Habari (Hello). My name is Caroline. I am a trained gemologist (GIA) and gem cutter and a founder of Mkuki Gems & Jewelry Ltd. I have a passion for gems and jewelry. There is a certain joy in discovering a clean piece of rough gemstone full of possibilities and a great sense of accomplishment once it is cut to become part of a beautiful piece of jewelry.
My journey with gemstones started as a part-time fascination. Every Friday after my 9-5 job in logistics, I would make an over 300km bus journey from Nairobi to Voi. I would travel back on Sunday so as to be in the office on Monday morning. In Voi, I would go to the mines and interact with gem traders.
I was fascinated by the gemstones found there especially the green garnet. I was also curious as to how the miners could so effectively tell the difference between green garnet, green tourmaline, and pieces of green glass. To assuage this curiosity, I looked into various learning avenues to gain this knowledge and skill myself. I was established in my career and thought of gemstones as a hobby that I would tackle in retirement at about 60years of age.
As fate would have it, the company I was working for was sold to another party and this is when I decided to take the plunge. I sold everything I
owned and enrolled in an on-campus GIA program to become a graduate gemologist. It has not been easy but I enjoy every moment of it: visiting mines, touching different gemstones, and finally cutting the gemstone. Every day is a learning experience.
Over the years and through interaction with miners in Voi, I have recognized some of the issues faced by the miners, women, and youth miners in particular. Often, they are unable to sell their stones at a fair price to middlemen whose aim is to strike the lowest possible deal leaving miners barely able to eke out a living.
I have partnered with Canopen Education Services Foundation to help these women and youth miners by providing value addition training. This training includes gemstone identification, gemstone faceting, gemstone drilling, gemstone tumbling and basic jewelry making.