Gemstones from Africa

Gemstones from Kenya

An emerald embedded in stone at a mine in Kenya AfricaKenya is very well known for gemstone mining, however small scale miners dominate this industry. The government is attempting to facilitate artisinal activities within the country as they are responsible for over 60% of annual gemstone production. In 2002 Kenya had an estimated production of 10.9 t of Ruby corundum (5.86 t in 2001) and 61,410 kg of gemstones (compared to 73,398 kg in 2001).

There has been a decline in Kenya’s gemstone mining industry with the same players continuing to dominate. Rockland Kenya Ltd is the leader in the mining and exploration of rubies. Bridges Exploration Ltd is busy mining the green garnet (tsavorite) in the Taita-Taveta district. The other gemstone mining companies have reduced their production to a bare minimum. The mines have continued exploitation of rubies, tourmaline and garnets (tsavorite, rhodolite and grossularite) from well-known localities in the Taita-Taveta district, Kwale.

Exploration has, however, not been very active. This is possibly as a result of the fact that despite the rubies being of very good quality, they tend to be rather small in size, none larger that three carats has been reported.

Sapphires were first found in Kenya in 1936 at Kinyiki Hill where crystals up to one meter long were discovered. Kenya holds enormous potential as a future source of sapphires with their access to the Mozambique Orogenic Belt, which bisects the country in a north-south direction.While the ruby and tsavorite deposits of Kenya are well known, sapphires are a relatively new and unexplored resource.

To date, the country’s sapphire wealth has not been completely inventoried and new deposits are continually being discovered in many different parts of the country. Today, promising mining locations include the Baringo district, which produces pink sapphires; Garba Tula, which produces blue,green, and yellow sapphires; and Turkana, which is known for its blue sapphires.