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Died, Campbell R. Bridges, 71.

On August 11, 2009 the gem and mineral community lost one of its true legends. Campbell Bridges, pioneer British geologist and gem miner, was ambushed and killed while returning to his mine near Tsavo in Kenya. His son, Bruce Bridges, and two of his employees were wounded in the fight. The attackers, a gang of 20 or more Kenyan bandits allegedly funded by a local politician and organized by gangsters, had been trying to seize control of Bridges' lucrative gem mining concessions. The unlicensed miners had been illegally digging for gems on the family's 6-square-km concession (2-3 km from the Scorpion mine) for the last three years, and had made numerous death threats against Bridges. The identity of the assailants is known, and at least one arrest has been made in connection with the attack.


Campbell Rodney Bridges was born in Kensington, England, on August 25, 1937, the son of Barbara (Carswell) and Rodney Bridges, a British geologist for the Central Mining Investment Corporation in South Africa. Barbara was from the Scottish Highlands; her family was of the Star Shipping Line. Campbell discovered his first amethyst at the age of six, and had an endless love for gemstones and the African continent. He collected minerals and gems throughout his life, and built an extraordinarily fine African gem collection.

Campbell was educated in South Africa, where he attended Hilton College and earned a BSc degree in Geology from the University of Witwatersrand. After working in South Africa and Zimbabwe he began his geological explorations in Tanzania, and gained fame for his discovery of the new gem grossular variety tsavorite in 1967. In 1968 he was among the first to bring tanzanite to the United States for identification by the GIA Gem Trade Lab in New York. When his mines were nationalized by the Tanzanian government, he went looking for similar geology over the border in Kenya, and by 1970 he had discovered and developed his now-famous tsavorite operations in the Taita Hills near the game park for which the gem was named.

Campbell worked very closely with Tiffany & Company, and in 1974 Tiffany's ran a full page ad in The New Yorker magazine promoting the new East African gemstone, tsavorite, using Campbell as their focus. He was also featured in Life magazine in its article on the discovery of tanzanite in 1969, and, over the years, has been honored internationally for his work. He has held many offices in gem trade organizations: Founding Chairman of the Kenya Chamber of Mines, Vice Chairman of the Kenya Gemstone Dealers Association, and a founding member of the International Colored Gemstone Association, serving on its Board of Directors, as Chairman of Mining Africa. Campbell was generous about sharing his passion for gem mining in Africa. He was frequently on the "speaker circuit" and wrote many articles for the various gem and mineral journals. His publications and lectures around the world are far too numerous to note here (but they are listed on his website, One of his little known talents, however, was as a composer of songs and lyrics. You never knew just when he might share one with you.

Few of us who were fortunate to spend time with Campbell in his famous tree house overlooking the mining area will ever forget the experience. He was always aware of the dangers, not so much from the lions of Tsavo, but from the many poachers who were constantly after his property, or his gems. He was always trying new defenses and booby traps, including a deadly green mamba that guarded his gem rough. When he wasn't at the mine, he enjoyed telling stories about the leopards that shared his tree house in his absence. He set up very rough sporting games for his guards in order to keep them fit, and made certain that they were proficient with a bow and arrow. In the end, it wasn't enough to defend against the road block that was set up and the large number of attackers that assaulted him.

Campbell was also involved in many types of conservation efforts in Kenya which were rarely publicized; Campbell just "did it" without much fan-fare--his love of Kenya was that great. Here is a quote: "Campbell Bridges is a kindred spirit in conservation!" (Wangari Maathai, 2004, Nobel Peace Prize recipient).

His is survived by his wife, Judith, daughter Laura (a law student in Chicago) and son Bruce. His son has worked side by side with him since graduating from college in the United States. Services were held in Nairobi on August 21st, followed by a good old-fashioned wake hosted by the International Colored Gemstone Association. Campbell Bridges was always, and always will be, larger than life, and we will all be richer for knowing him.
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Title Annotation:Notes from the Editors
Author:Keller, Peter C.; Wilson, Wendell E.; Leicht, Dona
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Article Type:In memoriam
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2009
Previous Article:Why police need to know mineralogy.
Next Article:Died, Harold W. "Hal" Miller, 88.

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