Many years ago I joined a gem buying tour to Brazil. It was a wild ride in more ways than one driving for hours through miles of red, red earth stripped of trees, or looking into lush chasms filled with what I would call jungle. It was fascinating to visit the mines, the lapidary schools, the cutting shops set off sometimes in what seemed like nowhere, and to watch the open air trading in parks and on the streets in gem mining areas. And the people! What beautiful and fascinating faces. If I were a portrait painter, I think I’d die happily in Brazil.
The trip gave me a wonderful introduction to Brazil but in our few weeks, we only scratched the surface. Brazil is only slightly smaller in area than the US and impossible to see it all during a whirlwind tour.
My memories of my trip, and the challenges of crossing the vastness of Brazil were jogged by an e-mail from gem cutter Greg Genovese who was in Brazil putting together his inventory of Midnight Black Titanium Drusy for Tucson. He had just arrived at his apartment which—“almost didn’t happen”–after a grueling trip. It is probably typical of the kinds of journey’s gem dealers make on a routine basis. I quote from Greg’s e-mail with permission.
“I arrived at my final destination airport yesterday after three flights. Turbulent flights I must say. People were puking up their guts next to me. After 26 hours on the road and in the air, my ride to the factory was on time. But he had to wait for another couple’s flight which was an hour and a half late. That made me miss my window to brief my staff on their instructions for the production of the drusy that I was toting. It’s a two hour ride to get there. I was disappointed to say the least.”
On top of that wrote Greg, it was Gaucho Day. Guachos are Brazil’s and Argentina’s cowboys and the culture there is as strong as the cowboy culture in the US. Guacho Day is a holiday, “where everyone dresses up in their cowboy finest and has a ‘good ol’ time’ and no one works but me and old miners who can give a hoot about playing with horses and stuff.”
Greg finally arrived at the factory where he keeps a car—necessary to negotiate Brazil’s vastness. The shop was closed for the day and on top of that, Greg found his battery dead. “I had to call Rosito, the owner of the factory, to borrow one his cars for this trip. Which I did and now I’m on my way.
“It’s crazy sometimes the hoops that one has to jump through just to get the good stuff,” wrote Greg in closing. “I often think, when we are at shows and everyone is oohing and aahing at the final product, that they have no idea what we go through to get it there.”
So I thought I’d pass it on.