Prospectors Laurence Contat, 37, and Cornelius Oosthuizen, 42, were sitting under a tree in a grassy meadow near the town of Belingwe having a spot of tea. Out in the hot sun around them were their "prospecting boys," African helpers trained to look for unusual rock outcrops. As they sat, recalls Contat, "an African named Chiwaro came in with a rock sample. He didn't think much of it, but it had what Colombian miners call morralla [the characteristic mineral in which emeralds are embedded]. The morralla may open into nothing; but it may also open into clusters...

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