Home News Yianni Melas: The Greek Modern-Day Indiana Jones of Gems and Human Rights Activism

Yianni Melas: The Greek Modern-Day Indiana Jones of Gems and Human Rights Activism

by Madonna

Yianni Melas, a world-renowned gems expert and human rights advocate, has earned the moniker of the modern-day Indiana Jones of gems. Melas, a distinguished gemologist and ethical mining advocate, insists on being recognized first and foremost as a Greek in any interview.

A multifaceted individual, Melas excels as a rough gem trader, gemstone advisor to major international jewelry brands, and a prominent voice in the fight against kleptocracy. Over three decades, he has traveled the globe, uncovering gems, fostering community bonds, and making positive impacts on the lives of people.


In a recent interview with Greek Reporter, Melas reflects on his extraordinary journey. He describes his life as “incredibly fun and interesting,” emphasizing the joy he finds in exploration and discovery.


One of Melas’ most significant achievements came in 2016 when he made headlines for discovering what was later recognized as “the first new gem of the 21st century”—the aquaprase. Found in an undisclosed location in Africa three years prior, Melas insisted that it was not a variation of the chrysoprase, as experts initially believed. Extended scientific tests at the Gemological Institute of America confirmed its uniqueness, leading to the aquaprase being officially recognized and trademarked as a new gem.


Melas attributes his success to a promise he made to his grandfather at the age of twelve when leaving his home island of Rhodes for the USA in 1974—to make the Melas surname known worldwide. Inspired by his hardworking grandfather, Melas abandoned medical studies to pursue gemology, delving into the world of legendary treasure hunters and explorers.

His activism began during his years as a rough gem trader in Kenya, where he witnessed the positive impact the gem trade could have on developing nations. This led to his involvement in human rights activism and the promotion of local beneficiation. Melas emphasizes the importance of giving back to communities where gems are discovered, particularly in terms of gem and jewelry education.

His commitment to human rights activism intensified during his time in junta-run Burma in the 1990s, where he engaged in pro-democracy propaganda at great personal risk. Subsequently, Melas continued his activism in countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe, becoming instrumental in exposing political corruption in Angola.

One of Melas’ most challenging fights was against De Grisogono, a Swiss luxury jeweler owned by Isabel Dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s President. Exposing political corruption in Angola, Melas went on a 31-day hunger strike to protest the auction of a 163-carat Angolan diamond by Christie’s. His hunger strike drew attention to the corruption, leading to the eventual bankruptcy of De Grisogono.

As Melas envisions a future that includes a focus on gem cutting and jewelry education for mining communities, he remains open to new international adventures. His life’s journey, marked by extraordinary discoveries and unwavering activism, continues to define him as the Greek Modern-Day Indiana Jones of Gems and Human Rights Activism.


You May Also Like


Giacoloredstones is a colored gem portal. The main columns are Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Tourmaline, Aquamarine, Tanzanite, Amethyst, Garnet, Turquoise, Knowledges, News, etc.【Contact us: [email protected]

© 2023 Copyright