Sapphire Mining In Africa | A Guide To Mining Countries In Africa (2023)

African Sapphire Mining Guide

Long been known for its diamond mines producing amazing stones, Africa has emerged as having a wealth of sapphires in its ground as well. A few nations have gained worldwide notoriety for quality and beauty of their sapphires.

Tanzania Sapphire Mining

Tanzania obtains much of its gem wealth from a geological feature known as the Mozambique Orogenic Belt, which contains one of the richest gem loads on earth. The Belt runs in a north-south direction through the eastern part of the country, and it is up to 300 kilometers wide in places.

The rocks in this mountain belt have undergone significant tectonism and metamorphism, which has created a multitude of gemstones , including sapphires. The majority of the sapphires from Tanzania are found in three locales: the Umba River Valley in the north, and Tunduru and Songea in the south.

The gem gravel of the Umba River Valley has been a major source of fancy sapphires for at least half a century. The area yields sapphires in all colors of the rainbow, including highly valued padparadscha and rare color-change sapphires. The finds are usually face-table grade and some of the stones are sizable.

Songea, the most productive sapphire mining region in Tanzania, has been worked since the mid 1990s. Most of the stones tend to beblue. A majority of the finds go to Thailand for treatment before they reach the market. Although two mechanized mining companies have been working the area in recent years, most of the mining activity is small scale.

Tanzania Sapphire Mining in 2020

Recent discoveries near Kibuko of pink sapphire deposits have produced some beautiful stones and large hauls up to 100 carats in six months. Tunduru to the south had been quite actively being mined until buyers left in 1999 for newly discovered deposits in Madagascar. A paved road linking Tunduru to the coast and then Songea has recently been finished, making these areas much less isolated, and hopefully drawing back renewed interest.

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While sapphire production levels have varied over the years, Tanzania is considered to have tremendous future potential. The Tanzanian government is actively involved in building a sustainable future for its promising gemstone industry and there’s a lot of optimism about its growth. Many variety of sapphire colors are still being round in Tanzania as we move into 2020. More colored stone deposits have led to renewed interests in mining efforts for sapphires and rubies, with pink sapphires continuing to be a large part of Tanzania’s beautiful sapphire offerings.

Kenya Sapphire Mining

Sapphires were first found in Kenya in 1936 at Kinyiki Hill where crystals up to one meter long were discovered. Kenya holds enormous potential as a future source of sapphires with their access to the Mozambique Orogenic Belt, which bisects the country in a north-south direction.

While the ruby and tsavorite garnet deposits of Kenya are well known, sapphires are a relatively new and unexplored resource. To date, the country’s sapphire wealth has not been completely inventoried and new deposits are continually being discovered in many different parts of the country.

As we move into 2020, promising mining locations include the Baringo district, which produces pink sapphires; Garba Tula, which produces blue, green, and yellow sapphires; and Turkana, which is known for its blue sapphires. Sharing a border with Tanzania, it comes as no surprise that blue and pink sapphires are also a common occurrence in Kenya’s mineral deposits.

As mining endeavors develop further in Kenya, the government is getting involved and looking to promote the industry as a boon for tourism. With an eye to the future, they are also looking to establish the capital of Nairobi as an alternative mineral exchange to Bangkok – the global capital of jewelry in Thailand.

Nigeria Sapphire Mining

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Nigeria is the most important producer of gems in West Africa. Nigeria produces aquamarine, emerald, amethyst, garnet, tourmaline, topaz, and zircon, among other gemstones. Sapphires have been mined in the central part of Nigeria for about 20 to 30 years.

The government of Nigeria is seeking to expand its mining enterprise with the aid of international loans and investment. Although the extent of the deposits in Nigeria has yet to be evaluated, the prospects for the future look promising.

Small-scale mining operations are reported in the States of Borno, Kaduna, Taraba, and Bauchi. There, the sapphires are retrieved from secondary deposits of weathered alkali basalts. The yields are primarily dark blues and greens. Although the clarity can be excellent, the stones are mostly small in size. Many of the sapphires are heat treated to improve their color.

In 2014, Nigerian sapphires made a splash in the industry with the discovery of a significant amount of high-quality blue sapphires. They were recognized for having an attractive size, high clarity, good color, and strong crystal habit.

Nigerian Sapphire Mining in 2020

The small town of Antan in Kaduna and under the Jama’a local government currently, is where the first sapphire mining site was erected. Many good quality sapphires were discovered here, mainly of a darker blue hue on par with Australian sapphires. This site is still producing high quality sapphires today in good quantity.

Mambilla is another small town where the most recent sapphire mining sites have taken root. In the Taraba state and under Sardauna local government, the Mambilla sapphires are beginning to be considered some of the most beautiful specimens. Most of the stones that are discovered here are of very high quality, very transparent, and with desirable cut sizes.

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As mining continues into 2020, new examples will likely keep appearing, and increased demand and interest should expand the mining endeavors. High-quality blue sapphires, such as what has been found in Nigeria, will always create incredible interest in the market.


For the two decades, Madagascar has experienced a sapphire rush. Although sapphire deposits are known to exist all over the country, mining was banned in the northern portion of the island in the 1990s in an effort to protect indigenous species. In the south however, new discoveries of quality sapphires has caused a massive migration to the area. Sapphire deposits in the north come from alluvial deposits of weathered basaltic rocks, while those in the south have metamorphic origins.

As mining has continued in Madagascar, specifically in the Ilakaka region, which is rumored to be the world’s largest sapphire deposit of real economic value, some of the finest pink sapphires of anywhere in the world have been unearthed, along with very fine blue sapphires.

Since 2005, Madagascar has seen a decline in their sapphire industry as the government placed a temporary ban on exporting sapphires. Since then, the government has attempted many routes of regulation to be sure that the country’s resources and people are managed and protected.

The presence of highly-valued and high-quality sapphires in Madagascar is not much of a surprise considering its location and history. Many sapphires from this island nation carry the same prized characteristics as sapphires from Sri Lanka since the deposits for both of these islands were created in the same location and roughly the same time – approximately 165 million years ago.

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Madagascar Sapphire Mining in 2020

In the decade leading up to 2020, the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor has been producing a huge amount of high quality and large size sapphires, leading conservationists to be concerned about the toll that illegal mining is taking on the ecosystem and rainforest.

As the government continues to work with the legal miners in the country, important measures can be taken to make sure that the new rushes that have produced 50 carat size stones of the highest quality don’t negatively impact the native land and species. The country’s biggest concerns are tamping down on the illegal sapphire mines that have cropped up that threaten rainforests and indigenous plant and animal species.

Insider View from the President of The Natural Sapphire Company:

My first trip to Madagascar was in 1998 soon after the first pink sapphire ‘gold rush’ finds. I’ve since been back to Madagascar several times, traveling all over the country. I have mixed feelings about the mining conditions there. It’s the wild-west for sure; yet, there are no civil wars, slave camps, or people with machetes cutting off arms and legs in any of the places I’ve been to. It’s mostly all small prospectors working in groups without any regulation or oversight by government authorities.

I’ve heard stories of accidents of course, but I think this is generally rare, and overall I see this very poor country gaining a lot of economic benefit from the sapphire deposits. The main wish I have for Madagascar is that gem cutting becomes a skill among its industry participants. I’m glad there are not a few big mining companies taking all the profits or flooding the market with inventory – it could be a lot worse for sure.

Madagascar has a long road ahead before it catches up with places like Sri Lanka, where there are so many highly skilled cutters and trade professionals. The quality of the sapphires from Madagascar are some of the finest I’ve ever seen in my career, and I am certain the country will continue to find tremendous wealth in future years to improve the lives of its citizens.

(Video) Madagascar Unearthed: Gemstones of the Malagasy

Moving to another continent, next we exploreSapphire Mines In The Middle East.


Where are sapphires mined in Africa? ›

The majority of the sapphires from Tanzania are found in three locales: the Umba River Valley in the north, and Tunduru and Songea in the south. The gem gravel of the Umba River Valley has been a major source of fancy sapphires for at least half a century.

What countries mine sapphires? ›

Significant sapphire deposits are found in Australia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, China (Shandong), Colombia, Ethiopia, India (Kashmir), Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United States (Montana) and Vietnam.

What is the most expensive sapphire? ›

The most valuable attribute of Sapphire is the cornflower blue color, known as Kashmir Sapphire or Cornflower Blue Sapphire. Another valuable Sapphire type is the very scarce, orange-pink Padparadscha.

Are Nigerian sapphires valuable? ›

Sapphire is one of the most precious and valuable gemstones found in Nigeria, in the northern part of the country.

Where are the most valuable sapphires found? ›

Most notably are the sapphires from Sri Lanka. For thousands of years fine sapphires have been found in this special place. Sri Lanka (formally called “Ceylon”) is still the top producer of fine untreated stones in the world.

Where is the best place to find sapphires? ›

Many of the gems come from Asia, where stones are found in the mines of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Afghanistan, and other countries. Mines can also be found in Australia and the African nations of Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, and Madagascar.

Where is the biggest sapphire mine in the world? ›

The Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine is one of the largest, oldest, and best Sapphire Mines in the World. You could call it the “Quiet Giant” of sapphire mines because it has produced over 180 million carats of sapphire for over 130 years without receiving much “press”.

How much is a carat of rough sapphire worth? ›

Sapphires can range in price depending on the price. The price of some Sapphires ranges from $25 per carat to over $11,000 per carat. The most expensive sapphire was sold on record costing $135,000 per carat.

How much is a carat of green sapphire worth? ›

The general green sapphire price per carat ranges for good-quality faceted gems are: Up to 1 carat: $20 to $150 per carat. 1 or more carats: $30 to $250 per carat.

What is the rarest color of sapphire? ›

What is the rarest sapphire color? The two rarest sapphire colors are Padparadscha and cornflower blue. The most prized sapphires are Kashmir sapphires of a bright, velvety blue from the mountains in India. The last Kashmir sapphire was mined in 1927.

Are black sapphires valuable? ›

Black sapphire is very budget-friendly, so you should be wary when a stone seems overpriced. Often, the setting can bump prices up by a large margin, as the stone itself is not expensive.

Where do the best sapphires in the world come from? ›

“The three most famous locations for high quality sapphires are Kashmir, Burma, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka),” says Salit. Sapphires are also found in Madagascar, Australia, the United States, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Kenya, Tanzania, and other countries around the world.

How much is sapphire in Nigeria? ›

AmountToday at 7:25 pm
1 SAPPNGN 6.33
5 SAPPNGN 31.63
10 SAPPNGN 63.27
50 SAPPNGN 316.33
4 more rows

Are sapphires from Africa? ›

African deposits in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Madagascar, and Ethiopia provide brilliant Sapphires of every color. Additionally, Australia has been a steady source of Sapphires for years. The United States, particularly Montana, also boasts sizable deposits.

How can I tell if a sapphire is real? ›

To identify if your "sapphire" stone is real, stay in total darkness and use a flashlight to shine a light on it. If you have a genuine sapphire, the same color as the sapphire stone should reflect back. However, if it is a fake sapphire (usually made of glass), you will see other color reflections in the crystal.

Where are sapphires found in the United States? ›

Montana is the only state in the United States with any significant production of gem-quality sapphires. There are four localities where sapphires are found in Montana, and only one of them is a primary deposit–the others are all alluvial deposits.

What is the best sapphire in the world? ›

India. The locality considered to produce the finest blue sapphires in the world is Kashmir, India. These amazing stones are mined at 16,500 feet in the Zaskar region. Kashmir blue sapphires are known to have a velvety or sleepy quality that is very desirable.

What is the most famous sapphire in the world? ›

The Logan Sapphire

One of the world's most recognizable sapphires is the Logan Blue Sapphire. On display at the Smithsonian since 1971, this gem weighs 422.99 cts. It's the largest set gem in the National Gem Collection and the second largest faceted sapphire in the world.

How deep are sapphires found? ›

It can be any depth from one foot down to 90 foot below the surface. The Bedford Hills district has the deepest floor. Here at Graves Hill we a find sapphires from 1 to 18 foot in the areas we have explored so far.

Are Madagascar sapphires good? ›

Madagascar has become one of the world's top sources of fine blue sapphire in recent times. In addition to beautiful untreated material, increasing numbers of treated stones have appeared in the market.

What rock is sapphire found in? ›

Then, Sapphire gemstones are created through certain shifts in heat and pressure and can be found in both metamorphic and igneous rocks. Rocks in which sapphires can be found include granite, schist, gneiss, nepheline syenite and a variety of others. They may also be found in deposits of alluvium.

What is the largest sapphire found in the United States? ›

The Logan Sapphire is one of the world's most recognizable gemstones. On display at the National Museum of Natural History since 1971, it is the largest gemstone in the National Gem Collection and one of the largest faceted blue sapphires in the world.

Who owns the most expensive sapphire? ›

The Rockefeller Sapphire

The Sapphire was bought by the son of the legendary American business tycoon John D Rockefeller. Rockefeller Jr is known for buying some of the worlds finest gemstones and the purchase of this stunning stone from an Indian Maharaja is one of his best.

What is the sapphire capital of the world? ›

These testamentary artefacts admired and highly desired across the universe tantalizingly embellished by the Blue Sapphires from Sri Lanka has fittingly dubbed this paradise as the 'The Sapphire Capital' of the World'.

How much is Ethiopian sapphire? ›

The sapphire is sold 2500 to 3500 Birr per a gram in local markets the official indicated. He added the government is working for the gemstone to be sold as an Ethiopian sapphire in the world market.

What is a cheap sapphire? ›

Yellow and brighter pink sapphires are inexpensive, as are white and purple sapphires. Nowadays yellow and pink sapphires in all shades have become very popular for modern jewellery.

Do sapphires cost more than diamonds? ›

When comparing sapphires vs diamonds price, diamonds are the more expensive stone. Though sapphires are rarer than diamonds, they are less expensive.

Are dark green sapphires more valuable? ›

As Green Sapphires are more rare, they typically demand a slightly higher price point than other more abundant Sapphire colours such as the classic Blue and Yellow.

Are green sapphires cheaper than diamonds? ›

Diamonds are more expensive than sapphires. A good quality 1-carat sapphire can cost you anywhere between $50 to $10,000, while the starting price of a fine quality diamond is approximately $2,500, and it can go as high as $30,000.

Are pink sapphires rare? ›

Pink is one of the rarest sapphire colours, caused by chromium trace elements inside the corundum crystal. The deeper the pink, the more chromium is present. Red corundum, however, is called ruby, another gem variety of the same mineral.

What is the best known color of a sapphire? ›

Blue is the most common sapphire color. Blue sapphires can range from a pale baby blue to a rich royal blue. Trace elements of iron and titanium are what cause those blue colors.

Are pink sapphires more rare than blue? ›

Pink sapphires are rarer and appear more like (very costly) pink diamonds. Still, they may not fetch as high a price as blue due to their lower popularity. For both shades, color is very important to price and value, with medium-dark blues and intense, saturated pinks considered the most valuable.

What is a purple sapphire called? ›

Purple Sapphire Gemstone, also known as Violet Sapphire or Plum Sapphire, is a precious gem derived out of the Corundum mineral family. Ranging from bluish-purple to purplish-pink hue, these sapphire gems contain chromium and iron together with trace amounts of titanium.

Are sapphires more valuable than rubies? ›

Value. A fine quality ruby is generally more expensive than most sapphires and emeralds, with record prices of up to $1,000,000 per carat. Sapphires can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $11,000 per carat, but you'll find good-quality stones at $450 - $1,200 per carat. Emeralds range from $525 to $1,125 per carat.

What is a dark blue sapphire worth? ›

Blue sapphire pricing at Gemdaia is based on a sapphire grading scale that ranges from A grade (good quality) to AAAA grade (exceptional quality). Unheated natural sapphires with a high saturation of color fall into the AAAA category and usually command between $1000 – $2,000 for a 1 carat stone.

Why are black sapphires cheap? ›

Black sapphires are not quite as rare as black diamonds. They can be mined in much larger quanities and are oftentimes considered low-grade. This makes them significantly cheaper than the traditional sapphire.

What state is known for sapphires? ›

Montana is known as the Treasure State because it is rich in many mineral and gemstone sources, including two types of sapphires: the Yogo Sapphire from the central area of the state, and Fancy Montana Sapphires found mostly in the western half of the state.

How much dollar is sapphire? ›

Right now, 1 Sapphire is worth about $0.0176.

What is the most expensive gemstone in Nigeria? ›

Sapphire is a blue gemstone that is most valuable and costly. In Nigeria, it comes in colors like pale green, rich blue, colorless, indigo blue, and lots more.

What is the rarest gem in Africa? ›

Tanzanite: One thousand times rarer than a diamond

For those pursuing exceptional quality tanzanite, Shimansky in Cape Town, South Africa, is the ultimate destination.

Which country in Africa has most gemstones? ›

Botswana is the largest diamond producer in Africa, with natural gemstones and industrial diamond production amounting to a total of 22.9 million carats in 2021.

Which country has the best blue sapphires? ›

Sri Lanka (Ceylon) & Madagascar

The quantity and quality of blue sapphires coming from Sri Lanka is only rivaled by new deposits found in Madagascar. The sapphires from Madagascar are in many cases almost indistinguishable against sapphires from Sri Lanka.

What color is sapphire naturally? ›

Sapphire is generally known as a blue gemstone but surprisingly it comes in a wide range of colors and quality variations. In general, the more intense and uniform the color is, the more valuable the stone. Sapphires that are not blue are known as fancy sapphires, and may be any color—except red (which is a ruby).

What color is pure sapphire? ›

What does a fake sapphire look like? ›

Fake sapphires have lead glass fillings. These portions may exhibit uneven color concentrations. There could be small and tiny fissures, seams and parting planes that have high concentration of color. These can be more visible in rubies and blue composite sapphires with some level of magnification.

How much is Ethiopian blue sapphire? ›

The price for this category starts from USD 30,000.

Which country has the best sapphire in the world? ›

More than half of all the gems mined in Sri Lanka are sapphires and they are some of the best sapphires in the world in relation to colour, clarity and size.

What is the price of Ethiopian sapphire? ›

The sapphire is sold 2500 to 3500 Birr per a gram in local markets the official indicated. He added the government is working for the gemstone to be sold as an Ethiopian sapphire in the world market.

Who owns the most mines in Africa? ›

Based on a revenue ranking as of December 2022, the South African multinational mining company Anglo American Platinum was the largest mining company headquartered in Africa. In that year, the revenue of Anglo American Platinum amounted to 11.15 billion U.S. dollars.

What are the richest minerals in Africa? ›

The continent has 40 percent of the world's gold and up to 90 percent of its chromium and platinum. The largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum and uranium in the world are in Africa. It holds 65 per cent of the world's arable land and ten percent of the planet's internal renewable fresh water source.

What colour sapphire is most expensive? ›

Blue Sapphires

Color has the greatest influence on a sapphire's value, and preferred sapphires have strong to vivid color saturation. The most valued blue sapphires are velvety blue to violetish blue, in medium to medium-dark tones. Sapphires with these qualities command the highest prices per carat.

What is the rarest sapphire color? ›

What is the rarest sapphire color? The two rarest sapphire colors are Padparadscha and cornflower blue. The most prized sapphires are Kashmir sapphires of a bright, velvety blue from the mountains in India. The last Kashmir sapphire was mined in 1927.

What is the most expensive shade of sapphire? ›

The most valuable attribute of Sapphire is the cornflower blue color, known as Kashmir Sapphire or Cornflower Blue Sapphire.

Where is sapphire found in America? ›

Montana is the only state in the United States with any significant production of gem-quality sapphires. There are four localities where sapphires are found in Montana, and only one of them is a primary deposit–the others are all alluvial deposits.

What are the 3 precious gemstones found in Ethiopia? ›

Map of Ethiopia indicating its main gem sources: sapphire near the town of Aksum, opal in the central highlands surrounding Wegel Tena, and emeralds in the southern jungles near Shakiso.


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