Aquamarine Hunting in Madagascar

Mother Nature certainly did not distribute her geological bounty equally among countries; Madagascar stands out as a country blessed with incredible mineral and gemstone wealth. Ironically, as a GIA gemologist who travels directly to mines where the world’s finest specimens are found, I have found the most beautiful stones usually come from the most rugged terrains. It is very true in Madagascar.

Madagascar‘s aquamarines are definitively the world’s best. In September, 2010, I headed to Madagascar primarily for its aquamarines, as well as rubies and sapphires and other gemstones.

I met my favorite guide/driver at the airport in the capital city, Antananarivo (nicknamed “Tana” by the locals who are called Malagasy). The streets are still gaining cars, and I spotted some very old models as well as the imported newer vehicles. Below you can see a taxi on a downtown street – a beautiful Citroen Deux Chevaux!

We first drove 5 hours to the aquamarine mines, where we camped out near where the Malagasy miners both lived and worked after another 5 hours hike.


A simple roof of palm leaves shielded their hand-dug mine shafts from the hot sun. Mine shafts are dug to fit a solo man who lowers himself into the hole, while his partner stands atop to crank up his bucket of gravel.

Later the gravel is simply washed in a nearby stream. I didn’t buy from these miners directly, but from their dealers…I sat in their little sheds as they pulled out the most amazing stones dug from this rough terrain.

From the miners to the dealers...I selected some amazing rough aquamarines that I will use in both rough and faceted form in my jewelry.