Before: Digging for sapphires right up to the side of the road.
After: The same plot a couple of years later, filled in and used for growing fruit.
Before: An open cast digging during the dry season. No water, no digging.
After: Six months later, during the monsoon season, the pit has been filled with soil from a new digging.
The edge of the filled pit showing how close to the house they came.
The soil is loaded into a rotating drum and washed using a high pressure
hose. The larger rocks roll out the front of the rotating drum, the smaller
pieces including the sapphires are separated and drained into a pit next to
the drum. These are then pumped up to the pulsating jig outside the pit.
Another view of the open-cast sapphire mine.
The digger loading soil into the rotating drum.
The pulsating jig outside the pit. The soil and smaller pieces of gravel are
pumped up from the pit to the jig. The gem baring gravel collects in the
At the end of the day the pumps under the jig are shut down and the
miners climb onto the jig to sort through the gravel.
Raking through the gravel and picking out the sapphires by hand.
Found one ...!
Iron-stained sapphire crystals recovered from the gravel. The sapphires are
mostly black stars, gold stars, green, orange & blue sapphires.
A green sapphire crystal.
A jig with two sorting compartments, used on larger mining operations.
A small pit dug out using a mechanical digger then worked on by hand.
Two workers dig the soil and one worker sorts through the soil with a
knife and picks out the sapphires.
Raking through the soil with a knife.
The pockets of gray soil are where the sapphires are found.
One of the miners showing me the stones they have found.
Peering down into a traditional style gem pit. These types of pits have become
a rarity today with the arrival of modern mechanical mining techniques.
Foot holes are dug into the sides of the pit. The
whole is too small for a ladder to be used.
Dealers inspecting a parcel of sapphires.
A dark green sapphire crystal from Bang Kacha.
The sapphire crystal after splitting.