Today we’re happy to introduce you to one of the many people working in the shadows for the trade. Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing one of the famous scouts and gem hunters the trade relies on.
Today we interview the man who, in his own words, is living the dream.
Some of you may have seen him in recent years alongside Vincent Pardieu in expeditions, talking to prominent gem dealers about securing rough gemstones half way around the globe or sharing pictures of his ranch on internet during his down time.
Today we propose you to discover our pal, the discreet and skillful, former US Marines Chief Engineer: Manny Diaz!
Manny Diaz on the hunt with his Iconic Red Cap or IRC for short :) - Photo Credits: Manny Diaz
AsiaLounges: Hi Manny, thank you for being with us today. Can you tell us more about yourself? Who are you Manny Diaz?
Manny Diaz: I am living the dream. As for who I am, simple, a guy who really enjoys the hunt. I am the oldest of (13) siblings, we grew up in a small town (village) in Northern California. At the age of 17 I enlisted in the US Marine Corps and retired after 32 years of active service. During that 32 years, I executed many deployments and assignments all around the world. From dish-washing to special operations and even diplomatic security guard commander. I have visited and lived in many many countries. I have been blessed to have been able to be introduced to many exciting and, to me, special people. People who where in their own right blessed to have knowledge of what hunts I could partake with. Not only participate with them but also allowed me to be part of their families and learn from.
Manny and his Marines platoon in Guantanamo Bay before it was trendy in the 1990's - Photo Credits: Manny DIaz
AsiaLounges: I’ve been wondering for a while now how is it possible that so many army veterans are found in the gem trade. Is it something that’s advertised in the bases? A topic of choice when you guys are on RnR or a happy coincidence? Is it a way to keep on living the adventure in a more peaceful manner perhaps?
Manny Diaz: Well you know I was not in the US Army, however, I have participated in many operations with the US and other foreign Armies. While the Marine Corps social concepts are similar to an Army's we find each other, while working, brothers & sisters. So there are some people from many military back grounds I know whom are great assets to the gem and mineral family. Some find this as a gem industry or a business, I do not. I find this more like a society with our own paths and wending opportunities afforded to us by those around us. So, yes, this gem society is another adventure. However, one may partake for the art, science and even the hunt. I have recommended this way of life to many military brothers and sisters.
AsiaLounges: Further to the previous question, what brought you to the world of gems? Was it a family business, something related to your previous career or a happy coincidence?
Manny Diaz: Yes, even as a child the science of gemology and geology fascinated me. However, while on the first deployment as a Marine in 1984, I found myself in Singapore, for two weeks. Our ship was in for repairs. So given some free time I took a tour of the island. At the end of the tour I found myself in a market. And in the market I found a gentleman who was from Sri Lanka that was brokering Aussie opals. He introduced me to his concept of the Mine to Market process. For the duration of my time in Singapore I spent many days with this new friend and his family as well as with other brokers, jewellers and stone cutters. This newly formed family I became a part of gave me other contacts to meet up with in my future travels and hunts. This lead to even more contacts and more interests and lessons learned. As well I continued my personal studies on gemology and geology during my RnR time. I also learned I enjoy the art of the science too.
Here is Manny, smiling as he received his GIA GG qualification - Photo Credit: Manny Diaz
AsiaLounges: Can you tell us more about your trade in particular? How does your job differs from other gem dealers or jewellers? How does it differ from a field gemmologist too?
Manny Diaz: I cannot say my trade is different. I believe I simply go about it, my way. I do not have the same concerns or restraints as many have in the world. Be it business or personal lives. I find a way that is most enjoyable for me while I strive to make the hunt enjoyable for those travelling along with me or those benefiting. I do not consider myself as a dealer or jeweller, though I do trade gems, minerals, fossils and jewellery products. I do not do these trades for gain, but to stay even and stay on the hunt for the next prize or gift someone may enjoy. I am not a collector, nor do I even want a collection or supply of products. I want to see if I can get it and get it to that person(s) whom may enjoy its features. Even as a youth I did gardening, hunting and fishing. My family and myself did benefit from this, and in my professional life I became more proficient in the way I executed tasks. I found my talents can benefit many while I still enjoy myself even while doing the simplest of things. As for the title, field gemmologist, where I am best is in the field or mine or market or ocean on the hunt. How else can I simply describe my way?
Some of Manny's many gains from the Hunt, here emerald crystals from Afghanistan - Photo Credits: Manny Diaz
AsiaLounges: Could you tell us what are some of the most challenging part of your job and how, without revealing your trade secrets, you solve these issue?
Manny Diaz: Very good question, there is a fun answer to this. 'Belief' of my life style by other people I come in contact with, that is the most challenging part. I find a few people need proof of my reality. How I go about resolving such a challenge, I simply say, “I am living the dream.”
AsiaLounges: If you had to choose, which one would be your gem of choice and why? What makes this particular type of gem special to you?
Manny Diaz: My favourite gem is the diopside. Firstly the tones draw my attention, the prismatic class and monoclinic crystal rough is a joy to find. Always the possible inclusions, that is a treasure.
Manny's gain from a hunt - Photo Credits: Manny Diaz
AsiaLounges Many have been debating about the ethic of the gem trade as of late, some think a sticker might be the answer, while others would rather invest in specific educational projects. What’s your take on Ethics and Transparency in the trade? Is it a necessary evolutionary step of our industry or is it something that has already been solved in your opinion?
Manny Diaz: I was asked to do a study for an organization about four years back. Comparing a concept similar to the Kimberly Process but for coloured stone markets. I was lucky that the timing of the research also coincided with the winter Tucson Gem Shows. So I was able to discreetly interview people of all backgrounds while at the gem show. At that time few people even had knowledge of the Kimberly Process. Even less people had knowledge on the coloured stone mine to market process. While even less people I interviewed could develop a sense of what is ethical in more than one society they did not originate from.
For instance, agriculture is a trade and life style so many are required to participate in, I had worked many years on farms and ranches growing up before I enlisted into the Marine Corps. Most know that not always is the weather good for farming and ranching. So those restricted to that life style still have a need to produce for the good of their families and themselves. What do they do, is it the same in every society, continent or country? Are the industries and markets readily available to open opportunities to those in need or without? Everywhere is different and many do what they can.
So many of my friends and family mine coloured stones and minerals. All the family members work the mine as they would the ranch and farm. All the family members work to run the family business so as to insure sustainability of the family.
Where is this wrong, who can choose when and where and how those work and why?
Looking in on the Mine to Market process from the outside, it is easy for many with little experience in such to make a claim on how they feel or believe someone on the other side of the planet maybe living their life. But as humans we have always done this with and to others. All to please ourselves but maybe not to benefit those doing their best to just get by.
I'd hope this 'ethical' mining and transparency genre would lead to more whom would put themselves into someone else’s shoes many times more then make public claims or statements. We will see.
Here is Manny, a Gourd Dancer of the Toltec People, in a Pow Wow in early 2020 - Photo Credits: Manny Diaz
AsiaLounges: Further to the last question, as we write these lines the protests in favour of a fairer treatment of minorities in America are raging for a reason. What do you think about it, do you think that our trade should inspire itself from these ideals or could the trade actually be an example of minorities succeeding instead?
Manny Diaz: 'Minority' is a trick word, when and where we are as an individual, are and how we act in that environment makes one a minority or not. For instance, I am a Native American, I am of Toltec heritage, as well I have family members who are of the Turtle Mountain, Cherokee, Sioux and Navajo people. I and my family are marked as minorities in a land our ancestors originated from. When I lived on the African Continent I was a minority. When I lived on the Asian Continent I was a minority. When I lived on the European Continent I was a minority. When I lived on the Australian Continent I was a minority. Even other so called minorities and oppressed people, hunted and killed my ancestors on our land.
Should we as a people or society try to develop a scale to find who is the worst treated in the land or on the earth? Or should we just judge one another by our actions and reactions not by origin or heritage?
The answer I have for us in this 'trade', is to do our best to be our best to live our dream and simply avoid those who might hinder you. And if you cannot easily avoid them, call me I am always willing to help.
AsiaLounges: We are slowly reaching the end of our interview and I’d like to ask you, on behalf of our readers, three advices to people trying to follow in your footsteps as well as three books that you believe any gem and jewellery geek should have in their library,
Manny Diaz: Advice is fun and as good as hind-sight if not used, that is the best advice I can give someone. Second best advice is do not worry about what someone may think of you, they do not know you as well as you know yourself. You probably already thought the same about yourself and you got over it. Third bit of advice is be yourself, but if you can't be yourself, be Batman always be Batman.
Now the books I feel every gemmologist, mineralogist, jeweller geek needs; Gemstones of the World (Walter Schumann), World Atlas (most recent edition), and Wisdom from the Batcave How to Live a Super, Heroic Life (Cary A. Friedman). As well anyone should have these books if they want to live the dream.
FYI, I am serious.
AsiaLounges: Last but not least, can you tell us how to reach out to you and how to follow your journey through your various social plateforms?
Manny Diaz: Always anyone can email me directly at MANUELD765@HOTMAIL.COM, my Instagram is MADFIELDGEMOLOGIST.
I am very happy to participate and be a useful as sensibly capable.
AsiaLounges: Thank you very much Manny for being with us today, I am convinced that our readers, the Loungers, have enjoyed this interview as much as we did enjoy writing these lines.
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