A gem hunter’s lucky find.
Tom is not your normal gem adventurer. He is a quietly spoken, gentle and very sweet, yet professional type of guy. That’s not to say all gem prospectors are loud and aggressive, but in the main the type of people who decide to pump a load of cash into the ground in a vain hope they will hit a vein of gems (sorry for the pun) tend to be just slightly nuts!
I have probably just offended lots of my mining friends who will read this book, but they know it’s true: gem prospectors are gamblers, they live on the edge and always believe tomorrow will be the day they unearth the big gem.
Tom is a great guy; very calm and very calculating. He first started his Ammolite business with a bunch of friends who loved abseiling. One day as they descended down a hill top in Alberta, Canada, one of them noticed as the sun shone over his shoulder a kaleidoscope of colour nestled between two pieces of rock. He halted his descent, pulled out his pen knife and was amazed at the multi-coloured stone that he had extracted.
A few days later he showed it to Tom. Instantly Tom knew what it was as he was familiar with the gemstone mining of Ammolite in the region. Over the following months Tom sent his friends back to the rock face and every now and then they managed to unearth several gorgeous pieces. Tom then set about learning how to turn this incredible multi-coloured, ancient fossil into a valuable gemstone. He hired several lapidarists who had experience of working with this fossilised gem and set about launching his own collection.
In 2010 I met up with Tom and we agreed to represent him in the UK. This, from my point of view, was pretty much a no-brainer decision for me, because over the years I had seen people selling Ammolite in the UK, also mined in this same area for incredibly high prices. I knew as I was dealing direct with the miner I would be able to bring Ammolite to my customers at the lowest prices the world had ever seen.
Earlier this year Tom managed to obtain an official mining licence from the local government to mine an area which is half a mile square. Tom laughs as he tells me that the largest Ammolite mining company has to cross his plot in order to reach their mine. Tom then explained how the licences work. Every single fossil they unearth, they have to send a photo to the local museum, with written details on the piece. The government basically have first refusal on any fossil that they feel is of historical or scientific value. Tom explains that they tend to be very reasonable and that he gets to keep nearly all of the pieces he uncovers.
The land he rents is actually allocated to the Hutterite colony. One of the beliefs of this very religious group is that they should not have their photographs taken. Tom explained that they just recently lost a court case where they had refused to even have their photos taken for their driving licences. Tom said that they were really kind-hearted people and that they would frequently drop by his mine and give him a bottle of their homemade rhubarb wine.
Since the successful launch of Ammolite on The Genuine Gemstone Company, Tom has been able to afford a huge 90 ton Catapillar digger and has just started excavation. As of yet, very little has been found, but as all mine owners often do, he tells me that his pay dirt is just around the corner.
His licence is very strict and Tom has to ensure that when he finishes his expedition, whether he finds Ammolite or not, he has to invest in turning the land back to its previous condition. This of course is a huge gamble, as even though there has been Ammolite discovered in the region, there is no concrete proof that Tom will discover it on the strip of land that he has leased.
In the meantime his two good friends continue to abseil down the hillside to ensure that he has enough pieces to supply me every now and then.