Umba sapphire has gained it fame by the reason of displaying many different colors. The name Umba is the name of a river, but these sapphires do not come from the river. That is to say Umba mines are primary deposits.
Umba sapphires are found in a small village of Kigwasi and just 25 kilometers away there is another famous village known as “Kalalani”. Both of these small but famous towns are located in the coastal region of Tanga, which is 300 kilometers from the great city of Dar es salaam. It is estimated about 115 kilometer distance from Tanga to Kigwasi, where the junction that branches to Kigwasi is along the Tanga-Mombasa road just 15 kilometers from Tanga.
The main activity in this town is mining and very little agriculture, and before reaching Kigwasi town you pass through two well known small towns of Maramba and Daruni.
Sapphire Mining Operations History
It is estimated that the sapphire mining activities in this village of Kigwasi started in the 1950s, and at that time Tanzania formally Tanganyika was under the British Colonial Rule.
There was a settler who was in the Sisal Plantations in those days; this man was well known as Mr. George Papaeliopoulos. Mr. Papaeliopoulos started mining activities between 1950 up to 1972. By 1972, this man left the country as well as the mining business.
Even though 1950-1972 may seem to be long ago, but this man had equipment which we consider modern in those days for sapphire mining. And this he did because the business was growing very well for Mr. George. In addition to that, Mr. George had his own “air strip” which was more than one including the one that was in Kigwasi.
In those days, sapphires ware everywhere in Kigwasi to an extent you hardly go 1 meter before you get some. The only thing that was a concern was “sorting” them. Up to 2010 no one has gone more than 10 deep to get sapphires, most of them got hold of sapphires at 1 meter up to 3 meters digging.
Kigwasi produces sapphires of different colors such as;
Apart from sapphires, there are