Miriam Mimo Kamau, a Kenyan gemstone dealer and miner who rose from humble beginnings to be designated Gembridge’s African “ambassador”, has ambitious plans to list a variety of exceptional African-sourced coloured gemstones on the digital trading platform.
Speaking from the remote bush during a gemstone hunting expedition in Kenya, in a brief moment when she has captured an online connection, Miriam talks about her journey as a dealer and miner in a male-dominated trade, and how the digital transformation of the market is now accelerating fast, in an interview with Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough.
When did you first discover you loved gemstones? What are your favourite gemstones?
I am a young woman from an economically disadvantaged background in rural Kenya and my accomplishment in the gemstone industry is a wonder.
I was hired by a gem dealer from the United States as a tea maker/receptionist in Nairobi. This is where I became fascinated by the trade and was given a chance to familiarise myself with the business by my boss who was quick to notice my intelligence and curiosity for gemstones.
I love stones. My job is finding and selling stones. I love what I do.
I am more attracted by green, blue and red gemstones.
It is not easy to say what my favourite gemstones are, because gems are all so different, special and beautiful in their own way.
I like every variety of African stones, including tsavorites, Tanzanites and rubies.
Miriam Mimo Kamau
How did you launch your career in the gemstones trade and what are your main activities now?
I saved my meagre salary to pay for my training in gemmology.
I hold certificates from Nairobi and Johannesburg in diamond and coloured gemstone identification, which include education in the processing from rough to cut polished minerals, as well as sorting and marketing.
The certificates gave me the knowledge to be a gemstone dealer, a miner and a creative artisan.
Now I deal in African gemstones acquired at origin. I am the head of sales and marketing at Mimo Gem Traders Ltd.
What attracted you to become a trading member of Gembridge?
I was eager to join the Gembridge team because of their love for the gemstone trade, the compassion they have for people who trade in gemstones, their fairness and honesty when dealing, and their integrity and knowledge of technology.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on the gemstone business in Kenya.
The trade is undergoing a rapid digital transformation at a time when traditional ways of engaging in the business, via personal contact at shows and mining sites, are largely extinguished by the pandemic.
You are Gembridge’s ambassador in Africa. Can you describe a few gemstones you plan to list on the Gembridge platform?
I am looking forward to listing a wide variety of African gemstones on the Gembridge platform, which will include tsavorites, Tanzanites, sapphires, rubies and tourmalines, among many others.
I want to see Africa on the map when it comes to gemstone trading through Gembridge.
What are the prospects for achieving gender equality in the gemstone business in Kenya?
Historically mining and gemstone dealing has been a male-dominated industry requiring physical strength. Today the trade needs to encourage women as well as men.
Mindsets need to change, but change is taking place. Mimo is an example of a company that actively helps women to progress in the trade. I feel a sense of responsibility to nurture the skills of women in this business.