With host Don Kogen, gemstone expert and Gavin Linsell, adventurer and writer, Game of Stones is a show that travels to new countries in search of rare stones. From 10,000 feet up in the snowbound Himalayas to the deserts of Africa, they must overcome hurdles including lion packs, nail-biting auctions in India and drunken police officers. Linsell tells us more about what makes the show so rivetting.
How did you get involved in the rare gem business?
When I was about 10, I remember being mesmerised by a small water-filled container full of Opal tailings, given to me by an aunt. My professional love affair with gems started 15 years ago under the shadow of Khao Ploi Waen, ‘the mountain of gemstone rings’ in Thailand’s Chanthaburi Province, an international center for colored gemstones, after I moved there from Australia. My first experience was anything but illustrious—I shot a gem from my tweezers, almost taking out Don’s eye!
What makes gem stones so special to you?
Created by forces of nature billions of years ago, gemstones are miracles that occur entirely by chance. I consider myself to be a ‘manly man’, but fine gemstones turn me into a giggling school girl!
Tell us a bit about the team.
I met Don in Chanthaburi on a holiday where gemstones are an important industry. After a career in marketing consultancy, I was ready for a change of pace. Finding we shared a deep-rooted affinity for gem hunting, Don offered me a job. A month later, I was living my dream in Thailand.
Discovery Channel brings Game of Stones with adventurists racing against the clock in search of priceless gems
What are the risks on the job?
It can be dangerous, but it’s important to remember we are all seasoned professionals and take calculated risks. I have been concerned for my safety at times and have had a few close calls.
Tell us more about the narrow escapes you had.
In Tanzania, a flat tire had us take turns to look out for lions on the way to the Songea Sapphire fields in the middle of a savannah! And then a drunken policeman armed with an AK47 stopped us because we had no spare and that is illegal; eventually, we paid a fine and were sent on our way! In Madagascar, a drunken miner whipped up the crowd, accusing our group of coming to the Moraphin Apatite Mine to steal, not buy gems after a miner allowed us to inspect a crystal outcrop that broke the surface. Spears were handed out in the group of miners; our armed guy stupidly left his six-shooter in the hotel. Quick escape in the 4WD prevents danger!
On being part of the show.
I can’t believe I’m gracing television screens across the globe—not bad for a bloke with a face for radio! Jokes aside, prior to Game of Stones, I appeared in a series of gemstone documentaries for a television shopping network, so I was already familiar with being in a TV series.
Monday to Thursday, 7 pm on Discovery Channel
— Aakanksha Devi