees rather than the 400 degrees, which the
    authors stated as fact.) Like so much else in the story, this points
    to shoddy or sloppy research. Statistics regarding official export
    quantities of 12000 lbs and that 90% of the tanzanite is being
    smuggled besides the official exports, makes the veracity of this
    article suspect. It is a physical impossibility to smuggle what was
    never produced. With Blocks figures, Merelani had to produce 55 TONS
    of rough tanzanite a year. This would mean that a 20% yield, would
    have placed 55 MILLION carats of cut tanzanite into the market place
    last year. .

  9. Block refers to a United States A I D funded report on this
    Tanzanian industry’s susceptibility to abuse. This has been used out
    of context and has been MISQUOTED. We feel that Block’s proclamation
    of Afgem’s desire to change this so-called abuse by money
    launderers, drug dealers and arms dealers by branding tanzanite
    further raises the prospect of ulterior motives. It puts into
    question the integrity of the author, the article, and Afgem’s role
    in this matter.

  10. We denounce this unfortunate indiscretion on the part of Block
    and the Wall St. Journal and appeal to the better judgment of our
    customers and the American public. We ask anyone interested in
    tanzanite to view the story for what it is - a tabloid feature that
    mistakenly got printed in the Wall Street Journal.

  11. TAMIDA would like to signal the same US-AID funded study (EAGER:
    Equity and Growth through Economic Research), which recently
    concluded that were no associations between the tanzanite trade and
    money laundering, drug and arm dealings or terrorism. Please refer
    MARKETING, EAGER research paper 3/2001.

  12. TAMIDA unequivocally assures the world that tanzanite has no
    murkier ties to al Qaeda than caviar, olive oil or Toyota trucks.

  13. Tanzania and tanzanite’s ties to the U.S. market are through the
    dealers of the world who are 98% Israeli, Indian, German and
    American, many of whom also happen to be Jewish. In addition,
    tanzanite can be easily traced from the mine head to the store. We
    wish to assure QVC, Zale Corp, U.S. and world jewelers, as well as
    thousands of proud tanzanite owners around the world, to rest
    assured that tanzanite has absolutely no connection to terrorism.

Simon Sam Mollel Chairman TAMIDA P o box 15136 Arusha, Tanzania
255 27 250 8462 FAX conflictdias.html

Well despite what we all would prefer to believe MSNBC and a couple
of other news channels are now reporting the US INTELLIGENCE has
released that Al Qaeda has been in Tanzania buying up
tanzanite rough directly from miners. I think I will believe the US
Government on this one instead of a dealer that would have a
financial interest in keeping both Al Qaeda and Americans as

The question now is, now that you know where the is
coming from what are you going to do about it? Now that this story
has hit the air waves you know it has a good chance of being covered
by NBC tonight on the National news, after that the other networks
can not be far behind.

Since it has gone beyond plausable denial (why would intelligence
say this otherwise?) what are viable options for jewelers?