We often get the question about Shangaan Amethyst, and how is it different from what we call Chiredzi Amethyst. Hopefully the below will give some clarity.
Classic Chiredzi material is very Brandberg like. The regional material produces Amethyst and Smokey Amethyst crystals which often display scepter, inverted scepter, cascading, cathedral, or even geode habits. The vast majority of the material has either specular or needle Lepidocrocite inclusions, whilst enhydro inclusions are also fairly common. Windowing on the quartz is also fairly
frequent. Specimens tend to be small in size with only a very small % of the deposit producing medium sized specimens of around 6 to 10cm. Twelve odd centimeters seems to be the upper limit of specimens, with most being 2 to 7cm in size. Obviously, this dynamic might change as other deposits are found and mined. The deposits seem to span a massive area across Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Interestingly, Zambia has also in the past few years produced material which tends to be slightly cleaner, more optic, and almost identical to classic Brandberg specimens.
Chiredzi is the name of the closest town from which we source the material in Zimbabwe. A friend of mine was one of the first people to internationally market the material coming out of Zimbabwe (to my knowledge at least) this was during 2017 - and he named the material back in 2017 Shangaan Amethyst. As is often the case with new and exciting finds they rarely wish to disclose the location of any of the mines, and thus they tend to give it a secondary name which is linked to a different location and thus distract people from finding the original deposits. I believe Chiredzi would be the secondary name given to the material. The change in name might relate to the realization that the deposits of the material are fairly widespread across the region. Chiredzi is one of the larger regional centers.
Abe (Our Warehouse Manager) is Zimbabwean and goes to the region regularly to get Chiredzi material for us - we also have another associate who specifically mines Zimbabwean material for us across the entirety of the country. We know from direct reports on the ground in Zimbabwe that deposits of this dark Amethyst Smokey window-like material is being actively mined in several different locations across South Eastern Zimbabwe as well as South Western Mozambique. Most of the material tends to find its way to Chiredzi where it is then sold at the markets.
We have heard in the last few months that some "America's" are in the region and paying as much as $150 per kg for only A grade material.
Unfortunately, there is a larger picture which needs to be considered, even if the miners are being paid $150 for kg for A grade material - this doesn't do them any favours in the larger picture of things as A grade stuff will most likely only represent about 5% of the material which is mined, therefore what are they expected to do with the other 95% of material?
In a more practical example, let's say they manage to mine 10% A grade which is a fairly high rate of return. What that means is that they get 10kg A grade for every 00 kg they mine. So if they earn $150 per kg they get paid $1500 for 10 kilograms but are unable to sell the other 90 Kg to the same buyer. Which means in fact they are earning $15 dollars per kg - as the balance of the material is not sold by the person who they have an agreement with - this kind of "picking" and "selective buying" from mining operations is generally what kills mining in the long run. Another impacting factor relating to picking and selling only A grade material is that when people are mining and they see something they believe NOT to be A grade, they then do not care about it and ultimately end up destroying a huge % of the deposit in pursuit of the A grade stuff they can get a higher price for. This is as bad in terms of ecological or environmental destruction and does no one any favours.
Miners need to be given training on how to better mine material without damaging the material. In doing so it is possible to improve the quality of the specimens being mined.
You will never get 100% A Grade, however the only ethical thing to do is to purchase as much as humanly possible across several grades ranging from Medium Good to A grade material.
Toprock's aim when interacting with regional miners is first and foremost to educate them on mining methods and to protect and preserve as many of the specimens as humanly possible. We also adopt a concept of "whole deposit purchasing" in that we purchase not only the A grade but also some of the lower grade specimens which are still nice and have value.
So essentially when they mine 100 kg we purchase around 80 kg of the material, even if we paid 1/3 of the price they get from someone who only wants A grade the miners would ultimately not be sitting with hordes of unsellable material and would earn 3 to 4 times what they could earn from someone who is selecting only
the best material. Hopefully this makes sense?
However, let me not carry on about the broader issues. I am sure you get some of the points I am trying to make.
I think Chiredzi would be most likely the most accurate name for the material, we have in the past used the name Shangaan Amethyst but we tend to revert back the Chiredzi as this is expressive of a range of specimens which is mined across a broad region in Zimbabwe and does not favour any particular deposit. To be completely honest it is perhaps a little bit of a marketing ploy creating some form of exclusivity, and I suppose you cannot fault anyone for trying to separate themselves from the masses.
Video's recently taken during our recent trip to Zimbabwe - July 2022
A random selection of material over the past few months!