News from the front ...
The regular and intermittent drizzle that had fallen on the region suddenly died 
down. It had sprinkled the area for seven days. A lean period, you might think, 
however that definitely wasn’t the case since sapphires and rubies never ceased
to flock towards John.

Ah!  The rainy season
Hostilities had begun in the highlands when John went to Mahaiza, the 
Mecca of highwaymen, which abound in these regions. Also the Mecca of 
aquamarines, of rubellites and of every pegmatitic rock surrounding the 
Antsirabe area.
The first picture here attached, is a testimony of roads transformed into 
a real “Via Crucis”.

Meanwhile, Alain continued with his program.
Since the colony, Madagascar was known as Beryl Country. Today times have 
changed and we readily describe the Red Island as Corundum Country. Red and Blue 
are thus combined in a prose à la Stendhal turned daltonic. For the better and the 
worse, Rubies and Sapphires reveal their velvetiness and their hardness.
In an era that hasn’t rung yet, we will qualify Madagascar the country of pure carbon.
The diamond, one hundred and twenty times harder than its sibling the sapphire, is 
still lurking beneath the sandstones or in dykes under unsuspected depths.

When it was rumoured that a new alluvial mine of sapphires and rubies had been 
revealed, John changed his course.
By a coincidence that only nature knows the secret, the discovery happened the 
day of our arrival on the island.
But here, we enter into a fourth dimension in space and time, time that was 
needed for our adventurer to reach his spot. Twenty five hours of a wet track 
winding the border of the east coast’s rainforests.
On the shoulders of this man, a yoke, used for
harnessing his oxen.
A zebu is one of the symbols of Madagascar.
In the past, on the Red Island, they were
more numerous than men.

The last village leading to the Holy Grail left John with 18 hours walking distance
from the alluvial deposit.

Middleman showing a
pink sapphire into his
sharp fingers. It comes
from a place said
Sahalava, 30 kilometers
north of Andilamena.
This new deposit was
discovered in November
For the corundums revealed a parade of heteroclitical
colours, passing from royal blue to soft pastels and then
to pinks, purples, yellows and every colour of the rainbow
that leads to the pot of gold.
This gold John didn’t have in his pockets yet, but, it was
then that the difficulties had just begun.

Andilamena,  it is at this place, in October 2000, where an important
ruby deposit was discovered. It caused a rush that definitely
transformed this big rural village lost in the middle of nowhere.
The relations that John tied with gemstone miners and sellers present
at the time of the rush in 2001, thanks to his mastery of the Malagasy
language, permitted him to glean a lot of information.
These discoveries, distanced a several dozen kilometres from the
village, have unearthed hundreds of kilos of rubies inside some veins 
of feldspar turned endomorphic which disaggregated into the form of
At the time, miners dug up to eight meters in depth inside the veins
which were then followed by many mica minerals. Some pockets, in the
shape of lentils, produced up to two hundred kilos of gems which were
quickly acquired by Thais who had flocked to the region. Sometimes
purchased as a star ruby, i.e. cabochon quality, these rubies of
remarkable colour and dimensions would, according to the Malagasy
who were present, have enriched their buyers.
In 2002, a new sapphire deposit was discovered at a place called
It’s in 2004 when Alain was able to observe remarkable samples of
royal blue sapphires from Andribabe.
On the spot, John found many
friends and acquaintances
forged throughout previous
decades. Some on a sapphire
deposit in the North in 1996,
some in the Ilakaka, deposit,
in 1999-2000, etc.

       Andilamena  (main street)

To get to the deposit, there is only one solution: the motorcycle.

Once again, John applied his technique: he paid
a disproportionate price for the first stone that
fell into his hands thus attracting all the others
towards him. This provoked a wrath in some
Asian competitors who had rushed to the
place of the discovery.
Vehicles suffer when
reaching Andilamena in
this season. This modest
garage offers a welcome
service, thanks to this old
man. A remake of Charlie
Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Karazam'bato (sapphires of lower quality) are sold here in bulks like piles of gravel.

John in front of his room, accompanied by the charming and friendly owner of the
Magic Hotel.

Aerial view of Andilamena.

Blue Sapphire

Alaotra formations:
Crystalline schists:
The petrographic bottom is characterized by an
abundance of pyroxeno-amphibolic formations in a set in
which gneissico-migmatitic rocks are found as follows:
- The gneisses at hypersthene are well represented on
the North and East bank of Lake Alaotra:
- Amphibolites and shale feldspathics pyroxenites
appearing frequently in patches or enclaves to form
heterogeneous migmatites of épibolites type (rocks
consist of interbedded veins of aplites beds per bed).
- The amphibole gneiss, amphibole and biotite, or biotite
alone can pass locally to banded migmatites.
- Locally surmicaceous gneiss and mica becoming
micaschists and containing shreds of muscovite mica
schists between the rivers Onibe and Ivondro.
- Finally, beds of quartzite or magnetite quartzite 
distributed of very irregular manner : magnetite quartzites
show a bigger development in the region of
Imerimandroso and Andilamena peninsula, on the shores of
Lake Alaotra; white quartzites more or less crystallized are
quite rare and form thin beds.
We can distinguish an aluminous series and
calco-magnesian series. Alumino-silicate series is not
uniformly distributed, but appears quite clearly located at
the base of the group of Alaotra. This series is represented
by sillimanite quartzites and gneisses more or less quartzic
biotite, sillimanite and garnet, very often these gneiss are
Calc-magnesian series develops on the western bank of
the group Alaotra, especially south of Ambatondrazaka
where diopside gneisses and marbles are of great
- Gabros have a significant development in the group Alaotra, their main feature is their perfect match with
the surrounding formations.

Rubies from this region have been found in alluvium,

Ruby crystal, red Madagascar mineral, exclusive rubies, corundum information data

but probably come from endomorpheous feldspatic 

rocks. In fact, we frequently found corundums showing 

flat faces in feldspatic rocks in Madagascar.

The North- Andilamena area aload to establish a geological connection between the Lake Alaotra
region and the Mandritsara region. Five petrographic units were distinguished. At the base we find a
graphitic series with sillimanite and garnet with many leptynites banks in the south, it has been found
on the eastern edge of the studied area only. Above it, there are biotite migmatites with small
hornblende passages : they flush heavily on the Maroadabo sheet, and reappear in anticlinal position
throughout the western limit of the studied area.
They are locally overlain by a small graphitic series with marbles, gneisses at pyroxene and wernérites.
Epibolites and amphibolitic gneisses form the foothills of the Bemarivo.
Finally, in the Tanananifololahy region, pyroxeno-amphibolites are associated with more or less metamorphic
gabbros. The three bottom sets ( graphitic basic series, biotite migmatites, graphitic series at cipolin of
Marovato) are attached to the System of Graphite; épibolites and hornblende gneisses as well as pyroxeno
- amphibolites are considered belonging to the Vohibory System.
The area covered by the sheet is formed essentially by gneissic-migmatitic rocks, bit affected by
granitisation in the central zone and including on the contrary many granite benches interbedded on 
the eastern and western borders.

In Andilamena, any
grocery store can be
equipped with a
satellite dish.

Days passed and a sound, or rather, an intoxicating melody, came to the ears of our
protagonists: a new deposit of sapphires of an exceptional blue colour was brought
to light in the Didy area (which I mentioned in my previous article).
Then, simultaneously, a discovery of pigeon blood rubies was announced at 4 miles
from the sea border, on the east coast... Everyone broke camp.
It is thus how gem research is conducted in Madagascar today, a country that has
become the leading producer of sapphires and rubies in the world.
At the time when the mobile phone was still in its infancy, it took more than two
years before the discovery of an exceptional sapphire, which I and John made in
south-eastern Madagascar, had been disclosed.
It was Andranondambo. The quality of this sapphire remained a model in the
 gemmology field.
Today, this sapphire is compared to those of Kashmir.
It is in fact during the occasion of our presence on the island, late 2013-2014, that
we also learned about the discovery of a new sapphire deposit in the Andranondambo

By clicking on the following link you can read an article written by Alain on what
certainly remains the discovery of the century in sapphire and ruby history:
Unearthed in 2012, in Madagascar, this deposit, discovered in the heart of the
rainforest, has produced the largest pigeon blood rubies in the world. The icing
on the cake? They do not require any treatment. Exactly the same goes for all
exceptionally coloured sapphires that have escaped the place, a natural reserve
rapidly sealed off by the authorities.
Corundums / Visual Catalog / Safari
Geological references: A. Lenoble, P. Brenon, J. Aurouze, J. Guignes, L. Laplaine,
                                Your guide to GGGems
R. Lautel, H. de la Roche, M. Bertucat, L. Delbos, O. Dottin, R. Girardon, G. Noizet,  A. Darbellay
M. Rantoanina.
images by J. Darbellay
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