Sapphire, Ruby, and Confetti Quartz

“They keep finding more sapphire and ruby,” says Tom Cushman of Allerton Cushman & Co., Sun Valley, Idaho, specialists in Madagascar gems. “It’s just like the old Gold Rush days of the late 1800s in the Old West.” That’s why at times there are lots of sapphires and no rubies on the market, and other times only rubies are available. “The guys that didn’t hit big at one mine site will pack up and move to the next.”

“The country is huge,” notes Cushman. “Bigger than California, and full of alluvial deposits. There’s new aqua, new sapphire … there’s no end in sight. And it’s all good, heat-treatable material.”

Cushman gravitates to more unusual gems, such as the sphene that was available for a few years until the miners picked up and left for the ruby mines. Now he has uncovered some hematite-included rock crystal quartz that he calls “confetti,” which has red and black hematite inclusions mixed evenly throughout. “It was a boulder of 275 kilos and took four cows to haul it out of the woods,” he recalls. “The red and black inclusions were on the outside of the boulder—and in only about 4-5 mm. So I skinned it, and retrieved 40 kilos.”

Cushman can be reached at (208) 726-3675.