Madagascar - Island Of Unique Wildlife And Extraordinary Gems

Madagascar - Island Of Unique Wildlife And Extraordinary Gems

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In all my travels I have never been to a country that my need to return was so overwhelming. To say the least the country is beautiful, the wildlife unique and the people are very friendly. But the gems are what keeps my thoughts to Madagascar, the fourth largest Island in the World.

My trip was based on the fact that some of the finest pink and blue sapphires ever to come out of the ground were being mined in an area near Llakaka in the southern part of Madagascar. Tom Cushman a friend and fellow gem dealer has been living part time in this country since the sapphire discoveries and was very generous with information which made the idea of this trip easier as Madagascar is far from Western civilization. Much of the islands people live in extreme poverty. Outside the major cities stick huts are the norm. $200 per year is the average income.

The country is interesting with plant and animal life unique to this island. A majority of all orchid species developed hear. Lemurs are a primate mostly unique to this land. And for those of us a little squeamish about spiders, particularly those over 5 inches across, this might be your personal hell. There were areas we went that these spiders were the most commonly seen form of wildlife. You know the sci-fi movies with twenty foot wide webs, they are not science fiction here. Scorpions of large size and high potency are also common although not in the areas we visited. Other than a long list of fatal disease and a few poisonous spiders there is not much to fear in Madagascar. No large carnivores and few snakes to worry about. Reports of those native attacks with machete's on white people who were considered to be the devil are exaggerated and probably go back hundreds of years to the time of the slave trade which was largely based in this part of Africa.

The gems here are the same as I have dealt with for the last 25 years, they are just bigger and finer. Although I went for sapphire I never did make it to the sapphire mining area in Ilakaka. I just kept getting distracted by gems I had no idea even came from Madagascar. The first gem we found was aqua in such dark colors I was skeptical. We fortunately found a lab with the required equipment for identification and soon made our first purchase of the finest aquamarine I have ever seen. This material had only recently been discovered within a month of our arrival. Tom had told us new discoveries were happening all the time. Before we could leave the capitol city Antananarivo, known as Tana we purchased several gem species which were the finest we had ever seen, including spessartite garnets on which was the largest garnet I have ever cut. We got our first look at emeralds which we really did not believe were real. Vivid color and clarity which I have only seen in synthetics or lighter color emeralds from Columbia. This was the most important find I have ever made in all my travels. Not only is the color extraordinary, upon having them tested by the Gemological Institute of America after our return to the U.S., these emeralds have the rare status of being being free of enhancement which is the norm of all other emerald sources. Not only are this source very cheap, being untreated increases the accepted value to twice that of the similar treated stone. Many other unique items are available including fossils, mineral specimens, all the colors of sapphire including star sapphires, other garnet varieties and spinel. Our next trip will be to set up a cutting factory with primary interest in the emeralds.

Trip made possible by Steve Moriarty, from Moriarty's Fine Jewelry. To find some of the creations from this trip, come visit us.

By: Gem Cutter

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