Scratching for solace in a field of gemstones


Mala Bryan rediscovers her inner child every time she visits the scratch patch. Thousands of stones are scattered on the floor waiting to be discovered, while rough gems are tumbled and polished on site. For Bryan it’s a wonderland. But 10 years ago, this place was more than an idle escape. It provided Bryan a space to breathe and healing in the midst of turmoil and grief.

Bryan was dealing with the death of her grandmother – the woman who raised her. Overcome with grief, she came close to a public emotional breakdown while at the V&A Waterfront. Looking for a way to calm down, Bryan noticed a little shop filled with semi-precious stones and crystals, where she learnt that many people rely on gemstones to influence their mood and wellbeing. Later, she was directed to the larger scratch patch and gemstone factory just outside of Simonstown, which has been around since 1970.

Bryan believes her grandmother would have appreciated the scratch patch, and now associates the place with joy rather than sorrow. “I didn’t want to hold on to the grief,” she says. “Now it’s just a happy place for me to grow as a person, discover new things, broaden my mind and do things I know she would be proud of.” The St Lucia-born model travels 40 minutes from her home in Cape Town for the gemstones, making the most of the drive along the coast. “I’m from an island and seeing large masses of water is always very soothing to me,” she says. But nothing compares to finally arriving at her happy place. “To think such beautiful things could be created naturally, that for me is mind-blowing,” she says. The Simonstown scratch patch is proof that among the multitude of attractions in our country, South Africans can find happiness in the most unexpected of places.