Madagascar: A Gemologist’s Journey (Mahaiza Market)

Mahaiza Market
The market at Mahaiza was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was a busy Friday afternoon and the streets were packed with people who had come from miles around to shop at the market. Here one could buy anything from clothing, food, live chickens and zebu, purses and cookware to gems and minerals. Locals were given a heads up that we were coming, so many had gems and mineral specimens ready for our viewing.

It was a chaotic free-for-all in the street. Crowds of local market-goers looked on to watch the Vazaha (Malagasy word for white foreigner)! Those of us who were lucky got first dibs on some amazing minerals.

Mahaiza MarketThe deal of the day was this beautiful perfect tourmaline crystal on a quartz crystal. It looks black in the photo, but the tourmaline was a beautiful deep green color. It was a steal of a deal at just 100,000 ariary, or about $43 at the time.

Mahaiza Market
The streets were so crowded we needed an escort for our 18 4-wheel drive vehicles to get through the market. Our group was the largest group the people had ever seen in Madagascar, so everywhere we went it was like being in a parade!

It was here at Mahaiza Market that I realized, some of the people here had never seen a white person before…or at least not one with blonde hair and blue eyes like mine. There were several young gals who took one look at me and backed up in fear. For some, a smile was all they needed to feel comfortable coming closer. For others, they just backed up all the way around me as if I was some sort of taboo to them. It was quite interesting.

In my next post, we head on to our first mine of the journey, the Tsaramanga Pegmatite Mine.

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites and

About mrahm

Michelle holds a Graduate Gemologist Diploma, Graduate Diamonds Diploma and Graduate Colored Stones Diploma through the Gemological Institute of America's distance education program. Michelle currently serves as President of the Mile High GIA Alumni Association. She also serves on the board of the Rocky Mountain Jeweler's Association and is a member of the American Gem Trade Association.
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