And that's all she wrote

The adventure of moving to Zambia

From Jewel of Africa website

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Jewel of Africa – Gem 101

Last week, I was invited to take a tour of Zambia’s very own jewelry mecca – Jewel of Africa.

Zambia’s specialities in gem mining terms are its emeralds and amethysts – as luck would have it, two of my favourite gem stones! I love purple and I love green.  Happy days.

This tour was quite the experience – for one thing they put on refreshments for us (wine, cheese, soft drinks).  Very pleasant on a Friday afternoon after a LONG week.  

Once we were ‘refreshed’ (or if you prefer ‘lubricated’… it was just a small glass of wine, don’t be cynical),  we were taken ‘behind the scenes’ to see how their jewellery is made.  Everything is made on the premises, and I have to say I was incredibly impressed.  I know you’re all dying to see the emeralds, but you’ll have to either scroll down or wait patiently and be polite!  

Are you back from your scrolling journey? Good.  Check out the process for the hand crafted pieces of silver.  I was dazzled by the craftsmanship of these guys, working away in a little back room.

This gentleman was making chains by hand for the Masai Choker. It’s on their website priced at $285, which is admittedly quite expensive, but it is beautifully made by hand.  He was soldering and linking these chains all by hand. He even sort of managed a wee smile. (I would think a gaggle of teachers asking them questions as they’re trying to work might be a bit off-putting, but they were very accommodating and patient!). 

This guy hand makes the chains for this Masai Choker.

This guy hand makes the chains for this Masai Choker.


Masai Choker

I found this photograph of the Masai Choker here.

I’m not on commission, I promise. I just like to be thorough!  

There were men working on silver belt buckles, rings, and bracelets, including this very cool one using a 1965 Zambian 5 Shilling piece. I can’t find that one on the website, so perhaps it was a private order. 

1965  5-Shiling piece

1965 5-Shiling piece

It would have been EVEN cooler, in my opinion,  if it had been 1964, which is when Zambia gained independence.  Zambia celebrated 50 years of independence last year.  Even so – it was pretty cool. I have a couple of smaller coins at home… I wonder what I could do with those! Hmm…

Next I saw these Tanzanite and Diamond earrings and pendant being made – one earring was done, the other was in the process. I can’t find them on the website either, it could be because they are a new line and aren’t ready for sale yet. Beautiful, but probably one earring is more valuable than all my jewellery put together! (And he let me hold them!) 


Tanzanite and Diamond Earring

Tanzanite pendant

Tanzanite and diamond pendant

We got to see how they cut the gems, and this was pretty amazing.  They heat wax and stick it firmly to one side of the gem. They cut it using this machine.


They’re pretty steady-handed, although you’d need to be! When they are happy that the cutting process is finished, and the stone is perfect…IMG_4705they wash it and then remove the wax like this: 


I asked, ‘Don’t you have to be careful that you don’t heat the stone and crack it?’  I got a very level, ‘Yeeeees…’ from the guy trying to heat the wax and make sure he didn’t crack the gem stone.  Sorry! Dumb question I guess. Here she is: IMG_4718

One guy had the job of trying to salvage something from a large citrine cut stone that had been dropped on the marble floor of the shop. I missed getting a photo of it, but it was enough to make anyone wince.  

As part of the tour, we also got to see how the CAD pieces are designed and crafted.  They have a 3D printer, which makes a ‘blank’ out of wax. 

Wax ring

Wax ring

Next, they make a mould (think: plaster of paris) around the wax ring. They heat the mould, melting the wax ring inside leaving the inverted shape of the ring. Into this (I think I got this right)  they then pour the gold or silver for the ring. This method is used for the more popular ‘collections’.  

Zambian Emeralds and Amethysts (we were told) are considered to be the best in the world, and they are gorgeous. As you have seen, Jewel of Africa also make jewellery using Tanzanite, Citrine, Aquamarine, Diamonds, Garnet, and Tourmaline.  

We were shown a tray of uncut emeralds that got a gasp of ‘OOoh’ and ‘Aahhh!’ from our little tour group.  Raj showed us how a jeweller decides which stones will be ideal for faceted cutting and which are better for a cabochon. The cabochon will have a flat side underneath whereas the faceted stone is like the one in a diamond engagement ring – the light should refract off the facets and come back to you.  (I learnt quite a lot at this little tutorial!) Here is the tray of little beauties: 

Uncut emeralds

Uncut emeralds

The ‘green beads’ you see at the bottom right of the picture – yup, emeralds. 

So here’s the bit I had to rush – due to a prior engagement (as taxi driver for my son), I had to leave early and unfortunately missed the last bit. I WILL return, but I did get to see lots of beautiful gems that were waiting for their destinies. I learned from Raj’s sister, Rashmi that amethyst, citrine and rose quartz are all simply variations of quartz. The amethyst’s colour comes from iron impurities in the stone.  If it gets heated to just the right temperature (this should happen naturally but we’ll get to that in a minute), it’s colour turns yellow and you have Citrine. Neat, huh? We also learned that it would be unwise to do this deliberately as you would approximately halve the value of the stone!  However: 

Two coloured amethyst - isn't it pretty?

Two coloured amethyst – isn’t it pretty?



Amethysts, citrines (yellow an 'honey' and a quartz at the back there.

Amethysts, citrines (on the left a yellow one, and the oval one is a  ‘honey citrine.’)  Notice the quartz at the back there.

I did see some emeralds, but had to excuse myself before we got to really find out more about them, and I didn’t snap a picture.  As I said, I will be back. 

Thanks, Jewel of Africa! So interesting! 


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Isuzu – ISL Colour Run

As part of the Crossfit Amaka community, I was invited (encouraged, pressured, strong-armed – call it whatever you like) into taking part in the 3 hour Colour Run Relay Race yesterday.

Crossfit Amaka entered five teams, with six people in each team apart from one: we had three ladies teams, 1 co-ed and a mens team.

What a day!

Runners could organise themselves however they wished, we all decided to run 1km lap each turn, and hand over to the next person. It was a hot day, with almost no cloud cover, and the course had very few patches of shade, so it was a good tactic.  1km was manageable if you could get out of the sun while your five team-mates ran their kilometre.

Everyone had a great time, did their best and we had a blast running through the colour splashes!

While we were enjoying our little 3 hour relay, others were finishing a  6-hour or a grueling 24-hour relay.  Some complete nutters actually did the 24 hour race on their own.  I know – madness. I think the winner completed something like 140km. I couldn’t even contemplate that!

My husband’s team won the 24 hour team relay race, he ran 49km by himself.  I was a little worried when I saw him at 10am and he looked exhausted, but he finished strong and uninjured. Makes my 6km look a bit insignificant, but I’m OK with that! We had so much fun!

Many thanks to ISL, Isuzu for sponsoring and Crossfit Amaka for being awesome!

And without further ado – some photos of the day!

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Trailing spouse – the graveyard of ambition?

Keeping the show on the road in Zambia (while working full time as a teacher). Thank you for the insights, Six Degrees North!

six degrees north

visa copySchool pick-up at an International school looks much like school pick up anywhere in the developed world. Apart from looking like a Benetton ad or maybe morning tea at the United Nations. And sure, there are a disproportionate number of drivers and nannies, say compared to a regular public school in Australia or the US, but the majority of people hanging out in the school yard before the bell goes, are mums.

Mums just like me, and maybe just like you. Women who were brought up and educated to believe that we could do whatever we set my minds to. Highly educated, well travelled, sophisticated, urbane, and overall a broadly privileged set.

We women who came of age in the 80s and 90s, we reaped the rewards of the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. We are old enough to remember the cat calls, but young enough to remember…

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On my way home…

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10 Facts for Bob Geldof

I am ashamed that I didn’t truly think about these lyrics until I came to live in Africa.

GB on tour!

Dear Sir Bob,

Thanks so much for doing the Ebola fundraising thing. We hope you raise lots and lots of money. The only thing is, there is a world outside your window Sir, but it might not be quite how you imagine it. We thought you might like to refer to our handy list of facts and figures to help you along when you do the Live Aid 30 re-edit.

Do they know it’s Christmas? – Lovely sentiment, great tune, huge money raiser, but ever so slightly bonkers!

Lets take a look at the facts:

1. There is water flowing in Africa, really quite a lot of it in fact.

“Where the only water flowing Is the bitter sting of tears”

What? What about the world’s longest river? The river Nile is over 4000 miles long.

(The 5 biggest rivers in Africa are: Nile, Congo, Zambizi, Niger, Orange river)


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