Issue - June 2011
Two loves, two countries and one unique gem stone
Stanfirst: Sophia Obermeyer tells the story of the national stone of Bolivia, from the beginning of its fragmented history to the present day.
Photo: Sophia Obermeyer
Bolivianita stones used in silver jewellery
Are you searching for a rare piece of jewellery or a special and authentic souvenir?
There is one: It is purple, lavender and honey coloured. It can only be found in Bolivia, only in one mine, and its use promises health and love: we are talking about the Bolivianita, the national stone of Bolivia.
You can only find it in commercial quantities at the hard-to-reach Anahi Mine, nestled in the heart of the Bolivian rainforests, near the city of Puerto Suarez.
According to Rodolfo Meyer, author of the book â€śGems of Boliviaâ€ť, the Bolivianita which belongs to the quartz family, is a fusion of amethyst and citrine: two components that give it the characteristic colours that are not found anywhere else in the world.
This fusion occurred millions of years ago when recrystalising Amethyst and Citrine were blended, creating a geological wonder at the AnahĂ mine.
The Bolivianita is not just a geological curiosity, there is also a powerful legend surrounding its origins. The first appearance of the stone was recorded in the seventeenth century, when Spanish conquistadors entered the New World in their search for treasures. A Spanish soldier fell deeply in love with the beautiful princess AnahĂ from the Ayoreode tribe. For a time, they were very happy together, but their relationship awoke jealousy and intrigue amongst members of the tribe. And as the soldier told his lover colourful stories of the Old World, she wanted to return there with him.
But this was too much for the Ayoreode tribe to bear. They made plans to kill the Spaniard, in order to keep their beloved princess in their tribeâ€™s lands, and they accidentally ended up killing her instead.
During the last few moments of her life, she lay in the arms of the Spaniard. An instant before her death, she gave him a Bolivianita. He understood that the two different colours, lavender and honey, represented her heart, divided between her two loves: him and her tribe.
According to the International Coloured Gemstone Association, there may well be some truth in this legend, as the gem was in fact brought to Europe during the seventeenth century, when it was introduced as a gift from the colonies for the Spanish Queen.
He understood, that the two different colours, lavender and honey, represented her heart, divided between her two loves: him and her tribe.
Processing and marketing of the Bolivianita
Since 1990, the mining company operating at the AnahĂ mine has been Minerales y Metales del Oriente. Ramiro Rivero, a former Bolivian gem miner, has set out to control and market the output from the AnahĂ mine since he bought it in 1990.
Previously, the mine was in the hands of Brazilian dealers, when the quartz mines were administered by the Bolivian military dictatorship and all production-- regardless of quality-- was sold to Brazil (Robert Weldon, contributing editor of Vista Joyera).
Despite the change of owner, as the Bolivian Ramiro Rivero bought it in 1990, the Brazilian influence still holds up. That means that Brazil still can maintain its dominant position among the amethyst and citrine markets, as a result of the huge amount of stocks they bought in the 1980s.
As long as they have this deposit, Brazilian dealers can lower the prices, due to the over-abundance of supplies. Additionally, there are now synthetic versions of the gem, which creates confusion among the consumers.
But it is foreseeable that the current Brazilian domination will change, as they have to depend on their existing deposits, whereas the Bolivian Minerales y Metales del Oriente (M&M) realises an output of between five and six tons of gem-quality quartz each year (Robert Weldon, contributing editor Vista Joyera).
Photo: Sophia Obermeyer
Unprocessed Bolivianita stone
According to the statements of M&M, they do not use any child labour, and for safety reasons, the miners must have regular training, which is reassuring for those concerned about ethical jewellery. The following information about the producing process is taken from their website.
Unlike traditional mining, gemstone mining involves the use of non-destructive, selective methods. For that reason, no explosives are used and all the extraction of gems is carefully done by hand. The manufacturing process begins by sawing the stones, followed by pre-forming, which is done by hand as well. During this process the stone gets its special shape. After that the stone receives its faceting and in the end the polish, which gives it its brilliant shine.
Traditionally, the Ametrine is cut into rectangular shapes, trying to divide the yellow and purple colours into two halves. A more modern, experimental style is to blend the citrineâ€™s honey and the amethystâ€™s lavender in order to have a mix of colours, â€śwhere purple and yellow appear randomly throughout the stoneâ€ť (Ramiro Rivero). It is also quiet popular among artistic cutters and carvers, who love to work with colours in a more playful way, to create landscapes shining through the stone. In addition to these designs, it is getting more and more common to add a checkerboard pattern at the top of the gem to make the most of the glittering reflections.
Independent of size, modern or traditional style, with or without checkerboard: At the very end of the procedure of mining, processing and carving, all of the specialized workers involved have created a unique piece of jewellery art.
The Bolivianita Today
As the Ametrine is the national stone of Bolivia and unique in the world, it is also interesting for touristic reasons. Therefore, the Cocha-Banner had an interview with a jeweller in Cochabamba. According to their statements, the gem is quite popular, since there are tourists explicitly asking for it.
However, since visa restrictions were imposed in 2005, there are far fewer travellers from the U.S.A, who are especially likely to want expensive jewellery. For this reason, the jeweller is reluctant to stock this gem in the future, since the decrease of tourism also leads to a decrease in customers of the Bolivianita. But even though there are fewer tourists buying the Ametrine, there are still Bolivians who are buying and wearing it. In particular, Bolivians who live and work in other countries like Spain, Italy or Argentina often use the Bolivianita as a symbol of their origin. He says Bolivians returning to visit the country after a decade or more living abroad come looking for Bolivianita jewellery, so that they can carry a little piece of their homeland with them wherever they go.
The popularity of the gem seems to extend all over the American continent. Due to its range of colours, its availability in different sizes and styles, more prizes for gems have been awarded to the Ametrine over the past few years at the American Gem Trade Associationâ€™s Cutting Edge and Spectrum competitions than any other gem stone.
As mentioned at the start of the article, apart from such obvious beauty, legend has it that wearing this stone provides you with protective energies for health, money and (unsurprising, given its origin myth) with love.
At the very end of the procedure of mining, processing and carving, all of the specialized workers involved have created a unique piece of jewellery art.
â€śIt is purple, lavender and honey coloured.â€ť
â€śHe understood, that the two different colours, lavender and honey, represented her heart, divided between her two loves: him and her tribe. â€ś
â€śAt the very end of the procedure of mining, processing and carving, all of the specialized workers involved have created a unique piece of jewellery art.â€ť
â€śBolivians who live in other countries use the Bolivianita as a symbol of their origin.â€ť
This special therapy does not require faith or concentration and you do not even have to believe in it. But then, how can Reiki help you get a better life? In a little practice filled with positive energy and located in the center of Cochabamba, Mariana LLobet performs Reiki and teaches yoga and Pilates. In the weekends she has 1st level, 2nd level and 3rd level Reiki workshops. I asked her for a meeting to have a talk about the exciting world of Reiki.