By Brecken Branstrator
Former International Colored Gemstone Association executives Joe Menzie and Barbara Wheat have launched a company to provide guided tours to gemstone mining areas to the trade. The first trip will visit Kenya and Tanzania in July.
New York--For anyone in the trade interested in visiting gemstones at their source, a pair of industry executives are providing the opportunity through their new business.

Former International Colored Gemstone Association president Joe Menzie and former ICA executive director Barbara Wheat have launched Gemstone Expeditions, hosting trips for anyone in the trade who’s interested in visiting mines, buying gems at the source and exploring the cultures and people that surround them.

“The countries, people and cultures (of mining locations) have given me great life lessons, appreciations and experiences that I would like to share with (the trade),” Menzie said in an email announcing the launch.

Menzie and Wheat will lead the mine tours, collaborating with partners on the ground in all destinations. The trip costs generally will be all-inclusive, excluding airfare.

They said the trips could offer wholesale gemstone dealers new sources and retailers the opportunity to become the gemstone leaders in their communities as Gemstone Expeditions will provide YouTube videos as well as pictures and also help identify gem dealers and manufacturers to do themed trunk shows featuring stones from the areas they have visited.

The first such trip is the seven-day, six-night Africa Safari, offering a gemstone mine tour and safari throughout Kenya and Tanzania. The trip costs $3,775 and takes attendees to 11 mine sites--featuring tsavorite, ruby, tourmaline, tanzanite and more--from July 8 to 14.

The trip falls just after the Kenya Gem & Jewelry Fair in Nairobi, which travelers are invited to attend but will not be included in trip costs.

Gemstone Expeditions also will host trips to Bogota, Colombia, and Ceylon, Sri Lanka, this year, and will visit gemstone mines in Brazil sometime in 2019.  

Next year, the company said it will also launch a social responsibility aspect, identifying programs in the areas they visit that benefit local children. Part of the proceeds from the Gemstone Expeditions trips will help fund these programs.

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