“There’s been so much sensationalism in the media about gem-hunting – back alley deals with shady characters, taking advantage of the local miners, and how it’s all about the money,” says McConnell. “But that’s not the way we want to do it - we want it to be a very positive experience. And it’s not all about the money – it’s about how we can benefit one another in the gem-hunting process. Our goal is to make the gemstone trade a win-win for everyone that participates in the journey of a gemstone.”
It is in this spirit of shining the light on the true nature of gem hunting and separating himself from the likes of recent gem-hunting reality shows that McConnell has joined international award-winning gem cutter Roger Dery and film maker Orin Mazzoni for the documentary Sharing The Rough. This film is the first ever to document the complete journey of a gemstone – from the hands of East African miners, to the gem-cutter, then to the designer and finally to the public as a finished product.
“It’s really to show the benefits that these locals receive by us doing what we do, and the trickle down effect all the way back to those miners finding gemstones deep in those holes,” says associate producer McConnell about the importance of their film. “They get to put their kids through school when they might not be able to do so otherwise, and they are empowered to put a roof over their children’s heads, put food on the table, and try to better their own lives. We try to show that in our movie.”
McConnell adds, “The short-term goal is to bring beautiful gemstones from East Africa to our clients in Walnut Creek, while meeting the miners’ day-to-day needs. The long-term goal is the use of natural resources to better the miners’ lives and the lives of their children. Without gem mining, there wouldn’t be many of the schools and businesses that offer a bright future for the people of Tanzania and Kenya. For example, the Arusha gemological school trains students to grade and cut gemstones dug from local mines, thus allowing the gemstones to benefit their native country before they are sold to be enjoyed by the rest of the world.”