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Monica Stephenson Founder, President
Monica has spent 20 plus years working in various aspects of the jewelry industry. Since 2008, she has been writing about jewelry, designers, and trends on her award-winning jewelry blog, www.idazzle.com. A published author, you can find her articles and essays in magazines like InStore and InDesign.Jewelry. Monica first traveled to East Africa with a jewelry documentary film, Sharing the Rough, in January of 2014. She went out of curiosity and a sense of responsibility to truly see where gemstones originate. What she saw there changed her life.
She found a stunning landscape in Tanzania and Kenya that yields incredible gemstones, and met the people who, through sheer determination and passion, mine the gems. Africans are working so hard to find and mine these gems—Tsavorite, Tanzanite, aquamarine, zircon, spinel, sapphires in every hue—and yet receive so little recognition or awareness in the United States.
Monica realized that she could connect the dots between the gems and consumers in the United States. She started ANZA Gems in 2015 to create a circle of development in the East African gem market. She packs cargo pants and anti-malarial pills several times a year and travels to Tanzania and Kenya, where she meets directly with gem dealers and miners. She literally crawls into mines, and buys rough gemstones representing the best of each gem variety found there. Monica has the gemstones faceted by a hand-selected group of gem cutters. Talented jewelry designers incorporate these gems into capsule collections that showcase the gemstone’s indelible beauty. A percentage of each sale of ANZA Gems jewelry goes to schools in East Africa: a Maasai Primary School, and trade schools in Tanzania and Kenya.
“ANZA” means begin in Swahili. Monica is passionate about supporting education in East Africa, and creating a circle of development for the communities where the gems originate. When she’s not traveling, you can find her in her studio in Seattle, writing, and working with the rough gems, each one with a singular story to tell.