Jewelry Television's 2010 World Tour continues in Brazil. Follow Senior Gem Buyer George Williams as he makes his way to the mines in search of exotic quartz and more!
Having flown overnight from Miami, I awoke to a beautiful view of the lush rolling hills and sunshine over Minas Gerais, Brazil. On my quest for rutilated quartz we drove directly to Curvelo, a city of 72,000 people situated 178 kilometers north of Belo Horizonte. Curvelo is home to many rough quartz dealers, where the only lapidary work done is with crystal balls and points--no faceted stones--only rough. The Curvelo quartz dealers frequently travel to Tocantins, Bahia and other quartz mining areas in Minas Gerais. The mines nearby are known for their green phantom quartz and scenic lodalite. Buyers from the cutting centers in Belo, Governador Valedares, Teofilo Otoni, as well as oversees buyers mostly from Asia and Germany frequent Curvelo for rough quartz of every variety.
At a typical rough dealer's house in Curvelo, Brazil
Entering Diamantina, Brazil
Diamantina is one of the oldest cities in Brazil, its origin based around the production of Brazil’s first major diamond discovery in 1725. It’s most famous son is Joscellino Kubitscher, the man who envisioned Brazil’s capital city, Brasillia; a project that brought this country’s success forward by 40 years.
Town square in Diamantina
I was here in Diamantina for its famous orange and black tourmalinated quartz. We looked through a large pile of mine run material and selected out about 45 kilos of the finer grade for cutting only to be told that we had to buy it all!
We didn’t buy it all, and once again the city was cleaned out. The Chinese had bought the mine run in large quantities. (Quartz is the most popular stone in Asia, revered for its varietal beauty, hardness and healing qualities.)
We stayed long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee in the historic square and made a beeline to the Cacaratiba mine a few hours drive NW--and this is where our quest ends for reasons you are about to read....
What a great place for a cup of coffee!
Heading toward Capelinha from Diamantina you will pass the largest growth of eucalyptus trees in the world. Paper factories and lumber mills are the fastest growing industries in Minas Gerais, and the natural forests along the highway are slowly being taken over by these trees that are ready to cut in 7 years.
When we finally get to our turnoff to the Cacaratiba mine--famous for the best red rutilated quartz in the world, and home to about 500 garimpieros (miners)--we hear the news. From all reports and/or rumors, our Chinese buying rival has bought close to $1 million in quartz, much of it from Cacaratiba. The story goes that the gentleman who owns the mining rights is supposed to get a percentage of the sales, but allegedly he has yet to receive anything. We were told that he quickly turned his papers over to an official who had the state police shut down the entire mining area!
We were told that it would not be a good (or safe) time to visit with several hundred angry miners and lots of finger pointing and arguing going on. It didn’t take us long to decide to head back on the highway toward the scenic and peaceful city of Capelinha!
Capelinha is home to the most beautiful green sphene in the world, but by the time we arrived we had to settle for coffee. The township is famous for its coffee growing and most of the population was asleep by 9:30pm as they begin work at daylight. Only sporadic and small pockets of sphene are coming out of this area nowadays.
After a good night’s sleep, we head toward Teofilo Otoni just a couple of hours east. We pass the memories of famous mines now gone; the Malacacheta mine along the river of fire “corrego do fogo” that produced the finest alexandrite in Brazil. Further along, and where the dirt road from Capelinha to Teofilo Otoni finally becomes paved, we pass Pote where the white star quartz originates.
Assorted quartz rough in Brazil
Luckily my Brazilian friend has a good stock of selected exotic quartz, which now appears to be getting more difficult to replace--especially the red rutilated from Cacaratiba--which my experience with these types of problems predicts will take a while to settle.
The good news is that he lives here and will continually repeat this journey when the large Asian mine run buyers are not around, but the impact they have on the supply of rare and exotic quartz is here to stay.quartz. And stay tuned for a visit to Mother Nature’s art gallery! And as always, stay tuned to Jewelry Television's broadcast or watch us live online at jtv.com/live.