Level 3 - Trusted Dealer
Country of Origin: Tanzania
Mining Location: Umba River valley, Tanga Region
In 1960, Georges "Papas" Papaeliopoulos, a Greek immigrant, discovered sapphires in the gravels of Gerevi Hills' western edge, close to the Umba river in Northeastern Tanzania.
While exploiting the primary sapphire deposit, the company also started to work on the secondary alluvial placers of the Umba river. In these alluvial deposits along the banks of the river, the miners retrieved high-quality rhodolite garnet rough.
The rhodolites from Umba, possessing a rich pinkish purple to purple color, are among the finest ever found and they received the trade name "Umbalite" to distinguish them from the darker, more commonly encountered reddish rhodolite garnets.
In addition to the Umbalite garnets, miners found strangely colored garnets as well. With their reddish-orange, orange or pinkish-orange hues, they did not fit in any garnet color types known at the time, and were initially discarded on the side and called "Malaya," a word in Swahili meaning "out of the family" or "outcast." These garnets slowly attracted a following for their unusual beauty, and their popularity started to increase from the 1980s onward. The name "Malaya" stuck with the gem trade and the public and became the accepted trade name for these rare and valuable garnets.
The rough rhodolite and malaya garnets from Umba have the classic aspect of alluvial material, with a pebble-like appearance and no crystalline faces visible.
Currently, only small-scale artisanal mining is ongoing at Umba. Using simple hand tools, small teams of local miners retrieve gemstones from the alluvial gravel layer before selling them to local brokers and dealers.