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Tourmaline Camp Robin

Posted by Julien Raoul  
avatar Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 06, 2011 12:10AM
    
Hi everyone,

Could someone give me his opinion about this tourmaline specimen freshely mined?

It measures 7x1.8x1.8cm

I can't find any reference price for this location.

It is composed of several parallel crystals, they are all terminated, complete all around, no damage. Which is quite rare for Mada tourmaline of this size. Almost completely transparent, some very clean areas, even if the pictures don't really show the transparency. Needs a bit of cleaning at the bottom end.

To me it is a really fine Malagasy tourmaline specimen, color is quite unusual for the area, greyish-bluish-green. The yellow shades are probably due to the sunlight on the pictures.

By the way, any idea of the tourmaline variety that could be? I would guess elbaite, not sure...

Thanks in advance!
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avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 06, 2011 02:55AM
$200. The crystallization appears sharp, but the color is not strong. Tourmaline is not rare, and so color is important.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 06, 2011 09:27AM
    
Hi Steve,

Thanks for your opinion.

Yes the color is not as intense as those from Ikalamavony or some from Anjanaboinona for exemple, but to me it is still a pleasant color. I really like this undefined color in fact, and it is unusual. For this location, size, aesthetics and crystalisation quality, and I don't know if this is for some of you a criteria, but the fact that Malagasy tourmaline in general rarely occurs in this color, I would have priced it for more. Based also on what we can see on dealers website for comparable Malagasy tourmaline but the color.

Any other opinion maybe?
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 06, 2011 11:14AM
Julien,
If you don't know where the specimen is from, how do you know it is freshly mined?

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 06, 2011 01:26PM
    
Hi Rock Currier,

The specimen comes from Camp Robin area, fianarantsoa province, Madagascar (locality is in the title). Some of the specimens from the same pegmatite are in association with quartz or light smoky quartz (this specimen was picked from a lot, this one was the biger one, and the other were a minimum damaged). But I'm not sure exactly from which pegmatite, there are several in the area.

I know it is coming from there because I bought it there in Camp Robin few days ago. And freshly mined as bought it very close to the source. Usually, people come back once a week to the closest village from were they work to sell the findings. This is quite a generality all around Mada. For exemple, in Anstirabe-Fianaranstoa area (les hauts-plateaux), this unofficial market occurs every monday morning (Ibity, Betafo...), in some localities on saturdays. In the north of Mada, for exemple Antetezambato or Ambondromifehy (Diana region), always on Tuesdays. These are for cultural reasons.

The miner told me that he found this specimen just few days before I bought it. So this is a reliable source. Really freshly mined, maximum 2 weeks ago, can't be more.

I should have explained that in the previous post.

Julien
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 06, 2011 08:57PM
Sounds indeed like it was freshly mined. I have been the markets in Ibiti and Betafo and agree that those guys are not going to keep anything for a long time.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 10, 2011 12:23PM
    
Rock,

What would be the value of this tourmaline specimen for you? Do you agree with Steve, maybe lower or higher value?

Thanks.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 10, 2011 07:58PM
Julien,
It could be somewhat higher, but I am reluctant to estimate values without seeing an image of the entire specimen from two or three sides. For all its vaunted reputation, Madagascar is pretty chintzy with good specimens other than quartz and Celestite crystals, I don't think I saw a single terminated tourmaline crystals offered for sale when I was there.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 11, 2011 08:14AM
    
100% agree with you about Mada material. Celestite and quartz are known to be more or less consistant quality there, but it is always the same here, even for those species, not that easy to find undamaged crystals or specimens, or let's say more difficult than in other countries. We can maybe add to this list demantoid and topazolite from Antetezambato, quality is definitely good over there and have a serious reputation now. But this seems to be quite an exception.

From what I see in the mineral dealers shops, malagasy material seems to be underevaluated in the market, specimens as well as gems. I'm not sure why, but when I see for example sapphires, quality is quite consistant and very high, but compared to sapphires from other origins, like Ceylan, prices seems to be far lower. Same for emeralds and rubies.

In other words, when I see the market trends, Madagascar seems to be a bit an ugly duckling. Am I right, or is it just an subjective idea? As an example, take the same tourmaline crystal, one from Paprok, one from Ilakamavony, same color, same quality, same size, same condition. Is there a reason, why the Paprok one will be more expensive (this is to me the market trend, maybe I'm wrong)? As you correctly mentionned, it is not that easy to get fine undamaged tourmaline here. Which could make it rarer, in terms of condition, than the Paprok one. And we can find many species from Mada in the same case. Epidote, sphene, beryl...OK, many of you will probably answer "Yes, but this one is from Paprok". This is not the reason I try to understand, I know that locality is important, or because this is an "ex" from someone's collection that only few people know. How can we explain such price difference, again for comparable specimens?

In almost every domain, something rarer is something more expensive. But not the always the case in minerals. Pakistan produces much more aquas specimens than Mada, but those from Pakistan are far more expensive for same quality. Vangaindrano area produces also "killer" aquas for example.

Maybe this is something that we can discuss together, for me Madagascar material in general is a good example. Some of the weirdest specimens of the mineral world are coming from here (Beryl, pseudomorphs in general...), some of the rarer species are coming for here (Pezzottaite, Londonite, Grandidierite...), some of the biggest specimens are coming from here (Beryl, Quartz, Epidote...), some of the most beautiful and colorful are coming from here (Liddicoatite, again and again beryl...)... We can find plenty of examples. Which, to me, on the paper, would make Madagascar as one of the "leaders" in terms of reputation, especially some locations which are productive in terms of quality. But it seems to be not the case, but few exceptions, compared to the number of mines we have here. And this is something I don't understand. Or am I completely wrong? We always see the same calcite, the same fluorite, the same azurite malachite, the same pyromorphite...enough to supply at least 10 of each for each collector in the world...and always the same locations, always the same crazy prices. Why then?

What are your opinions?

Thanks!
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 11, 2011 10:19AM
Julien,

Quote
and always the same locations, always the same crazy prices. Why then?

I agree and think it doesn't make much sense, but that's the way things are. I think it is like a fashion thing. The new hot thing is this, and if you want to be hip you have to buy one of those things. It becomes a "classic" so it is worth more even though it may not be anywhere near the quality some something that is not a classic. Its sort of like the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. The more experienced a collector you are, the less you are likely to be trapped in that mind set.

Rather than a single small crystal, you need to get a bunch of them and write a story about them and get some high quality pictures taken of them. Get some stones faceted from the material and have a fancy piece of gold jewelry with diamonds made. Perhaps get pretty girl to hold some of them and wear the jewelry. Then have the story and pictures published in the Mineralogical Record or another Magazine and then show up at Tucson and Munich with a fancy stand and then you can put the high prices on them. One lonely little green crystals without fancy published pictures to point to will not make you much money. You have to market them properly to get the big bucks. And that takes time and a suitable organization to do it. But that costs a lot of money also.

When I started importing pyrite from Peru, I encountered all sorts of people saying that it was OK but the big old crystals from Leadville or Gillman, Colorado were better, which was almost always not the case, but you can't change peoples opinions by arguing with them and throwing things in their faces. It takes time and persuasion, bit by bit.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 11, 2011 01:10PM
    
I know that proper advertising, which takes time and costs a lot, is the engine of mineral business. I understand that it must be done on the products, but also on the localities.

Usually, collectors, whatever they collect, are looking for something that other collectors don't have. Which sets the price of a rarity, unusual thing. A stamp with double printing will cost lot more than the same standard stamp. That's why it will be called a collector item and why it is so expensive. Not enough for everyone.

So if I understand correctly your explaination, today's way of mineral buying/selling is the contrary. People want what everyone has, which is called a classic. As it always been like that, or maybe sometime people were doing like "normal" collectors, buying what the other doesn't have?

So, again if I understood correctly, these classic localities are artificial, created by the few biggest mineral dealers, thanks to their great ability for advertising. So dealers in general will have more economical interest in buying in mass what the biggest dealers and minrec advertise, rather than find specimens from new unknown localities and small quantities for creating retention. Is that correct?

To come back to Madagascar, do you know why there are so few classic localities there? I understand the way this business works, but I don't undertand why a country so rich in minerals and rarities is not considered in this business like it should be. Is there an objective reason for that, or is it again the way it is, because main dealers have just decided that malagasy gems and mineral will be not interesting?

Your peruvian pyrite is an interesting example. That shows how people can be "fashionned" by people who decided that "you will like this nice pyrite but not this wonderful one". Doesn't make any sense...

What about unique minerals in this case? If we follow the way it works, these are worth about nothing right?

Thanks a lot Rock your explainations, this a is very interesting discussion, at least for me!
Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 11, 2011 02:26PM
Julien, I think that one problem in developing collectors' taste for "classic" localities in Madagascar is that, at least in the past, Madagascar material came to us with very little or very unreliable locality information. A locality has to be quite well-defined before people consider it "classic", and with Madagascar material the exact locality was so frequently rather "fuzzy". Perhaps, with time, that situation is improving.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 11, 2011 07:07PM
About the original specimen, that color is very unusual. I dont know the reason, but from Brazil or Afghanistan, greens are very common. From Madagascar, it's always reds/browns/ blacks. I'd say 500-600, depending on who is selling it... it has good size, and you said it was very transparent.

As far as a lack of appreciation for malagasy minerals, I agree that it has to do with the marketing, but also their availability. Up until a few years ago, it was apparently somewhat difficult to get minerals out of the country because of the laws. Also, it is far enough away that (it seems) only a few french dealers go there. It is also very costly from the USA, and it is hard to find good pieces there, so not many american dealers go.

There are hardly any malagasy dealers-- in denver for example, I think there were three dealers (two french as one russian) specializing in this material. One was entirely lapidary/ celestite/amonites, another was probably 80% lapidary, and the final dealer was about 90% specimens.

My guess would be that the association with lapidary material, and the lack of material overall makes it more obscure. I mean, Mozambique produces excellent tourmalines and spodumenes as well, but they are so obscure in the minds of collectors that they are generally worth a fraction of a comparable Afghan specimen.

You mentioned Paprok tourmalines. I really dont understand the pricing of Afghan material .... 15 years ago, a big bubble gum pink tourmaline was rare. Today, every "high end" dealer at a show has at least one. Every year they find more and more of them. They get more common, and the prices keep going up. It just doesnt make sense?
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 12, 2011 01:50PM
    
This is interesting, thanks Alfredo and Ibrahim.

Knowing the exact localities of products is still a huge issue here. If you don't go close enough to the mine, just forget to know where those come from in 90% of the cases. When people don't know, you get always the same answer: "from south". This is not a problem for the sellers if they don't know the localities, so they will not make efforts to get the info. This is probably the source of the localities issue here in Mada. Which is a paradox, when you know that products don't really travel a lot inside Mada, they stay more or less pretty close to their origin. OK, in some regions you have dozens of mines/pegmatites with the same species, especially beryl and tourmaline, but still, shouldn't be a problem...So the only way to be sure about the localities, going where the stones are.

It is still not easy to export rough material from Mada. This problem really started with the famous half ton + emerald specimen from Mananjara area, which is, if I'm correct, now in Honk-Hong, via La Réunion. The owner just "forgot" to declare it properly. The ministry of mines just realised it when it was already in La Réunion, so just after that, it was just forbidden to export any rough. Which causes for a time a massive move of the buyers, mainly Thai and Sri-Lankan, to somewhere else. Now it is allowed again, but under unclear conditions. It is even more unclear for minerals, as it is quite difficult to evaluate them. Now Thai, Sri-Lankan and African buyers are back, they manage to export massive rough quantities, but sometimes the police just grab big stocks to remind people that they can decide what leaves and what stays in Mada if you don't follow their rules. Last example, 5 tons of tourmaline have been intercepted by the police nearby Ikalamavony. This was breaking news here in newspapers. Well, with all these problems, and also the fact that it is far away from the US, I understand why dealers don't want to come here. But exportation is not impossible, it just takes a loooooong time to do it properly.

The products are here, in quantity and quality. I think that if some dealers decide one day to "invest" for a long period in Madagascar for minerals, that will probably help to change dealers, collectors as well as government's way of thinking about Malagasy products and their international potential. And definitely, Madagascar needs that, its actual position in the market is just unfair to me, when you see the quantities of minerals and rough extracted every year, and the potential of the new mines discovered every month...

If there is a "Paprok fever", why not an Antetezambato or Anjanaboinona fever, after all? Just need to go where the quality is, and educate a bit people about the way of extracting once you are there, undamaged specimen is more money...and it works, people here will tell you, but the local market is very small so it is not motivating. How many mines are slepping here, it's countless. Look at Antetezambato. I mean this is one of the only active demantoid mine in the world, fine quality on top of that, with the strangest specimens ever. It is almost a dead mine now, why? Almost nobody to buy anymore. And you still have plenty of stones under this swamp, I can guarantee that info as I live in the area. But if the mineral market in general doesn't want to and leaves collectors in obsucurity as you said Ibrahim...So I start to understand now, when big dealers say that Antetezambato will not be producing a lot anymore, it is not because of the lack of stones, but because of the lack of buyers, so because they decided it. To me it's really a shame...
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 12, 2011 03:29PM
Julien,

You mentioned the police in Madagascar. I think they and the customs people actually contribute greatly to the problem. The ministry of mines has a very clear set of rules and procedures for exporting gem rough and minerals. The biggest problem I have found is that the customs officers do not know these rules, and act on their own. It seems almost like there is some sort of competition between the Mines Ministry, and the Customs officers. Especially at Ivato, the Customs people are all looking for a bribe.

It seems like they divide everything into "precious" and "semi precious", without providing appropriate guidelines. For some officials, "precious" is just ruby, sapphire, emerald. For others, it includes tourmaline. For others, it includes anything transparent. And for others, it includes anything translucent. For some "rough" includes specimens, for others it's just the glassy bits of gem material.

There is too much subjectivity. When a dealer goes and spends a lot of money, the last thing he or she wants is for some customs officer looking for a bribe or to "stretch his ego" to take all the stones.

I learned my lesson on my first trip, so the second time I gave all my material to an exporter friend of mine, and she handled it for me. I still carried about 10 (non gem) pieces with me through the airport. The (mines ministry official at airport handled the paperwork very quickly, but then it came time to go through customs. I was quickly passed through, but then one of the customs officers saw the Ministry of Mines paperwork in my hand. It was my fault for not hiding it, but just because he saw it he asked to open my bag. He then made me unwrap my stones, and asked me to point each one out on the Mines paperwork.

I know for a fact that he could not tell a betafite from a liddicoatite, yet he was just looking for any inconsistency as an excuse to ask for a bribe, or to confiscate my material.

Adding to that, my exporter friend who handled the rest of the goods told me in the final steps, sometimes a bribe has to be paid at Ivato.,... and that is when she knows most of the people involved and is doing everything according to the rules.

On another note, i can think of one very good reason why malagasy minerals are under appreciated. You have already mentioned the extensive damage, (which does not help) but having done about 3 mineral shows now (not many, but i am learning a lot), I have noticed that there are a very large number of collectors looking for big flashy pieces. I had always thought this to be the minority as I had only done sales on the internet, but at the shows I have found that it is the biggest most colorful pieces that move fastest.

Madagascar, unfortunately, does not produce many of these. While the tourmaline colors and beryl colors can beat anything from Pakistan or Afghanistan, they are all mostly under 8 cm. If you find a big liddicoatite, it will probably brown, or opaque and require slicing. Heck, most pieces that I have seen over 5 cm are not even gemmy. They just dont have the "wow" factor of the average Afghan or even Brazilian piece... and that "wow factor" seems to be what many collectors want these days.

I cannot describe exactly what it is, but even when you have a lot of "high quality" malagasy specimens displayed in front of you, there is almost always a certain roughness and messiness about the pieces themselves.... and that is AFTER you have selected the good pieces from all the endless trash.
.
Both because of the mining methods, and I guess, just the way the crystals tend to form there, the best pieces seem to be smaller. And as they break everything, most are really only suitable for gem rough.

In short, there is more to it than just the big dealers having an effect on the market. To some extent it is the minerals themselves, and to another it is the local authorities causing problems... those problems make it difficult for more material to leave, and for it to become more prominent on the market.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 13, 2011 06:53AM
I would only value this tourmaline at $75-$100. Regardless of location if I compare it to similar tourmalines I can buy from other locations with similar size, shape, color, etc.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 13, 2011 09:20AM
    
I personnally never seen any tourmaline this size this conditon for this price Jason...If your retail price is $75, that means that you can find something similar for what, $20-25? Honnestly hard to believe, but good for you then...
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 13, 2011 09:41AM
Location only significantly alters the price if it is from a historic or unusual location. Tourmaline like this from Maine or from Elba would have a significant premium.

From madagascar, afghanistan/pakistan or brazil would have no premium - the value would be based on the quality of the specimen alone.

While it's certainly true that a specimen like this could be obtained for $75 or less a few years ago, I think it's very unlikely to get a specimen of this quality for that price nowdays.

Still, I think that $200 retail is about the top limit for a price for this specimen.

Jolyon
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 17, 2011 07:52PM
Julien Raoul Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I personnally never seen any tourmaline this size
> this conditon for this price Jason...If your
> retail price is $75, that means that you can find
> something similar for what, $20-25? Honnestly hard
> to believe, but good for you then...


You are comparing it to Madagascar tourmaline, which as Jolyon put it, carries no provence premium. That being said if you were to buy a similar one from Afghanistan/pakistan or Brazil you would pay, in my opinion, $75-$100. The color is not good, it doesn't have good prismatic faces and has an overbearing of striations, and even though you say it's gemmy and has clean areas they are not readily visible from the outside. Aesthetics plays a big role in pricing
The form is very unaesthetic and rough looking.
Keep in mind this is comparing it to what I can buy for the same price from another location.
As far as Madagascar tourmaline is concerned it may be one of the best or close to it when compared to the others found there. I am not to keen on Mada tourmalines except for Liddi's so to someone that collects Mada tourmalines in particular you may find a higher price but all things being equal and to the average consumer strolling past at a gem show......

Nice crystal by the way.
avatar Re: Tourmaline Camp Robin
October 17, 2011 09:49PM
    
Jason,

I understand what you say. Comparing it to brasilian and afghan ones.

A tourmaline from a rare locality (Camp Robin) in the market, very unusual color and shape for the country where it comes from (Mada), in excellent condition considering its locality, and sorry, and definitely good aesthetics (pictures are bad OK, but it is very sharp and all but not rough looking, a bit dirty maybe...), should be somewhat a little bit special, at least just a little bit, because it is rare. Which is not the case for afgan and brazilian ones.

I don't understand then the point comparing it with afgan and brazilian ones. To me it should be compared to malagasy ones, as this is what it makes it unusual. Then, and this is my opinion only, pricing will be more objective, no influence of the usual localities like Paprok that almost every collecters have in their collection. I'm quite sure that any dealer will advertise this specimen this way to get the best of it, if they were the owner. So why not pricing it this way, instead of pricing it like common afgan and brazilian ones?
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