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THE STORY OF THE FIRST MADAGASCAR SAPPHIRE
 
  Sapphires from Andranondambo,  discovered in 1991. ( South-Eastern  Madagascar )

   

       In 1658, Flacourt, the governor of Fort-Dauphin, mentions

       sapphires in southern Madagascar.
       In 1808, Barthélemy Hugon writes that in the valley of
       Ambolo there is a so beautiful stone and so rare that his
       lapidaries have not  been able to recognize it and it was
       above of all that is not diamond. ... In 1991, at the time of
       the great dryness in the south, sapphire samples are found,
       several centuries after their first discovery. The son of Mrs.
       Dauphine, innkeeper in Tranomaro, main village of the
       valley, was among  the prospectors.
       Actually, one of the most beautiful sapphire quality in the
       world is just leaving ground.
   The Tranomaro area is characterized by an
  extreme calcic and magnesian paragneiss abundance:
  Gneiss with diopside, plagioclasites, pyroxenites,
  wernerites, wolastonite marble, with varied
  leptynites, generally with garnet, kinzigites, quarzites.
  One finds there rather frequently syenitic gneisses
  or lamboanites.  Gneisses of injection are very
  frequent.
  The typomorphic minerals are:  basic diopside,
  scapolite, calcite, plagioclases,
  wollastonite, garnet, cordierite and corundum.
  East of Tranomaro, arteritic and eyesys injections
  assign gneisses at leptynites. Cordierite gneiss stripes
  are deeply injected bed by bed, the injection has
  introduced magnetite in abundance.
  Wollastonites form ptymatic lenses with
  Marohotro, 8 km. south of Andanondambo.   folds very tortured at the middle of the limestone.
       Note:aluminous anorthites or sakenites.
   
  In 1991 a new sapphire occurrence, similar in quality to that
of Kashmir, is discovered in southern Madagascar
 
In June 1991, John gets his first gem quality sapphire sample in Tranomaro,
it comes from the Manambolo valley, about twenty kilometers far from here.
At the end of June 91, his notebook contains the whole of the sapphire 
occurrences in the area of Tranomaro;  these places which will be two
years later, in summer 93, the subject of the rush:
 
Maromby, Behataza, Lapiry, Andranondambo, Ambandanira, Sakafohy
Marohotro, Ampiliry.  
But political troubles occur in 1991 in Madagascar and new elections are 
First sapphire found by Alain in 

organized at the end of 1992.  

September 1992.  
Meanwhile in 1992, Mr Spagnioli, an Italian prospector (today deceased),
find a pretty sapphire.
 
Looking for sapphire on the ground in 1992. (Andranondambo area)
Arrival of Alain in the Manambolo valley in September 1992 and purchase  
the very same day of two exceptional stones of thumb size, certainly 
the first sapphires of this dimension found in the Andranondambo area.
Elluvial Sapphires were hidden between two and three meters depth in a 
gravel layer under clay, while the other gems remained captive of their 
bed rock; a metamorphic marble.
Several years of dryness prevailed in the South, but it is at the favour of 
convenient rains in September 1992, that the laterite was washed and 
that sapphires sporadically appeared on the ground.    
At that time, parallel to Alain, a tradesman of Amboasary collected the 
first sapphires of the valley for an Anglophone customer, involved in the 
stone’s research in Madagascar.
The area sees the return of John the latest days of December 1992, and
it is little afterwards that a countryman presents a cornflower sapphire to 
John, weighting 35 carats, and coming from the Behataza plateau.  He 
would have found it near his house in the village of Befody, the previous 
morning.  The stone was just posed on the ground.
In April or May 1993 one of our lapidaries disclosed the secret,
boasting himself to have cut a sapphire of unknown quality in Madagascar.
Alerted by the news, a merchant of Antsirabe in business relationship with
Thais customers convinced the Malagasy fellow traveler of John, 
present at the time of his first voyage in 1991, to reveal the secret.
 John inspecting the bed-rock 
 of sapphire: a metamorphic marble
 (Tranomaro, June 1991)
The young man revealed the place of the discovery, and the merchant 
jumped to Andranondambo.  
Thus, in summer 1993, first Thais arrived in the sapphires valley.
In January 1994 the Prime Minister of Madagascar, Francisque Ravony, 
fly to the World Economic Forum of Davos, in Switzerland, in search of 
economic outlets for his country.
The same year, several foreign companies undertake the mechanized 
exploitation of sapphires.
Madagascar Map
      The sapphire bought by John in 
      January 1993 and which rough 
      material weighed thirty five carats.
The Manambolo sapphire valley in 1992.
   

 

 

 

Alain and John at the time of the Andranondambo sapphire discovery.

 

       
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       Text written by Alain Darbellay.
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