Gemstone Lovers Visit the Mines

How It Began…

During the summer of 2008, Nancy Schuring, Debbie Swinney, and Joe Portale traveled to distant Madagascar for an educational and gem-hunting experience. Our guide was Jim Fiebig, a Gemstone and Jewelry Industry expert. We encountered a fascinating country with striking landscapes, incredible gems, and lovely citizens. The gentle Malagasy people are cheerful and optimistic despite their severe poverty. These brave people touched our hearts and inspired a creative and compassionate response.

Soon, we realized a deep connection — we jewelry aficionados are interdependent with these hard-working miners and producers of gemstones. In a way, we are “gem partners!” They are an integral part of our individual business success and the jewelry industry as a whole.

Our Mission:

We set up this Foundation to help the people of Africa who are involved in the gem trade. For example the average Malagasy family earns under $300 a year. Many work at mining gemstones and make less than $1 a day, often walking miles in bare feet on rocky trails to get to the mines. The world may have many areas of poverty, but this one reached out to us in a way that no others have. These people work very hard to create so little money for themselves. With a little education they can earn more, and help their families grow. However, the cost of education is out of reach for most young adults in Africa.

Meet Our First IGM Scholarship Graduates

It was an emotional time for Eric and Lalaina, our first lapidary scholarship students at the Institute of Gemology of Madagascar located in the capital city of Tana. The two young men were overcome with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to enroll in the program.

Eric and Lalaina – recent scholarship graduates!

They were very motivated students and received excellent grades on their final exams. Much to their surprise, The Devon Foundation awarded them scholarships to complete the advanced lapidary course. Eric and Lalaina would never have been able to afford these courses without the scholarships. Now our first two students have lifetime skills to earn a better living for their families.

In Spring 2010 scholarships were awarded to four women and two men from Madagascar to attend Design Courses.

Miner’s family washing stones in river while children play

Our Focus Shifts to East Africa – 2012

As the political situation in Madagascar disintegrated in 2011, it became increasingly difficult to relay scholarship funds to the IGM. Our friend Roger Dery, world-class faceter and frequent traveler to Africa, heard about the Arusha Gemmological and Jewelry Vocational Training Center in Arusha, Tanzania. Begun over a decade earlier by Mr. Peter Salla, the two-room school holds two sessions per day of 10 students each. The course lasts 4 months with a tuition of $1,500. Mr. Salla provides gemological and lapidary education with the graduates landing positions in local gem cutting shops.

Mr. Salla is a dedicated and compassionate educator who takes personal pride in his students’ accomplishments.

2013 Graduates

The latest Arusha graduates of the Devon Foundation have been two young women – Jessica and Sabrina. Both have shown excellent progress in the program. Sabrina overcame a difficult and personal situation. She was cast out of her village for refusing to marry at the age of 15. Mr. Salla met her begging in the streets of Arusha and offered her a Devon Foundation scholarship. She graduated with distinction and is currently employed in the gem trade. Nancy Schuring met Jessica and Sabrina in an emotional visit to Africa in January of 2013.

Our work continues in 2015

In June 2015, the Devon Foundation presented the Arusha Gemological and Jewelry Vocational Training Center with much-needed jewelry equipment, including a facetron machine, refractometer, dichroscope, and polariscope. Students can use this equipment to help identify gemstones. We were delighted to be able to provide the school and students with such important lapidary machinery.

Devon Foundation and “Sharing the Rough”

Nancy and the Devon Foundation were involved in a 90-minute documentary film entitled “Sharing the Rough”. Directed and produced by Orin Mazzoni, the film followed the journey of a gemstone from the mine to the beautiful piece of jewelry it becomes, documenting the unique stories of East African miners and artisans in the world of colored gemstones. Never before had a filmmaker captured “the passion and beauty of one of nature’s most precious gifts”. We hosted a private screening of the film in March 2015 and received great feedback from attendees, including clients and jewelry professionals. The film was nominated as an Official Selection for three film festivals in April 2015. The film won top awards at the film festivals in Houston, Dallas, and Newport Beach!

Please help us!

Please view the links below:

A day in Africa with the Sharing the Rough film documentary team. Visit the website:


See the latest on the recent trip to Africa! Click here for the Instore featured article:

Instore Article



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