The Beauty Of Small Things Cost Hours Of Attention

21 Sep 2015 12:10pm
By Francois Lottering

KEETMANSHOOP, 21 SEP (NAMPA) - Namibia is world renowned for its precious and semi-precious stones, of which diamonds are surely best known.
But this story is all about one man, the vast Namibia and her abundant semi-precious stones that have the potential to sustain those who dare to seek, process and market them.
The wrinkles and scars on Jacobus Meyer's suntanned face and hands tells the story of a man who knows the hardship of living in the field and searching for that stone that will add value to his business and life.
Meyer is the owner of Southern Gemstones, a small semi-precious cutting and processing outlet in the !Homs Ai Market in the southern town of Keetmanshoop.
Meyer's love for the stones can be described as a solid relationship as he sees life and is romanced by the colour and potential in almost every stone he stumbles across in the field.
“It started many years ago when my father collected stones for the Germans in the area and sold it to them,” he said.
Living with all sorts of rock and stone specimens was the beginning of great things for Meyer, who never saw the inside of a high school, but this didn’t deter him from embarking on larger things and steering his own business towards becoming a cutter and polisher of semi-precious stones.
Telling his adventures of living in the wilderness and searching for fine specimens, he intrigues a listener with the story of every stone he brought home to polish and expose the luminous beauty of a final product that before was just another stone to the normal eye.
Sitting in his outlet that also serves as a workshop, Meyer's hands are always busy and while sanding a stone that the average person will throw away, Meyer tells the story of ‘Pietersite’ – a very dark stone discovered in Namibia in 1962 that has red veins that look like the flowing lava of a volcano.
As he, with delicate and precise movements, polishes the stone, the colours and depth start to come out as the captured rage of a storm.
Meyer’s real involvement in cutting and polishing only started in 2004 when he received training on how to cut and polish the rough stones to make them tempting for any lover and collectors of gemstones.
After the training, it was not guaranteed that would become a successful gem cutter and polisher. Days as hard as the stones he fell in love with awaited him in the months and years ahead.
“After I received training here in Keetmanshoop, I bought some machines but I mostly built them myself from scrap metal and used the motors of other electrical equipment,” a proud Meyer said with a smile.
Several of the machines stand around his workshop. One does not need to be an engineer to see the machines are home-built from anything that seems useful and can fulfil a purpose. Even an old motor from a washing machine found its purpose to drive a machine used for tumbling stones. Not to talk about an old intravenous drip feed (IV) used in hospitals that found its purpose outside a hospital, by slowly releasing water on the grinding wheel used for cutting the surfaces (known as facets) of the gems.
Meyer, in his mid-fifties, also has a word of encouragement for youngsters who complain that they are unemployed and Government does nothing to alleviate their plight when it comes to job creation.
“I would like to say to the youngsters who received formal training in gem cutting and polishing of semi-precious stones to utilise our natural resources. If we do not add value to our resources then we are creating jobs in other countries,” he said.
Meyer said he is not happy to know there are so many stones leaving the country and would rather like to see them processed locally. This would mean job creation, more income for stone processors and more money will stay in Namibia.
With the abundance of a variety of semi-precious stones like Topaz with its clear glassy look; Aquamarine and its lovely blue colour; Tourmaline which is world renowned amongst collectors and jewellers for its deep and clear green colour; Citrine with its light to deep yellowish colour of honey; and Amethyst with its unreal violet to deep purple, Meyer said he cannot see why Government cannot intervene and regulate the export of raw materials.
“But we cannot always wait for Government to act or regulate. We have to carry on making a living,” he said.
According to Meyer, another problem small miners face is that overseas customers normally ask for large amounts of stones that small miners cannot supply. For example, he said customers want up to 15 kilogrammes of tourmaline, which is not possible at once and over a short period, while Blue Chalcedony and its dirty blue colour is normally required in tonnes. Even garnets that are available in various colours, ranging from ruby red and green to orange and amber, are in demand but in a quantity of up to ten kilogrammes at a time.
To put this in perspective, a garnet is half the size of a man's little finger’s nail and weighs only a few grammes. And even then, Meyer said, it is not guaranteed that the stones are of gem quality, as the colours might not be clear or the stone might have some cracks.
Going through the stones and handmade jewellery made by Meyer, one cannot but appreciate the attention to detail.
“But it is not all about just making jewellery because I have time on my hands,” said Meyer, who has customers discuss their needs and taste so he can make something to suit the individual.
With the machinery still humming in your head and the smell of grinding dust in the air, one cannot but wonder why some people always drive for a hard bargain to get better prices from small miners who put their everything into something so small.
Only once one realises how many hours are spent in the scorching Namibian sun, behind the noisy machines and painstaking focus that is required to pay attention to detail and ensure that a stone is cut to perfection without any flaws, cracks and is of the prefect colour, then will on appreciate the value of small miners of Namibia.
They need to make a living as well and only a fraction of jewellery or semi-precious stone lovers are willing to embark on what the small miners are willing to do for money in the pocket, a roof over the head and bread on the table.