Sapphires are the world’s most precious and valuable blue gemstone.

In the past six months, more high-quality sapphires have been found in an area in the remote rainforests of eastern Madagascar known as the Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena.

It’s arguably the most important discovery of sapphire gemstones in the past 20 or 30 years.

Sadly, the “sapphire rush” has attracted tens of thousands of miners and gem traders who have cut down thousands of acres of forest in the protected area.

Madagascar is internationally renowned for its biodiversity. The area of the sapphire find is home to more than 2,000 plant species found nowhere else on earth, and 14 endangered species of lemur.

Madagascar produces about half of the world’s high-end sapphires, and about 70% of its sapphire market is controlled by Sri Lankans, who smuggle the gems back to their country to be cut and exported for sale.

According to estimates, about $150m worth (£120m) of sapphires might leave Madagascar every year, though the exact figure is impossible to know as the industry is not well regulated.

Read the full article at: The Guardian