Gems in the Desert

This year in Tucson, Tom Cushman of Allerton Cushman & Co., Sun Valley, Idaho, and Richard Hughes of Pala International, Fallbrook, Calif., presented a wholesaler's perspective of Madagascar and its gem deposits. Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, lies off the east coast of Africa and is a major source of gems, but because mining is sporadic, availability is a problem. "Organized" mining is comparable to the Gold Rush days of the Old West: When new gem deposits are found, miners pack up and move to the new mine, leaving the old ones all but abandoned. Jewelers understand that most Madagascar pink sapphire is heat treated, but that's not necessarily true for the other gems found on the island. For example, rubies from Andilamena might be left untreated, while those from Vatomandry may be heated. There is some natural-color aquamarine, and we're told that Madagascar sphene
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