Madagascar: A gemologist’s journey (Amboarohy corundum quarry)

Amboarohy is a famous locality for sapphire and ruby in well-formed crystals occurring in biotite metamorphic schists. The mine is located at the top of the mountain near the town of Zazafotsy. It’s a several-mile hike up to the top.

Amboarohy Corundum deposit
Amboarohy corundum quarry
The view from the top is amazing. I’m the first one to reach the mine, thanks to living in Colorado, so I start digging for something valuable. But, while I’m in the pit with several others, something scary happens…

I was a little freaked out when I could hear the popping and crackling of the fire and I looked up and saw the large flames. Thankfully the pit I was in was large enough so the fire could not suck out all the oxygen. One of my fellow travelers was in a small but deep hole when the fire came through. He quickly scrambled out of the hole for fear he might be suffocated.

Fires burn all over Madagascar. Locals burn the brown grass to make way for new grass for their zebu. But they don’t supervise the fires, so they just burn wild all over the country. This is causing further deforestation and loss of lemur habitats in Madagascar.

So was the hike worth the effort?

Those who decided to dig in the dump pile found some amazing pieces. This beautiful specimen shows blue and pink sapphire in the same crystal. Something that is commonly found from this particular corundum deposit. This is the same piece from three different angles. Not bad for a free specimen!

Amboarohy sapphire tailings
Those of us who chose to dig in the pit got skunked. But at the end of the day, we all had the opportunity to buy ruby crystals in schist from a local miner. The price was 20.000 ariary, or about $8.50 each. These are the ones I bought.

All in all, I appreciated the good exercise of our hike. I enjoyed seeing a new type of deposit and my rubies on schist were priced right, so it was good. And although scary, it was interesting experiencing the fire as well.

In my next post, I’ll introduce my favorite park we visited on our trip: Isalo National Park.

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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