An enormous red spinel crystal weighing over 52 kgs may be the largest red spinel ever unearthed. Mined at depth of 10 meters in a farmer’s field in Mahenge, Tanzania, the pyramid shaped crystal was discovered by a group of miners in the alluvial deposit.
Mining in the area is normally conducted by loosely organized syndicates of small miners funded by local entrepreneurs. The discovery of the spinel crystal almost sparked a riot as hundreds of other diggers moved in for a piece of the action. After escaping into the bush on a motorcycle, the miner and his motorcycle driver were forced to lay low without food and water for several days before making their way on to Morogoro, and then to Arusha.
"When the stone finally arrived, the miner’s legs were bloodied from holding the heavy sharp-edged rock on the motorcycle."
The impressive crystal was the vibrant orangey pinkish red color that is considered to be top for spinel. Even though the yield is expected to be as low as 3%, the sheer size of the rough still translates into several thousand carats of gems worth several million dollars. After cobbing, the gemmy chunks were hand carried to Bangkok, Thailand for faceting. Although most of the stones are small, a significant number of stones ranging in weights between 5 and 30 carats have already been faceted and sold. One piece is expected to cut a near clean stone over 50 carats.