Madagascar has a huge variety of animals and plants that is found nowhere else on earth and is therefore also referred to as “the eighth continent”.
Madagascar is still relatively new to the world market as a supplier of gemstones. The first sapphires from the Ilakaka region were not discovered until the late 1990s and quickly found buyers. Word of the high-quality finds got around very quickly among the general public, triggering a veritable “precious stone frenzy”. In a very short time, settlements develop at new sites where tens of thousands of people try their luck in search of valuable gemstones.
Mining is quite primitive with simple tools such as spades and trowels, with which shafts are dug into sediments (mostly gravel and sand), which are usually only a few meters deep. The removed sediments are then washed and searched for precious stones, very often sapphires. If no major finds are made in an area for a long time, the miners withdraw and go back to their main occupation, mostly agriculture, until the next big find makes the rounds and attracts thousands again and the big search starts all over again . In less than 25 years, Madagascar has developed from an almost unknown supplier of individual stones to the main producer of sapphires worldwide.
The variety of colors of Madagascan sapphires is also unique. In addition to blue, they can also be found in yellow, pink, purple/violet, orange and green; the red corundums are called rubies. Other special features include colour-changing sapphires, which change from a shade of blue in daylight to purple in incandescent light. Pastel mixed colors of orange and pink are called padparadscha (sapphires). Most sapphires come from the Ilakaka region, which is believed to have the largest sapphire reserves in the world. It is expected that new near-surface finds will be added all the time, attracting thousands of people for supplies of fine sapphires to the world market. At the same time, trading in gemstones is vital to the local economy.
“Cornflower blue” sapphires have been known from the Bemainty/Ambatondrazaka region for around five years. With their even, intense coloring and slightly silky demixing, they visually resemble cashmere sapphires. These stones are not only in great demand among connoisseurs and have therefore triggered a new gemstone frenzy among the population. The discovery of these extraordinary sapphires gave Madagascar a new status in the international gem trade.
However, not only sapphires are known from Madagascar, but a whole range of gemstones. Above all, high-quality rubies and emeralds should also be mentioned here, but in terms of quantity they play a significantly smaller role than sapphires. In addition, extremely attractive and large beryl crystals are known, from which (depending on the colour) aquamarines, morganites, green beryls and gold beryls can be cut. In the case of aquamarines, intensely blue stones also occur, which are referred to in the trade as “Santa Maria colours”. Furthermore, a large number of different grenades are promoted; from pink to red (rhodolite) to deep violet colors (“Royal purple Garnet”), as well as tsavolite (green) and mandarin garnet (intense orange).
The range of gemstones from Madagascar also includes tourmaline, spinel, zircon, chrysoberyl and alexandrite, topaz, amethyst and a variety of other popular stones.
In addition to these well-known gemstones, extremely rare collector’s stones such as pezzottaite (a cesium-rich beryl of an intense pink to red color) and grandidierite (green to blue) are also found, which are only known from Madagascar and are of a quality worthy of being cut.