Madagascar: A Gemologist’s Journey (Sahatany Valley Pegmatite Field)

Sahatany Pegmatite Field
Our day in the Sahatany Valley was a long one, so I’ll split it up into two consecutive posts. Sahatany Valley is of the most famous and productive pegmatite areas in Madagascar. This gorgeous valley is known for producing polychrome tourmaline, pink, green, blue and polychrome beryl, kunzite and garnets among others.

In Ibity (the town to the right of Tsarafara), Federico Pezzotta, who owns many mining claims in this area, gives us an overview of the pegmatites and the different dig sites in the area we will be visiting. We have a long day of hiking ahead of us as shown below.

Sahatany Pegmatite District
From Ibity it’s about an hour walk to the Estatoby dig area passing through the Tsarafara pegmatite field along the way. From there we hike to the top of the mountain to visit the Ampatsikahitra and Tamponilapa digs. We have about 8 hours of hiking through varying terrain to reach all the planned stops.

Along the way, miners sifted for gem fragments or dug vertical mining shafts using a bucket on a rope to discard the excess dirt. Some of the most extraordinary tourmalines in the world are found in this area of Madagascar, so it’s worth their effort.

Sahatany Pegmatite District
Other miners were selling mineral specimens. I bought a green and a red tourmaline and a doubly-terminated quartz crystal with a fuchsite phantom. The two tourmaline specimens I purchased for 120,000 ariary, or about $55 at the time. For the doubly tourmaline quartz with fuchsite I paid 10,000 ariary, or about $4.25. Unfortunately, the red tourmaline crystal broke later in the day. I just glued it back together, but it’s lost much of it’s value now.

We finally arrive to the Estatoby workings. It’s a vast area of dig sites with heaping mounds of red and white tailings. The white tailings are kaoline, a product of eroded feldspar and mica. The Estatoby pegmatite has produced some famous, giant multi-color liddicoatite specimens.

Sahatany Pegmatite District
We stayed for a short time so those who wanted to could field collect. From this point, those who were fit could continue up the moutain to our next location. Others who did not want the challenge could head back down to town. I chose to continue up the mountain…

In my next post, we hike up the mountain to the Ampatsikahitra and Tamponilapa digs.

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 JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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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