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gemboree2 020, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Aristocracy oozes from his very pores, he is cool and non commital. I wonder if I am worthy to even barter. The table in front draws me closer. The salavitating rockhound within is fixated on the stones. Oh, oh, I must have a citrine! I cant help myself and he knows it.

I inquire as to where the stones come from and am told that everything passed through Jaipur. Apparently this guy lives six months in Montreal and six months in Deli. “Jaipur is only a three hour drive from Delhi, but that can vary quite considerably” he says with understatement. The roads in India are a nightmare. It appears that there is little in the way of rules, beyond “don’t hit the cows”. They are sacred animals and have every right to snooze undisturbed in a busy intersection. Trucks choose whatever side of the road they wish to travel on and the carnage of burned out smashed up auto shells litters the roadside.

I mention that I am writing a book on gems, “Oh but you cannot forget the Indians,” he asserts. “Jaipur is the major coloured stone cutting centre in the world”.

A massive wall and seven defensive gates surround the Old City, where the gem trade thrives. It is a place that breathes colour and is dyed with an ancient culture. People call it the “pink city though it is also the state capital of Rajasthan. “It was founded over four hundred years ago by the great prince, Maharaja Jai Sing ”. Brightly clad women, in silk saris, float through broad-street’d markets. A monkey with leathery and wizened features peers from a darkened alcove. At sunset the streetscape melts into a world of orange and pink pastel, a camel cart creaks by led by a wraith-like figure. He glides slowly along on stick-like feet. As the warm evening breeze ruffles his cotton shroud you might suspect that it were only a skeleton beneath.

“We Indians have the buying power that other regions do not,” the dealer tells me. You see my stones, none of them were found in India. They were however all cut in Jaipur. Of course there are other places”. “Bangkok”, he raises a knowing eyebrow. “Brazil” he shrugs. “China”, he sighs. “Its big and new and just entering the market”. A great beam breaks his saddened features, the very sun shining from his teeth, fanning his hands over his product he proclaims in a golden voice, “And then there is India”.

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gemboree2 026, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

The utilitarian, concrete shell of the curling rink is our first view of the show. It is one of the two buildings in which the gemboree is taking place; the other location is 100 yards beyond at the North Hastings Community Centre. Several canvas shelters are pitched outside. The heat, the dust and tented pavilions have a strangely exotic air. It reminds me of something out of Kipling, a wind-blown wasteland in the remote deserts of Rajistan, maybe the Pushkar Fair or the famous meeting of Berbers in the Atlas Mountains – to wed their daughters. Other far-flung gatherings are greeted with no less promise than this.

The high-pitched whine of power tools suggests the focus of activity, the heart to which the travelling hounds are drawn. From beneath a blue plastic awning in the baking heat a cloud of dust billows. This is Paul Shier, the premier artist attending the show. He has been commissioned to produce a work for the town of Bancroft, a great mineral spike protruding from a block of stone. The work proceeds with the aid of an industrial size grinder. He is I am told, “freeing the gem within.” I watch him labour, the lower half of his body exposed in a scorching wedge of afternoon sun. “How’s it going?” I shout during a lull in the noise. He peers at me trying to decipher my words. I expect he is half stupefied by the heat and noise; his face powdered by the product of his labour. “Exhausted” was the obvious reply.

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