The Lurie family lived in Bulawayo, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, from 1951 to 1966. During this time Robert’s late father, Mike, worked as a manufacturer’s representative. His job took him by car all over Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Every now and again Mike would stop his car in the middle of the bush to take a break from the difficult, long distance driving. He would often notice something shining, or an agate, or some unusual rock by the roadside.

This was the start of his interest and his rock collection, which he would show the family on his return from each trip. It was infectious and soon spread to Robert, his mother and his brother Stanley. After some time, the whole family joined the Matabeleland Gem & Mineral Society. Their interest in gems and minerals now sky-rocketed! They attended lectures in the Bulawayo Museum every month and went on very interesting and rewarding rock hunting outings once a month. They had very elementary gem polishing lessons, and swapped and traded stones.

On one such field trip, when everyone else sprang out of their cars and raced off to find “the motherlode”, Robert’s mother spotted an interesting rock slightly poking out of the ground near their car. One kind member tried to help her to unearth it, but it was firmly embedded in the earth. The number of kind helpers began to grow. Then three members were involved in the excavation! Eventually, after well over an hour’s hard labour, the 50 × 20 cm rock reluctantly emerged from the ground. It was a moss agate!

The pinnacle of Mike Lurie’s specimen hunting was when the mine manager of one of the large Copperbelt mines in Zambia took him underground in a “Coco pan”. He emerged with his wide-brimmed white straw hat, held upside down, filled with assorted paper-wrapped copper-based mineral specimens!

Infected by his father’s enthusiasm, Robert went on to study diamonds via the GIA (by home correspondence and at the University of Stellenbosch), and became the manager of Cape Town’s largest importer, manufacturer, and wholesale jeweller, and then manager of a well-known high-end retail jewellery store in Cavendish Square. He then got appointed as an appraiser by the S.A. Ministry of Justice and finally spent over 35 years doing jewellery valuations for the legal and accounting fraternity, as well as for retail jewellery stores and the public in Cape Town.


Mike Lurie was also an avid amateur photographer, and very keen on plants, both local and exotic which he lovingly grew from slip or seed and nurtured with great success – all on his flat’s balcony! He was said to truly have “green fingers” by all the amazed visitors who saw his much-prized balcony.


Robert and his brother Stanley are indebted to their father, Mike Lurie, for imparting his love and enthusiasm of all things natural to them, and they will always remember him by the specimens in their homes, and when they are at the seaside, mountainside and places like Kirstenbosch, which he loved passionately. RL. May 2017