Imparting right skills critical for unlocking gemstones’ economic value
By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
The first African Career Gemmologist Engineer Clever Sithole has noted that imparting the right skills on gemstone related matters is critical in unlocking maximum value from the mineral.
Sithole, who is currently spearheading gemology and lapidary online classes under the Zimbabwe School of Mines said there is a skills gap in Zimbabwe’s extractive sector on issues relating to precious stones and lapidary (relating to the engraving, cutting, or polishing of stones and gems).
Gemmology is a relatively a young science, a hybrid of several different scientific principles including geology, mineralogy, chemistry, physics, and biology that deals with a select group of minerals rocks, and organic materials which possess the necessary attributes to be worn for personal adornment.
“We need to impart the right skills that will go a long way in motivating the youths and disadvantaged communities where gemstones are found to venture more in gemstones trade,” he told the Mining Vision Magazine. “Enrollment is open to anyone interested in gemological sciences and the program lays a good foundation for studying diamonds and coloured stones.”
The duration of the online training program on Fundamentals of Gemmology is four weeks and plans to roll it out throughout the year are already in motion.
“I have truncated the online training program to 4 weeks since it is only the foundation but the full program on gemmology is broader requiring more time to complete,” he told the Mining Vision Magazine. “With adequate numbers, I will be planning to roll it through-out the year then include the practicals and scientific gemmology in future, this will require the equipment and stone samples.”
Sithole says his inspiration on teaching gemology and lapidary classes is drawn from the international exposure that he obtained while studying abroad in Belgium, Switzerland, India, United Arab Emirates and Spain. He established the Silk Road Heart Gemological Laboratory and Lapidary Centre in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, where he was involved in training new lapidarists and gemologists as the Head Gemologist under a project funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
His observation is that most of the curriculum that involves studying minerals in Zimbabwe focuses on geology which emphasizes on field work and minimum laboratory work.
“It is imperative for one to understand the evaluation and identification of gemstones for economic value,” Sithole said while highlighting the need for the setting up of a gemology and lapidary center to cater for this.
According to the Engineer, the center will help unlock value for Zimbabwe’s gemstones and the government’s National Development Strategy 1 economic projections will be achieved through robust value addition and beneficiation of minerals.
“I am motivated that it is possible. We can even go further in setting up a gemstones research center where we acquire modern high-tech advanced scientific gemmology equipment such as Raman Spectroscopy, UV ViS Spectroscopy, EDXRF Analysers,” he said holding that: “This will complement a more effective way to market gemstones and accurate pricing.”