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October 1, 2008 Permalink

The sapphire mines of Madagascar

The tiny village of Ilakaka, Madagascar had barely 40 residents before 1998. Then, a large deposit of sapphires was discovered along a nearby riverbed, and caught the eye of some Thai businessmen in the gem trade. Word got out, and Ilakaka swelled to tens of thousands of residents - the center of a sapphire boom, today the source of nearly 50% of all the sapphires in the world. Illegal miners mixed with large-scale operations, all operating under little or no regulation, in a wild-west atmosphere of potential fortunes, lawlesness, violence and hardship. In the years since, the easily-mined sapphire fields have been picked clean, and the remaining miners often work in deep holes, climbing far underground. Mining is also a family effort - according to an official study, of the 21,000 children living in the region, 19,000 belong to working families. (25 photos total)

Miners work in unison on September 13, 2008 as they shovel sand and loose gravel at an open-pit sapphire mine where they work for a daily wage near the southwestern Madagascan town of Ilakaka. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
more photos
This page lists only comments and the first photo for the entry.
To see the entire entry, with all photographs, click here.


105 comments so far...
1.

Wow... The Google Map (satelleite) is really telling.

Posted by adam bennett October 1, 08 11:42 AM
2.

Amazing shots like allways!.
Congratulations.

Posted by António Chagas October 1, 08 11:42 AM
3.

Remind me the 'blood diamond' movie.

I really love your blog, thanks for telling us the world by picture.

Posted by amertum October 1, 08 11:51 AM
4.

Great pictures. Number 18 is my favorite.

Posted by Anonymous October 1, 08 11:54 AM
5.

Isn't it amusing to see all the suffering involved to saciate the vanity of people that have too much money and too little brain and can spend in a single sparkling stone the amount of money that could sustain one whole family in one of those places for a long time?
Strange world we live in.

Posted by Marcelo October 1, 08 12:06 PM
6.

Great Pics. Those miners are working in an inhospitable environment.

Correction to Pic#17. "Five men" are watching as miners work together to move sand and gravel up the side wall.

Posted by Praveen October 1, 08 12:07 PM
7.

These photos should make everyone reconsider jewelry.
Great job bringing thought-provoking issues to our attention.

http://contentinacottage.blogspot.com

Posted by Content in a Cottage October 1, 08 12:14 PM
8.

24 is amazing. I had no idea they came in a rainbow of colors. There is so much work involved in supplying the world with their gems.

Posted by Gary October 1, 08 12:20 PM
9.

It's heart breaking to see so many kids involved in the mining.

Posted by Matt Haughey October 1, 08 12:33 PM
10.

#17. Four men?

Amazing blog!

Posted by Frank October 1, 08 12:46 PM
11.

The shot of the child being lowered into the hole is amazing.... thank you.


- Blake J. Nolan
http://www.BJNArt.com
http://www.StormBrainDesigns.com

Posted by Blake J. Nolan October 1, 08 12:47 PM
12.

#24 is simply beautiful. wow.

Posted by Crystal October 1, 08 12:50 PM
13.

Awesome photos, yet so, so sad. Number 8 captures it all for me, the look on the man is so humbling :-(

Posted by Jon October 1, 08 12:52 PM
14.

Fifth man added, thanks for the feedback.

Posted by alan taylor October 1, 08 12:59 PM
15.

The tone of the comments seems to be "we shouldn't buy jewelry because of the work conditions it requires to extract." The job doesn't look like a picnic to me either. I certainly don't want to trade places with these folks. However, they all came because mining was easier and/or paid better than whatever their other options are. If the jewelry industry vanished, they would all be worse off than they are now.

Posted by Ben Mathews October 1, 08 01:06 PM
16.

The #18 is wonderful.. simply wonderful !

Posted by netsuo October 1, 08 01:06 PM
17.

The first inclination upon seeing these pics is to feel sorry for these people until I consider this; They do not sit in freeway traffic to commute to work, they are free of the burden of worrying about global economics and how its affects their 401k, they do not take heart medication to offset cardiac conditions brought on by stress induced high blood pressure, they do not worry about the cost of home heating oil, they are not counting on their tax returns or the yearly 4% raise, etc;, etc;. I would not want to be a gem digger in Madagascar however if I knew nothing else I am sure I would lead a satisfying existence.

Posted by RyRy October 1, 08 01:07 PM
18.

Thank you for your consistently visionary glimpses into these fantastic worlds. It's so important for people to experience photos like this.

Posted by Matthew Asner October 1, 08 01:40 PM
19.

Exquisite, Sad, Compelling...

Posted by The Baltimore Babe October 1, 08 01:43 PM
20.

Fascinating look into an industry I didn't know existed in Madagascar.

I wish the images did more to describe the actual working conditions though. As seen in the first few comments here people are calling for boycotts and claiming that this is a decent way for a Malagasy man to make a living. Either could be true from the pictures presented here. Obviously the child labour element should be of universal concern though.

There are certainly places where working mines like this are evidently much worse looking at similar pictures. These people at least seem to be working independently and are not surrounded by armed guards and indentured. While the pictures don't seem to tell the whole story the links you've provided no doubt will. Cheers.

Posted by Miles October 1, 08 01:56 PM
21.

This is one of the best photo journalism sites out there! Kudos and keep up the brilliant work :)

Posted by Jerome October 1, 08 02:00 PM
22.

Suggestion: You guys should have a world map at the top highlighting the geographic location.

Posted by Joe October 1, 08 02:07 PM
23.

Oh my...
This looks so unreal, hope that our children will do better than us.

Darren from TheJunction

Posted by Darren TheJunction October 1, 08 02:07 PM
24.

RyRy, in fact, those people depend upon the world economics completely: should there be nobody to buy the gems they mine, they will have no source of income whatsoever. The only reason they do not take heart medications is having no money for that; thus having a cardiac disease means a certain death to them.

Our world is Utopia in the ancient Greek meaning of the word, where each citizen has no less than three slaves; but now the slaves and the masters are separated geographically. The well-being of anyone of the Golden Billion is sustained by the work of these men and the likes of them.

Posted by danvolodar October 1, 08 02:20 PM
25.

The wealth is the people. They are the gems.

Posted by Dianne Goldstein October 1, 08 03:16 PM
26.

comment 15 : if we didn't have the gem trade these people may be able to get educations, work on farms or even move to cities. There may be a very short term economic reorganization if we stopped buying gems, but I'm sure their economy would survive.

comment 17 : Yeah, poor us with our cars, health insurance, paid vacations clean water, internet connection and education.

I just have a hard time dealing with child labor; with that in mind I'd like to make a plug for a site. I do NOT work with them or have any affiliation, besides buying my fiance's engagement ring from these great people.

http://www.brilliantearth.com/

Brilliant earth sells conflict free sapphires and diamonds set into beautiful reprocessed (recycled) gold rings. They're really great products, and it's all the better knowing that no child had to live in squalor or leave school for it.

Posted by Andrew October 1, 08 03:17 PM
27.

The #18 is the best! :)
Congratulations to new collection!

Alex
http://www.recentnews.co.uk

Posted by Alex October 1, 08 03:18 PM
28.

Love this blog. Every time I read it, I learn something now, and the photos are superb as well. Any way to provide info on the equipment used to take some of these shots? I'd be curious to know what camera body/lens were used for a lot of these.

Keep up the great blogging!

Posted by Amanda October 1, 08 04:04 PM
29.

I don't know why some human rights group doesn't plaster photos like these all over billboards and the airwaves around Mother's Day, Valentine's, and Christmas to show people where those bits of jewelry they are purchasing for their loved ones really come from.

Posted by kevjohn October 1, 08 05:36 PM
30.

Beautiful..Image # 18 is now my desktop background. One commenter mentioned that if the gem trade stopped, these folks would be better off, but I disagree. Nothing is ever going to convince people to now desire objects of beauty. A better option would be for these people, this society, or the gem industry (which does not seem likely) to organize some sort of body to make sure that these people are not getting paid peanuts for their finds, and then have it sold for thousands on the market. The deserve a good cut of what the gems actually go for on the market. For some reason, I doubt that the guy behind the inspection desk there in the desert is giving them their fair and deserved portion.

Posted by Carmen October 1, 08 06:01 PM
31.

Devastatingly beautiful and equally sad. So much we can live without.

Posted by Owen October 1, 08 07:51 PM
32.

I'm torn between two important questions. 1. Don't buy gems because it creates these conditions. 2. Are these conditions better than what they would have had and not buying gems would then send them back to worse conditions.

As long as they aren't being objected to forced labor or torture then I think that any stimulation to their economy is an improvement upon their current condition. I lived in France and there were thousands of immigrants from Madagascar who came there because there was no work for them there.
Aaron - Cancer Treatment Net

Posted by Aaron October 1, 08 08:08 PM
33.

The developing world is mostly associated with gem mining because that's where the stones are for one thing. And there are no opportunities for education or jobs in the cities. Often miners are part timers who mine when they aren't farming. So it's a way to supplement their income. Not all mining is evil. It often provides income where no other choices are available.

Madagascar is a gem-rich nation. The income from gemstones helps them keep their economy running. If it weren't for that industry, there would be way more people living on hand-outs from charitable organizations. The infrastructure of Madagascar is horribly antiquated, or non-existent. Most of the country is accessible only by flying or jeeps. And the jeeps break down quite often while traveling there.

It's not an easy issue, and it's far from evil or purely humanitarian. Like so much of the rest of the world, it's just what it is. Ilakaka is a very prominent area that produces many different gemstones.

Posted by Eric October 1, 08 09:26 PM
34.

Comment 17:

"The first inclination upon seeing these pics is to feel sorry for these people until I consider this; They do not sit in freeway traffic to commute to work, they are free of the burden of worrying about global economics and how its affects their 401k, they do not take heart medication to offset cardiac conditions brought on by stress induced high blood pressure, they do not worry about the cost of home heating oil, they are not counting on their tax returns or the yearly 4% raise, etc;, etc;. I would not want to be a gem digger in Madagascar however if I knew nothing else I am sure I would lead a satisfying existence"

You truly know how to take the value of what you have and make it seem like its a problem. Poor you with your access to health care, education, opportunities, the means to buy a home, and earning enough income that you have to pay tax. Honestly, poor little you.

Posted by Ash Mishra October 1, 08 09:44 PM
35.

Anyone who looks at these photos and tries to compare their existence to our lives in the United States and Western Europe should be ashamed. These people work in horrible conditions for a paltry sum. For what? So that you can wear the sapphires they harvested and complain about traffic and high gas prices. WAKE UP!

We pay more out of pocket to sustain our luxury lifestyle. These people give their lives so we can have that luxury . What price are you willing to pay for that necklace, traffic or expensive gas?

Posted by lady vengeance October 2, 08 12:38 AM
36.

I would be curious to how the environment is impacted by this - how widespread is the mining on Madagascar, that has some very unique flora and fauna?!

Posted by Steve Grove October 2, 08 02:13 AM
37.

Just wanted to say thanks for the amazing job yo do on this blog. I leaved in Madagascar for 4 years, and went through Ilakaka once. I remembered seing women sorting gems in baskets normally used for sorting the bad rice from the good, in the middle of the street. And a wooden casino, looking just as a sloon might be on the outskirts of the town.

I also remember other places along the road, where you could see the evolution of a mushroom town, from tiny straw huts where people had just begun to dig, to wooden houses and then to a place like Ilakaka, with all its concrete "gemstones" shops along the main road, and all the big holes in the ground in the background.

Amazing place... really Far-West like

Posted by Hélène October 2, 08 02:42 AM
38.

pic#18 simply the best, and this is really a great blog,will follow "The Big Picture" every week,thanks.

Posted by Fernando October 2, 08 03:15 AM
39.

Le travail en plein air... il n'y a que ça de vrai !!!!!
Un avant goût de ce qui nous attend pour chercher... de l'eau à peine potable !!!!!

Posted by Fabien October 2, 08 03:34 AM
40.

I just discover this website.
Amazing pictures and important subject.

Congrats!

Posted by yardieLion October 2, 08 05:50 AM
41.

The J / K navigation through the pictures works great and it is pretty cool!

Posted by George D. October 2, 08 09:11 AM
42.

To Ry-Ry: Please do not assume that these people are ignorant or "know nothing else": most of the people I met in Madagascar were perfectly aware of the extravagant ways in which we live in the west (even if they didn't necessarily understand them: "Why on earth would you pay to buy your pets special food, and then throw away your leftover meal scraps?"). They're not ignorant, but they are not necessarily unhappy, either (check out picture 18 for proof). Unlike what our western, money-focused society would have us believe, the people of Madagascar continually proved that poverty is not always analogous to misery.
On the note of whether or not to buy gems- these are people who have just recently come to rely on a cash economy. Ben Matthews-- I don't necessarily agree with you that this leaves them "better off." Rather than growing their own food, now they must have money in order to buy it. If they can't find any more stones, what will they do now that they've given up their other livelihoods? And don't think for a minute that the money you pay for gems is making it to those who labor to find them. 10,000 ariary is worth just a little over $5 US-- now re-examine picture #9, and think about how many middle-men there are between the miners and us.
I don't know what the solution is, but I don't think it's to buy more gems.
Thanks.

Posted by A.B.N. October 2, 08 10:55 AM
43.

Extraordinary photos
Great work
Thanks

Posted by Neil Rice October 2, 08 02:43 PM
44.

quote: " I lived in France and there were thousands of immigrants from Madagascar who came there because there was no work for them there."

Then the real issue (that almost nobody addresses) is getting people to not bring more people into a world where there are virtually no prospects for them. Having children is no 'blessing' to those without the ability to provide for them, where poverty and hunger are rampant.... they are just leaving 'hostages to fate.' We should be aggressive in providing birth control, before more suffering comes into the world.

Posted by Jayson October 2, 08 03:05 PM
45.

I disagree very strongly with the Frenchman in quote 44. By "we" I assume he means the west. We have no right to aggressively "provide" birth control in other people's countries. Besides having children is a natural right and a way for these families to help provide for each other. Who will look after them in their old(er) age? Not the state.
You say birth control would thwart more suffering in the world but do you not realise that suffering is the norm for human beings, especially the 95% of the global population who live outside of the developed world.
The western (American enforced) extreme free market capitalist structure has done nothing for the vast majority of humanity. It serves only a tiny group of "special" people.

These pictures by Roberto Schimdt tell this sad but intriguing story of hope and saphires beautifully, sympathic to the subject and composed to a high aesthetic.
degree.

Its great to see so many people taking an interest in photo-journalism. Many say that press photography is dead, the public are not interested.

Posted by Michelle Stratelli October 2, 08 04:34 PM
46.

Kudos to Roberto Schmidt - some of these shots are near perfect.

Posted by robina October 2, 08 07:20 PM
47.

There are plenty of sapphires that come right out of the US. Yogo sapphires from Montana are completely natural and require no heat treatment to bring out their color, unlike a lot of sapphires found elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, since they are mined in the US, they have to conform to all kinds of regulations.

Seriously, do a search for yogo sapphires.

Posted by Matt October 3, 08 12:31 AM
48.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures,its full of emotion and rich in colour.

Posted by sunil October 3, 08 01:04 AM
49.

Not to mention lab-grown sapphires, which require only the exploitation of of a few chemists...

Posted by Toby October 3, 08 02:02 AM
50.

JUST BEAUTIFUL.........................

Posted by Debasmita October 3, 08 03:17 AM
51.

brilliant set of photos

Posted by Sam October 3, 08 06:16 AM
52.

exeptional

Posted by joh,estonia October 3, 08 07:12 AM
53.

beautiful photography! I am a gem buyer and want-to-be jeweler some day and these pictures (and story) make me respect and cherish the stones i buy and wear all the more. I knew the process of mining but to see the pictures really drives it home!
I can only imagine the out cry of all of you ppl when you realize that these families only make at best a few dollars a day for their work and the gem cutters (even master cutters) get less than a dollar an hour just to make the beautiful stones we all buy and wear!
Not only are the stones thousands of years old and come from the earth but the whole process to make a gem is crazy!

thank you for the story!

Posted by Kim H October 3, 08 08:15 AM
54.

I love 8th the most. It has a lot emotion in it. Thanks again Big Picture for the great shots.

Posted by jayhan October 3, 08 12:27 PM
55.

Hooolllllyyyyy &^$#. Yeah, look at the gooogle map of Ilakaka, Madagascar. There are so many holes in the ground, or they are trees. You really can't tell, but they look more like holes.

Posted by Anonymous October 3, 08 12:30 PM
56.

I want to buy one of these jewels, and I want to pay full price. But I want that full price to go to these people who are literally wasting and wearing out their lives in search of these stone. I don't want my money to go to the 'middlemen'.

Why, in this so called, 'flat world', can't I do this.

Beautiful set, thank you for sharing.

Posted by Marion Jensen October 3, 08 12:43 PM
57.

As we all know, the only economic system to share the income equally, namely socialism, is inheritantly BAD. So it's natural for these people to die either of hunger or of hard work, that's what they deserve for not inventing guns and creating colonies to pillage all over the world, right?

Posted by danvolodar October 3, 08 02:00 PM
58.

I'm not sure why people are making claims of exploitation. The people in these pictures don't appear to be miserable to me. It's certainly not a glamorous lifestyle, but I don't believe you can make a comparison to a western lifestyle. The children who are not working certainly seem to be enjoying themselves. And if we were to stop buying gems that certainly would not "improve" their lifestyle. If someone could explain to me how that would improve their lives I am all ears

Posted by stefan October 3, 08 02:02 PM
59.

Que horror!!!!!!
Hasta cuando se van a estar esclavizando a la gente especialmente a los NIÑOS, no vengan con el cuento que ese es su modo de vida, ese es el abuso de unos cuantos sin corazon para con esa gente, sabiendo esos abusadores que la educacion es lo mas importante, pero ellos perderian.
Como fotos muy bien tomadas, pero es una bofetada al mundo que dice estar luchando contra la pobresa .Educacion es la solucion, que lastima .

Posted by Rosa, triste 4 de 0cubre2008 October 3, 08 02:45 PM
60.

About six months ago, the Malagasy government decided to forbid the export of ANY rough gemstones from Madagascar as a consequence of perceived rampant smuggling of the precious resource.

A direct consequence is that activity has quieted down considerably, and the remaining miners are most probably more vulnerable today than they were before.

This is a difficulty we have to accept if we are to FORCE international gemstone actors to reconsider the way they do business in our country.

While many disagree with this policy, some of us remember "begging" the more experienced Thais, Sri Lankan, and other operators to support the development of added value activities in Madagascar, more than 10 years ago. They did NOTHING.

My take on this issue:
- Stop feeling sorry for us, lobby your governments and gemstone business communities to do the right thing ASAP.
- We need funds and technical assistance to train/equip Malagasy miners/cutters/jewelry makers -- It would be so easy to provide oh, let's say 500 scholarships a year to young Malagasy persons.
- Don't cry for that kid down the hole, help us make sure he is safer until a better alternative is setup to encourage his parents to send him to a real school.
- Don't come here to buy the gems for peanuts, claiming that "this isn't the international market!" - give them a fair value for their work.
- Most of all, don't think you will change much by taking the time to write in this blog, do something real -- write to our respective governments, petition them, and if you can, come and do something right here, right now.
THAT IS WHAT WE NEED TO HAVE A CHANCE AT FIGHTING BACK AGAINST THE POVERTY THAT DRIVES THESE MEN, WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN INTO THE HOLES UNDER SUCH CONDITIONS.

By the way, nice photographs!!

Posted by Jean-Louis R October 3, 08 08:13 PM
61.

ye 20 male shoma.aksaye khoobi bood....

Posted by sina October 4, 08 11:22 AM
62.

Nice photographs. I did not know anything about this before. And yes, it does remind me of Blood Diamonds. (ironic I just watched that movie 2 days ago).
It is a hard life that they have. but I wonder what lives they had before then?
Yes, we have the stress here in the developed world, but there is stress everywhere. I do think that the stress we have is much less though than living in that atmosphere. At least for most people in the developed world, we know where our next meal is coming from. We may not always know WHEN it will be due to the lack of time to sit down and eat in some days, but we know that at the end of the day, our bellies will be full.

J
http://www.jowda.net

Posted by J October 4, 08 11:57 AM
63.

Get over it you liberals. Go ahead, take away the only income these people have ! Of course, all in the name of "helping" them.

Idiots! I commend them on their ingenuity, creativeness and guess what?! Thy aren't getting gov't assistance. (Except of course from US via the U. S. Gov't in the way of foreign aid.)

They're well fedm they have a job and what do you expect? A house and a lamborghini? Think of it this way - they're arbon footprint is tiny.

Posted by Jason October 6, 08 02:52 AM
64.

beautiful pictures...

Posted by Isabelle - The Junction October 6, 08 12:30 PM
65.

Just think -- if we all stopped buying Jewelry, these poor people could be jobless and EVEN POORER than they already are!

Posted by Sam October 6, 08 02:52 PM
66.

Most of the people posting comments here seem to have little knowledge of gemstones other than what they've seen in movies or the windows of jewellery shops. The overwhelming number of sapphires offered for sale in main street shops are 'cultured' (manufactured in a factory). However, 'natural' stones mostly come fromAustralia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka. Some even from the USA. Yet some people would destroy the entire gemstone industry on the basis of these (magnificent) pictures. Without bothering to learn the full circumstances of the people in those pictures.

Posted by Monyet Miskin October 7, 08 08:15 AM
67.

amazing, thanks for the pictures. today has been a particularly surreal day, and this topped it off

Posted by localhost October 7, 08 09:42 AM
68.

Best shots you can ever find on the net !
great work !

Posted by shaunak October 7, 08 03:24 PM
69.

Nice :)

Posted by Cabis October 8, 08 03:23 AM
70.

Jean Marie said it all in post 60...

Nice pics!

Posted by Tim Spauwen, gemologist October 8, 08 01:01 PM
71.

libre arbitre

Posted by denispham October 11, 08 07:15 AM
72.

I'm sorrry to be cheek, but I have to ask....can somebody tell me how it is possible to get such dynamic range shooting against the sun?
The nr.18 astonished me.....it's just....unbelievable!

Posted by wencules October 12, 08 04:18 PM
73.

To Miskin
you are probably right that there is more to the story of where the egmstones come from. This is maybe only one piece of it all. And it just so happens they do exploit people.
And yes, they do have a job. BUT until the people who say "get over it" are forced to wal in theri shoes, I don't think you should have such a harsh attitude. I'm sure you would not give up your posh living in the western world to go live in their life.

http://www.jowda.net

Posted by Anonymous October 16, 08 05:08 PM
74.

Dall'Italia:
foto bellissime e struggenti.
Come usare internet per evolvere.
Grazie

Posted by Ezio chapellu October 17, 08 08:03 AM
75.

beautiful

Posted by Elie October 19, 08 06:03 AM
76.

Ilakaka ist no longer a little spot, but a big problem for the security of travelers and locals in the South-West of Madagascar.

Planet vaoVaoWeb

Posted by tanalahy October 20, 08 04:42 AM
77.

These photos should make everyone reconsider jewelry., as it has already been said.

Posted by fourmi4x October 20, 08 05:15 PM
78.

its not only picture its the portrait of the life of some one ........

Posted by krunal October 25, 08 02:45 PM
79.

The pictures are beutiful,but sad....We need to b gratful for what we have,these pictures make you think...

Posted by !BoBo! October 29, 08 11:05 AM
80.

very very great sharp shooting picture.

I like to picture that show several color of Sapphire I though they have only blue.

Posted by komgirt November 3, 08 07:36 PM
81.

gorgeous!

Posted by prettyrock November 10, 08 08:37 PM
82.

It's marvellous... amazing... really worth viewing and understnding it..

Posted by Yogen November 15, 08 01:51 AM
83.

These are great pictures of a scene that is full of hope. These miners (legal now) go to work each day with the hope that they too will strike it rich. Some do, most don't, but some do. And that gives the hope for a better life and in fact a better life for most. The villages where they came from have no such hope or opportunity. Guarding cattle or subsistence rice growing are the two alternative employments in rural Madagascar. Yes it is hard work, and no it doesn't pay well but it does pay $1.50/day + a share of the proceeds for the gang miners and that is above the MDG poverty line and much more than any alternative job. If you want to help these people to have a better life, BUY MORE JEWELRY.

Posted by Tom C December 4, 08 08:53 AM
84.

The World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Assoc (wr3a.org) is collecting similar shots of electronics recycling and refurbishing operations worldwide. The metals and gems either come from mining or from recycling.

Posted by Robin December 4, 08 09:08 AM
85.

Thank you for the wonderful images. They bring life to much of what I have heard from loved ones that know every stage of the Madagascan gem trade.

What precious and beautiful emotions your images capture and evoke.


Yes, many of us feel sadness, shame, guilt, horror as we respond to the bridge your images give us to the lives of people that are so amaziningly similar and unbelievably different at once. Bravo! What more could you ask of such a montage. Others of us sound cold and uncaring as we reject those emotions, or the at least the prostelitizing of others more beholden to the shame and guilt, because "What can we really do to reach out and touch these new neighbors 'across the bridge'?"

Maybe we should take Jean Louis' suggestion (comment 60) to heart. We give financial aid. Maybe we could help by writing a letter to our respective purse string holders. Perhaps our financial aid would do more if it funded more training opportunities to help Madagascans acquire the skills needed to increase the amount of value added -- through curing, cutting, polishing, setting, marketing and selling jewelry made from these hard-earned Madagascan gems -- within the local economy.

If our understanding of what is possible in the Madagascan gem trade were based soley on looking at the mining shots; and then looking first at image #3; then #8; then #9. We would have a very different impression of what is possible than if we were to follow those few snapshots with many more like #7 befiore finishing up with #24.

Roberto, I applaud you. You have done a great service by bringing these miners -- adults and minors -- into our view. it certainly helps me to appreciate the beauty behind the stones.

Posted by Rob December 4, 08 11:56 AM
86.

Fantastic photo essay.
Jean-Louis, you raise a great point, and you will be interested to learn that indeed a scholarship program is underway that is now training Malagasy at two gem schools in Antananarivo and Antsirabe. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation is funding scholarships through the US NGO Artminers. You can read more about this project and make a direct contribution to gem school scholarships in Madagascar through the website http://www.artminers.org.

Posted by Kristina Shafer December 4, 08 01:02 PM
87.

My class just saw these pictures. They were amazed.

Posted by Ms. Tolsma December 5, 08 12:45 PM
88.

Akk.. socio-cultural projection ... condemn the industry but offer no alternative?? Shame on you all for not living in the street and so you can send your paycheck to madagascar. At least there is a CHANCE for some.. which if the gov. was not so corrupt they would not need to do this..

I'm glad the locals are making some gems to sell.. I'm glad buyers are helping the locals w/ cash. Oh, and they have internet access.. they know EXACTLY what the pricing should be,a nd demand payment in Euro's not worthless greenbacks..

Posted by Gem-Noob January 10, 09 01:49 AM
89.

ah.... look at those sapphire!!! It looks great!! amazing!! and... the end...^^
I don't use to English. because I'm Korean.

Posted by Hyeonjeongkim January 22, 09 11:02 PM
90.

Bonita coleccion
Fantastica web
Mil gracias boston.com
Saludos desde Almeria-España

Posted by Carlos Fernandez February 11, 09 05:39 PM
91.

.Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures,its full of emotion and rich in colour.

Posted by Assadullah Shah form Pakistan March 28, 09 01:06 PM
92.

This blog is amazing. Nothing else that I've found like it. I love browsing these large pictures from all over the world and even space. You don't get this kind of detail and emotional impact in the regular media. I could spend days just reflecting on these things.

It surely opens up my worldview and makes me aware of the world beyond the confines of my society that tends to be narrow-minded and myopic.

Posted by Ned April 24, 09 12:34 PM
93.

it's painful,it's horrible.......................................... Malagasy people are suffering,crying............................... work hard for a little sum of money but i asked,i ask and i will ask again and again who takes advantanges of that peril that the society is endering and where is the Malagasy state in that situation? Doesn't it know the real situation in its own society? Where is convention about human's right and children's right

Posted by Mike May 10, 09 10:44 PM
94.

This Pictures are true,

A story of collection of stones.


Posted by Alok May 28, 09 06:15 PM
95.

Wow, great!

Posted by Daewon, Kim July 15, 09 01:56 AM
96.

I visited Ilakaka several years ago, just a couple of years after the sapphires were discovered. This town transformed overnight and became one of the most dangerous towns in Madagascar.

Posted by Michael Stone (Chile) August 1, 09 04:20 PM
97.

Thank you for telling the truth concerning my country. Very appreciated

Posted by Dimby October 13, 09 08:07 AM
98.

cooooooollllllllll
very appreciated

Posted by john williams November 18, 09 09:53 AM
99.

The amount of work required (visible in #17) to produce such a small result (shown in #24) stunned me. I was glad to see how the children appeared to have a joyful spirit, considering their living conditions.

Posted by Alex W. December 1, 09 06:49 PM
100.

wow what fasinating information

Posted by Simmi N. August 25, 10 08:21 PM
101.

i been much of d time in african country, but simply u r fantastic n luckist person in dis world bcoz u have enjoyed a fruitful live in llakaka n even u make memorable, thanx ......

Posted by danish September 23, 10 04:07 AM
102.

i've been there in 2004 - it was so fantastic. i love this place!!

Posted by anke November 4, 10 05:47 PM
103.

how deep do they go!!!!!!!!!

Posted by grrrrrrrr!!!!!!!! November 7, 10 04:53 PM
104.

So beautiful pictures. It's so sad to see these people work so hard for money. I wish I could help them.

Posted by Np January 26, 11 12:01 PM
105.

These people choose to make the most out of their recently discovered economy based on offer and demand, meaning that someone is going to pay them for their work and production. When you criticize them, and the business of jewelry, you are underrating these people and they deserve respect for their decision on a given time at a certain place, and with what they have. When you criticize, you should be coherent and also perhaps throw away your mobile phone, your laptop, and many more things that you buy because they are cheaper when exported from abroad, as conditions for manufacturing them are far from desirable for those who criticize so much. Life was also hard in Europe 300-400 years ago, or in America and we progressed in human rights and better life conditions as it will happen to those who reach access to a job, to a future and to the possibility to choose what to do with their life. Have you considered that they prefer finding sapphires that what they actually did for a living before the discovering of these mines?

Posted by karen January 29, 11 03:08 PM
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