Near a mine in the jungles of Sri Lanka, miners would carry heavy loads of gravel down to the river for washing. The constant rinsing of mud into the river caused the water to become thick and brown, killing life in the river for miles. Edward Bristol and his team supplied pumps to one such mine which allowed for the water to be brought to the mine, thereby saving the river and its inhabitants. The miners thought it strange that Edward cared about the “wild fish”, and thus Wild Fish Gems got its name.
Edward Bristol was born In Germany in the late 60’s, but at an early age his family moved to the newly named Sri Lanka, which must have seemed an alien world to a young boy. Edward describes his memories of Sri Lanka as being “soaked in gemstones”. His father had a business exporting gemstones to Europe, and Edward recalls, “My parents used to drive into the mining areas to buy gems. The locals would swarm around our car until we could not move any further; and then the haggling would begin. First, I was scared of the dozens of people pushing in on us. Later I brought my pocket-money and stuff to swap, like knifes or cheap watches. I had my own little trading table beside my parent’s car and made deals with the miner’s kids.” By the end of that decade, escalating tension and violence between government and Tamil forces would drive Edward and his family from a place he had come to love, but the land and its people had left an indelible mark on Edward, and he would return years later to begin Wild Fish.
After leaving Sri Lanka, Edward’s family traveled to other parts of the world. Edward studied biology and international development in London and Berlin, and returned to Sri Lanka as an adult, looking for business opportunities. He decided on a business built around completely untreated, natural gemstones. After following the supply chain up to its source, Edward realized that there existed the need for what the Sinhalese call a Mudhalali, which means godfather or protector. The functions of a Mudhalali are many; Edward and Wild Fish became Mudhalali in several mining communities, providing everything from emergency food to licenses and water pumps. Looking out for the needs of the miners and their families, Edward came to realize over time how difficult the life of a miner can be. He notes that he doesn’t know many miners with all ten fingers or toes, but deeply respects their dogged determination and drive to stay in the mines on the chance that they might one day make a find which will provide for them and their families for years. The majority of what is mined is Geuda (pronounced gay-oo-dah), a milky corundum which holds little value until subjected to high heat. By separating untreated gems of good quality from the geuda, the miners are able to make a premium. Wild Fish was also able to open its own lapidary, in an area called “Worlds End”. Employing experienced faceters, Wild Fish allows for time to develop new and unique cuts. The result of the miners and faceters hard work is a collection of truly beautiful gemstones free from any treatment, heat or otherwise. From Alexandrite to Zircon, Wild Fish has some simply gorgeous gems on offer.
Edward Bristol doesn’t consider his company a charity organization, but has become dedicated to bringing sustainability to mining communities in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. By ensuring that the land is respected and the miners health and welfare looked after, Edward and Wild Fish are able to affect positive change while providing top quality gemstones to the rest of the world. He has put out a call to others in the industry looking to create fair and free trade in the mining world.
After the Tsunami and resurgence of violence in Sri Lanka, Edward and his family were forced again to relocate to Bangkok and now reside in Europe. Wild Fish now has representatives around the globe in Colombo, Bangkok, Germany and Japan, as well as the U.S.
When asked what his favorite gemstone is, Edward replied, “I love all good stones so much that I do not wear a single gem myself for fear that I’d start looking like a Christmas tree . . .”
If you would like to know more about the mission of Wild Fish Gems or join them in sponsoring mining communities, please visit Wild Fish: