I’ve always been quite interested in rocks on the beach, but only recently did I get a little tour through what it’s like to be an amateur geologist on the road.
I bumped into a friend that I had met about a month ago, whilst crossing from India into Nepal, and he informed me that while he travels, he’s gotten into buying and selling stones.
Incredibly intrigued I set out to ask him all sorts of questions and possibly get to that age old question, that enigma that has plagued man since the dawn of time… what the hell is the difference in between a precious and semi-precious stone?
Although I never actually asked THAT question, we did get into many details of what he does, and how he’s been doing it in Kathmandu. He also informed me that he had made a Swiss friend in Kathmandu who was doing the same thing. This friend had jut bought a raw emerald and the two of them were intending to get it cut on the ‘morrow if I was interested…
Naturally, we set out at 10am for the shady part of town. Not sure what to expect, we pulled into the cutter’s place and were greeted with three cups of chia (no, they don’t call it chai) and the conversations began as I amused myself by picking up all sorts of Crystals and something-dites and something-lytes… (You can see I learned a lot)
Apparently my buddy has quite an eye (and a vendor) for Crystals so the cutter ended up bringing out his private collection and laying it down all over the floor (I’ll try to get my hands on the photo… going to the shady part of town with the SLR is right up there with the tips on how to get robbed, and I’m still dealing with the euphoria of having my lifeproof camera stolen).
So I sat, and learned how to check for tips, and breaks and inclusions in crystals. Whilst learning that the going rate of Crystal is about 30 rupees per gram. The lot of crystal that we were looking at came out to a whopping $14,000… 100 rupees to the dollar, 1000 grams in a Kilo… Yep, the math is fun, but hey at least it’s all metric!
In other word, it was a LOT of crystal!
As the negotiations went from one hour to about three, I was astounded at the fact that my buddy was seriously looking at spending more money in some shady little stone cutter shop than I’ll spend in about two years (did I mention that at times I screw myself over by being a little TOO cheap?)
I won’t lie, I was tempted to pocket some of these stones… but the ones that are worth pocketing also happen to be bigger than my head, and I didn’t wear my ‘stealing precious stone’ pants that day… damn!
Furthermore, running through the shady part of Kathmandu with a crystal the size of my head and not knowing the direction to get back to my hostel didn’t seem like the wisest choice… potentially not a stupid as some of the choicest I have made in my travels, but also not the wisest.
So, as I sat contemplating what it would be like to end up in a Nepali jail and embracing the awkward call home to tell my parents, who are both plagued with being morally conscious, that I had forgotten to wear my proper pants, thus had ran away with a Crystal the size of my head and got lost in shady town all for the purpose of doing my research on how to get robbed and really they should just be happy I was alive… the cutter’s assistant walked in with the newly cut Emerald.
Apparently, in discovering the Emerald (to me this looked remarkably akin to holding an Iphone light up against a black stone to see if it’s green on the inside), my two friends were dismayed to find out that the Emerald wasn’t worth what they had hoped in the first place.
Thus, my one friend took some photos of the Crystal lot to send to his vendor in Montreal (he’s of the opinion that he will sell it for in between $25,000 and $50,000) and the three of us walked out of the cutter’s house to attempt to get Swiss’s money back for the Emerald.
At the end of the day, it’s just one of the many little adventures that you embark upon whilst travelling by being interested in what others do with their time and in order to make ends meet on the road. Without a doubt, having the time to blow off an entire day to just follow a couple of amateur geologists is one of the many pleasures of long-term travel.