Important Note: The author: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok . GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.
We are gemologists (gemmologists) sharing a passion for gemstones, gemolology (gemmology), gem people and traveling.
You will find in this website gemological expedition reports and some studies of gemological interest.
Visiting many gem mining areas we saw that people in remote mining and trading areas have difficulties to access to gemological publications. As today the Internet can be accessed in most of these gem mining areas and trading centers, the author started to build this website to give gem people living there the opportunity to see the result of the gemological expeditions they were associated in. It is a way to thanks them for their time and collaboration and to help them to get access to more gemological information.
At the same time the author hope that these expedition reports will please the people from consuming countries interested in gemstones and fascinated by their mysterious origins. Our purpose here is to help people facing difficulties to get quality first hand information about gems and their origins to get the information they need through this website and its links.
With our field expeditions to gemstone mines and gem markets around the world, we intend also here to share our passion for photography, gems and our fascination for the work of the "Gem People" bringing gemstones from the ground to magnificent jewelry.
From the gems external beauty to the intimate beauty of gemstone inclusions, from gem lore to the mines, the people and the landscapes gems origin from, we expect to share with you our passion for gemstone beauty.
We also invite you to join us on some gemological forums we are active in as they are convenient tools to get rapid answers to your questions as they are regularly visited by many other passionate gemologists, jewelers, hobbyists and professionals willing to learn more and share their knowledge about gemstones.
Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog
About the Author
About me : How did a countryside Frenchman became a "Shameless travel addicted gemologist"? ( Under construction)
Sep. 2005: Madagascar with Richard W. Hughes and Dana Schorr (Will be available one of these days...)
Summer 2005: Gemological expeditions to South East Asia (Vietnam) South Asia (Sri Lanka) and East Africa (Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania) with J.B. Senoble and Tanguy Lagache with the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:
- Introduction to AIGS/ICA/Gubelin Gem lab 2005 Expeditions
Special THANKS for their support for our field expeditions since 2005:
about gems, gemology, field expeditions, studying gemology, minerals, jade, pearls or jewelry? We recommend these FORUMS where the author is contributing:
Do you want to STUDY GEMOLOGY?
Here are some recommended institutes where the author studied gemology in Thailand ... and was happy about his investment!
For those willing to go further after their gemological studies: Recommended Advanced Gemological Courses:
To finish here are some BOOKS about gemology the author have read and appreciated and would like to recommend to people willing to learn more about gemstones, gemology and the places where gemstones are found:
Gübelin Gem Lab: A Visit to Madagascar, August 2008: Aug. 01 - Aug. 23, 2008
While participating in the AFG (the "Association Francaise de Gemmologie") yearly event known as the "Journees du Senat" in Paris in 2006, I proposed to Didier Giard, the president of the French Gemological Association and Annick Graulier to help them if they wanted to visit Madagascar for their 2008 field expedition. They welcomed the idea and we decided to work on this project.
At that time there was at AIGS an interesting student: Francis Vallier, a 50 years old French surgeon based on Reunion Island who discovered gemstones while visiting Madagascar on his numerous motorbike expeditions there. Despite the fact that he had no experience in tourism, I was seriously thinking to collaborate with him for that expedition. The good point was first that he was highly motivated for it and that he turned to be a nice guy to travel with around Bangkok while he was studying in Thailand. He had also a friend (Thierry) owning a travel agency specialized on Madagascar: Madabrousse willing to collaborate with him on this gemological tourism project. Finally Francis personal medical background was also a clear asset to the expedition in case of problems.
I put then Francis in contact with Annick Graulier and provided him an expedition schedule suitable for the people of the French gemological Association which were willing to go for something more serious than just a visit to Ilakaka. I advised then Francis to take the 2 groups of the French gemological association from Antananarivo to Ansirabe (to visit its gem market and one tourmaline mining areas) then continue to Ilakaka, the famous sapphire mining area to take the plane in Tulear to visit the remote Andranondambo blue sapphire mining area which sapphires stunned the world by their quality reminding for the best stones the beauty of the Kashmir sapphires. As in 2007 I moved to the
Gübelin Gem Lab to work as a gemologist, spending 20 days in the field as a Tour guide for the French gemological Association as I did in Thailand and Cambodia in 2004 was not really possible, nevertheless, with the support of the A.F.G., we were able to convince the Gübelin Gem Lab to give me 10 days on my working time in order to spend 20 days in Madagascar with the A.F.G..
The solution was in fact a very good win-win deal as the French gemological Association was planning to send two groups of 25 persons to visit Madagascar in August 2008. We decided that I would be present for the 2 groups of the French Gemological association for their visit in Ilakaka and between these 2 visits, I would lead alone a 10 days expedition on the behalf of the
Gübelin Gem Lab to Madagascar ruby and sapphire mining areas around Zazafotsy, Ilakaka, Isoanala, Andranondambo and Gogogogo.
For that expedition I was traveling with my two former field expedition buddies as a join expedition:
- Guillaume Soubiraa, who was then working as manager for SMDA (Societe Miniere Delorme et Associes), one of Madagascar oldest mining companies, mining mainly ornamental stones and founded by Mr. Joel Delorme in the 1960's. To complete Guillaume brief presentation, at the time of our visit he was also starting his own gem business company: Soagems.
Jean Baptiste Senoble from Nomad's who was present with one of his childhood friends Xavier, a young French farmer who was willing to see what JB was really doing while visiting gemstones mines around the world. The expedition was a good occasion for Jean Baptiste to decide to create also his own company dealing with jewelry: a company simply named "Jean Baptiste Senoble" based in Geneva and Paris.
"The A.F.G. visiting Andranondambo "
Lead by Annick Graulier, 25 members of the Association Francaise de Gemmologie (the French gemological association) are visiting Andranondambo sapphire mining area."
Photo: V. Pardieu /
Gübelin Gem Lab, 2008
We arrived in Madagascar as scheduled. The first French group was already there but we had the sad news that one of the author's friends, gem dealer Olivier Galibert had been aggressed in Nosy Be Island in the north of Madagascar and was in serious troubles there. Things were so bad that we were seriously worried about his life. Finally Olivier, thanks to his great attitude in such conditions was able to get out of Madagascar but was then at the hospital for several weeks.
We left then to the south to visit first gem market in Antsirabe where we had the good surprise to see the serious improvement since 2005 in the quality of the gem cutting in Madagascar. We then continued to the Zazafotsy sapphire mining area we were able to visit thanks to the support of Federico Pezzotta. After this interesting visit we continued to Ilakaka where we met one of the author's main local contacts in Madagascar: Swiss gem dealer Marc Noveraz. Marc is probably the only foreigner to have been able to live in Ilakaka from the beginning of the sapphire boom town in 1999 to these days. Marc knowledge of the area and his useful advises were a key asset for my three gemological expeditions in Madagascar from 2005 to 2008. Visiting Marc in Ilakaka during Summer 2008 was not without surprises: Marc was not anymore living in a small wooden house, from 2005 to 2008 he was able to build a very nice stone house on Ilakaka busy main street: With a good small restaurant and bar the "Al2O3" at the back of his shop: It is now one of the most comfortable and quiet place to buy gems in the morning and meet people or rest all the rest of the day. Besides his comfortable restaurant he also completed a nice shop/show room conveniently placed and beautifully arranged like a small museum: The whole "Colorline" base is a perfect place for visiting tourists to get an idea about Ilakaka gem production without getting bothered like myself in 2005 by Ilakaka crowd and its numerous pick pockets. To complete this nice Colorline setting Marc also propose to visitors some short tours to visits Ilakaka's scenic sapphire mines at "Banque Suisse". I was impressed by the quality of the whole "Colorline" operation which is a very good example of what can be done to make sure that most of the people who will visit Madagascar will learn not only about his lemurs and baobabs but also about Madagascar beautiful colored gemstones: Well done Marc!
Rough and faceted Ilakaka sapphires: A good example of the classic "a photo speaks better than 1000 words" idea to show the wonderful diversity of the natural colors Ilakaka sapphire can offer.
Stones courtesy: Marc Noveraz / Colorline, Photo: V. Pardieu, 2008
Of course visiting Ilakaka was not meaning for us staying comfortably in Marc cosy restaurant, in fact we spent most of our time visiting the different mining areas around "Banque Suisse" where people are allowed to mine only using hand tools in order to provide work for the local poor people and also on the Taeze river we were able to visit a large mechanized mining operation managed by a friendly Malagasy miner Nirina.
After that visit we left the French Gemological Association and took the road to visit the extreme south of Madagascar. We first visited a ruby mining area near Isoanala, then continued to Fort Dauphin and Andranondambo where we spend several days to visit the scenic sapphire mines located in a beautiful hilly landscape covered with dry vegetation and baobabs. After visiting the Andranondambo and Tiramena sapphire mining areas we left the area for a long drive in the semi desert south to continue which took us to Ampanihy and Gogogogo. There we were surprised to see that most of the working force meaning several people including miners and their families were busy mining tsavorite. After visiting tsavorite and color change garnet mining areas we returned to Ilakaka in order to welcome the second group of the A.F.G. and visit again with the sapphire mines near "Banque Suisse" and along the Taheza River.
"Gogogogo color change garnet "
A Gogogogo Malagasy gem dealer showing us one of the color change garnet from Gogogogo she just sold to us.
Photo: V. Pardieu, 2008
We then returned to Antananarivo where I was able to spend one day interviewing Joel Delorme, and meeting different key contacts like Tom Cushman, the ICA ambassador to Madagascar and to visit the IGM, the local gemmological school which was built with the support of the World Bank.
We were happy to learn that the two groups of the A.F.G. had both a very nice field trip in Madagascar, everything turned well without major problem. Obviously Francis and Thierry did some very good work: For a first step into gemological tourism it was obviously a very welcome success.
If the expedition was very interesting and succesful we nevertheless faced serious difficulties regarding the export of the gemstones samples we collected in the field for research purposes. Due to the fact that the Madagascar governement decided in Feb. 2008 not to allow rough gemstone exports, we were sadly not able to get our samples out of Madagascar and thus our research work on Madagascar sapphire will have to wait for the Madagascar authorities to change the law.
A visit to gem markets and gem mining areas in Madagascar (Summer 2005):
Abstract of the Madagascar 2005 page (Available at that link): This web page presents the field expedition lead by Vincent Pardieu (then Director of the AIGS Gemological Laboratory, Bangkok, Thailand) to Madagascar in May 2005. This fieldtrip was part of the expedition supported by AIGS and Gubelin Gem Lab with the help of ICA to Asia and Africa during summer 2005. During that expedition the author was helped by Jean baptiste Senoble and Tanguy Lagache, two young French gemologists who studied gemology at AIGS in Bangkok in 2005.
That expedition was planned with the support of Daniel Grondin and Marc Noveraz, two european gem merchants based in Madagascar. We started our visit traveling from Antananarivo to Ambohimandroso a ruby mining area located near Ansirabe. Then we continued to the sapphire mining area around Ilakaka and Sakaraha where Marc Noveraz was based. We then travelled by land to Andranondambo, the area where sapphires were first discovered in Madagascar. We returned then to Antananarivo to travel to the ruby mining areas near Vatomandry and Andilamena. Finally we visited the Anbondromifehy sapphire deposit located in the north of the country.
"A miner's vision of the world" After that photo, taken by Tanguy Lagache in 2005 from the deep of a sapphire mining pit in Andranondambo, the author will continue collecting such photos from the deep of a gem mining pit. Photo: Tanguy Lagache, 2005
After that expedition the author worked on a serie of three articles in collaboration with Richard Wise for Colored Stone Magazine. These articles are visible online on Richard Wise website:
Important Note: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok. GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.