The Gem Odyssey: Unique Travel Experiences for Mineral Enthusiasts

Have you ever wanted to visit a gemstone mining site but had no idea where to start? Now you have the answer - The Gem Odyssey. It is a new travel experiences venture led by Carlos Torres and Dr Laurent Massi, which promises to take guests to Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and other destinations in search of gemstone adventures. When Carlos called me last year and told me about his plans, I was so excited for him because I knew he was onto something very special…let’s dive deeper into his project.

No matter how much we may wish it, gemstones don’t simply emerge from the ground or pop up in easy-to-reach places. They can be elusive, buried deep in unforgiving terrain, far from the nearest town and typically require skill and experience to bring them to the surface. Visiting a gemstone mining site is an experience which is not accessible to everyone and is often surprising, which is precisely why Carlos Torres and Dr Laurent Massi have joined forces to make visiting these locations a reality.

Dr Laurent Massi (left) and Carlos Torres of The Gem Odyssey

The Gem Odyssey specialises in mine expeditions worldwide, blending the best of exploration, adventure, culture, and gemmology into one cool travel package! Carlos describes each organised tour as an “immersive and educational experience” designed to offer “participants the opportunity to explore diverse gem mines, learn about gemstone extraction processes, and witness the beauty of these precious stones in their natural environment.”

A sapphire mine near Chanthaburi city in Thailand, courtesy of The Gem Odyssey

Before we dive into the expeditions The Gem Odyssey has on the horizon, let me share a little bit more about my friends Carlos and Laurent, whom I have known for many years now and who constantly inspire me with their gem knowledge and enthusiasm. Carlos is a gemmologist who has spent many years at mines in Mexico and South America procuring gems for himself and jewellery designers. I met Laurent in Nice, France, in 2020 at a gemmology school he was setting up in the region. A gemmologist, educator, author, and former director of the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences Gem Laboratory and the Gemological Institute of America in Bangkok, Laurent has a lot of expert knowledge to share with participants of the Gem Odyssey trips.

“Since Laurent and I met, our passion for gemstones and adventure clicked right away. We saw in our industry and the end consumer that there was interest in what we were doing as a profession [with many] wondering how to join our mining journey. That’s when we saw a big opportunity, and so we worked on it together to bring The Gem Odyssey to what it is now,” shares Carlos about his project.

A miner carrying the debris cart back inside the mine, courtesy of The Gem Odyssey

Only with their combined experience and connections is something like The Gem Odyssey possible; it’s rare to be granted access to such remote places and build trusting rapport with the miners themselves. “We are welcomed with open arms by the artisan miners,” Carlos says. “We have the contacts and the ways to get to these remote locations. It’s an unparalleled exclusive experience to see and do things [people] would never be able to do by themselves.”

Carlos Torres and Dr Laurent Massi of The Gem Odyssey inspecting an emerald sample in the emerald region of Muzo, Colombia

What excites me most about The Gem Odyssey is its potential to expand the horizons of passionate jewellery and gem collectors, including many of the readers of It can be easy to forget the remarkable journey that rough minerals go on to become beautiful, polished gems set in a golden ring or a necklace. Carlos agrees: “It’s a long and complicated chain to turn a piece of rough material into a jewel. Most people only see the finished product at the end of the chain. We will show you how this chain begins.”

A team prospecting fire opal in Queretaro, Mexico, courtesy of The Gem Odyssey

With 2024 well underway, Carlos is looking ahead to The Gem Odyssey’s upcoming expeditions. To date, the company specialises in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Thailand, although Carlos has a favourite. He explains: “All are unique, but the best one so far has been the opal mines in Mexico because the whole experience is very warm and welcoming. From the day you arrive, you start experiencing the local culture; then, when you go to the mine, the owners and their families join to explain every single step of the process, and the attention on every participant is very one-on-one. The owner's wife cooks for us at the mine, and then they show us how to prospect for opal and crack the host rock until the end when we go to their house, and we can spend hours just looking at stones and listening to their stories. Besides all that, Mexico has an amazing culture, and the people are quite great… to say the least, it is a world-class experience.” After my recent visit to Mexico, I can vouch for these words.

Carlos Torres, Emmanuel Tarpin and Dr Laurent Massi visiting Colombian emerald mines with The Gem Odyssey

The schedule for 2024 is already looking quite full, with a visit to Colombia to visit the emerald mines with Indian clients in April, a trip to Mexico with industry professionals in May, and an excursion to Brazil in August to see Paraiba mines. “The industry and the end consumer have been very responsive to our venture in a positive way,” Carlos says. “Many are joining the waitlist for the next adventure we go on, which shows us we are on the right path.”

Emerald miners giving instructions before going inside the mine in Chivor, Colombia, courtesy of The Gem Odyssey

If you are planning your next adventure, perhaps a mineral-themed expedition to a remote location might be the escape you need. The Gem Odyssey offers unique expeditions for groups of 10 or more, including industry professionals, collectors and passionate amateurs. To find out more, please email

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