We returned to Kenya with one sole purpose this time- to buy tanzanite, which was now among the most sought after gems in the world. (We introduced tanzanite on a mass scale through television in 1993. It had been marketed prior to that, but not many people had heard of the fabulous blue/purple zoisite. As its popularity grew, tanzanite, named after Tanzania where it is mined, became one of America’s most desired gems. It is also one of our personal favorites.)
Traveling to our destination was almost as tiring this second time around, but far less traumatic. We got into a taxi at Nairobi Airport and told the driver to head for the hotel. It wasn’t long before we both realized we were going the wrong way. We exchanged nervous glances because we knew where the hotel was located. Becoming uneasier by the minute, we told,the driver he was taking the wrong route. He agreed and explained that’he was driving us to the monument memorializing Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of the country. Kenyatta had ruled Kenya since 1964, when it became a republic. He died in 1978, the year of our second visit to East Africa, at the age of 85. The cab driver wanted us to see the eternal flame and share his grief at the passing of his great leader. We were touched and honored by his sincerity and our hearts went out to him.
The driver was not the only one on whom President Kenyatta had made a lasting impression. We met a gem dealer in Kenya who will never forget him. The dealer had found an unusually large piece of tsavorite rough, about the size of a fist, and perhaps the biggest known tsavorite crystal ever. It caused quite a stir in the gem community. He and his tsavorite were invited to an audience with President Kenyatta. The man was very excited as he told us the story. It ended with President Kenyatta insisting that the dealer give him the tsavorite as a gift. After all, it was found in Kenya and should remain there. The dealer handed his tsavorite over quite graciously – and wisely.
We hold our memories of Kenya very close. There are days when the stories and storytellers float into our collective consciousness bringing smiles to our faces. We treasure the trips, past and future, that have kept and will continue to keep – some of the most loved gemstones in the world coming to America.