The Boy and the Sapphire

A story from the rough edges of globalization

‘Trouble in Madagascar’ – The Audiobook

Finished: Trouble in Madagascar

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“On his day off, gem trader Edward Bristol enjoys the sunrise on an African beach. Until a mobile rings in the sand. Somebody must have lost their phone in the night. Edward answers, not suspecting that the caller will ruin his day. Soon after, he is kidnapped, escapes into the savanna, but again is hunted down and finally swept up in revolution, corruption and international deal making.”

The full novel is now available for Kindle and Apple.

Paperback is available here.

Thanks for all your feed-back. I hope to start a new Ed Bristol story sometimes this year.

Bedroom Torture

Young Hillary Adams recorded her sadistic father; and posted it online.

His shame is forever public. Well done!

Let all parents know: In the 21st century, you will be watched.

The clip ruined my week but never mind as long as William Adams’ week is worse. The memory of being whipped for nothing more than leaving the light on (so small, I was scared in the dark) or for an only average test result at school.

The fact that this is done by your own parents (shame the moms, too) and in your own bedroom makes it so inescapably terrible. The immediate pain on the skin is little compared to the effect of William’s final words: “See what you’ve done to your family! Are you now happy?” Obviously she wasn’t, cramping on the floor, but she might have believed that it was her fault, that she was blame and not him. That is how kids are.

I will not whine about how tough my childhood was. For most kids in Asia and Africa beatings are the easy part. But let me say that, after seeing Hillary’s video, I wanted to get on the next flight and give my dad a little whipping, just for fun or because he didn’t come to my daughter’s birthday. Don’t get me started. May he thank God that I am not all like him – an-eye-for-an-eye and so on.

Beware of neglect and the damage done to children. It comes back in terrible shapes; as terrorism, and racism, and crystal-meth and, of course, more child abuse. Personally, I intend to break this cycle in my own little family. My daughter will not have to endure what was done to me.

Sure, a teenage daughter can be a pest and all. My daughter will, perhaps, be a pest some-day, but I herewith –forever public– ask God to rot off my hands if I ever do anything remotely comparable.

I just love CCTVs, wireless webcams, IP-Cameras and constant home surveillance. Forget about privacy if we can protect our children from harm.

Under Cover


I had a free afternoon at the Emirates Mall in Dubai, the biggest, most expensive-and-all-superlatives mall of the world; the one with the ski slopes inside.

Gemoholic I am, so I didn’t ski but went to search for colored gemstones. I was wearing a dark suit; and pretended to have recently defrauded Kabul Bank out of $50 million.

All the big names are there: Moussaeiff, Van Cleef & Arpels, Graff,  Tiffany and the rest. I pestered them all. I played dumb, but not too dumb to raise suspicion. I didn’t take my own lens and as they offered me one, I worked it tourist-style.

The jewelry gorillas occupy the entrance of the mall; an area the size of Luxembourg. Retail professionals know top-margins get the entrance. Low-margins, like electronics or food, go higher up: To buy cheap DVDs or milk you have to run the jewelry gauntlet.

There was lots of cabochon amethyst, so-so tourmaline, plastic citrine and nasty magic topaz, mountains of filled rubies and deep fried sapphires, some set nicely, some cheesy, but all at painful prices.

I must admit today’s sellers know about gemstone treatment. When I did a similar excursion in 2004 I got raised eyebrows, ignorance or flat lies. Today, the staff is as well informed as you may expect. They know most gems are treated somehow, they are not always sure how (who is?) or why, some get it wrong, but I heard no more all-our-gems-are-natural-guaranteed-bla-bla.

When I asked for untreated gemstones the branch manager usually entered scene. He knew the real stuff:

“This ruby is only heat treated but not filled”
“This is GIA certified untreated sapphire”.

With certificates ready in hand – a real improvement from 2004. Great. My compliments!

Here is what I found:

A pair of blue sapphires, each 6 carats, pear-shape, set in earrings. Good color, a shade too inky perhaps but clean and GRS certified unheated Madagascan, precision cut to match. The pair, set with some gold and small diamonds, was on offer for $480.000. I calculated down to $35.000/carat for the stones. Solitary each gem was top-notch, as a pair they were quite remarkable.

Next, I found an emerald shaped, vivid red, AIGS certified unheated Mozambique ruby of 1.21 carat, lightly included, square-ish but not fully symmetric “native” cut, rather a color-stone with little or no luster, some window but still fully red in the center. Price tag: $139.000 set in a ring. Minus small diamonds and gold I estimated it at $80.000 per carat. A good stone, but way overpriced.

Then, I got to see an oval 4.6 carat pink sapphire with a window. It was a good hot pink and GIA certified, no origin, but the fish eye was bad. Set in a rose gold pendant with many small calibrated pink sapphires (no certificates), it went for $95.000. The big sapphire must have been under 15.000/carat. Given that the pendant itself looked pretty, this price seemed Ok-ish to me, under the circumstances.

I continued my search. Some shops I left without seeing anything worth mentioning. There was no untreated emerald, no Paraiba, no good Alexandrite, no Padaparadscha, nor tsavorites or such, at least no exceptional ones. As always, I ignored diamonds. All-in-all I must have been in ten+ high-end joints.

Finally, late in the day: A dream of red spinel, round, 3.2 carat, absolutely flawless, no window, no inclusions, perfect hue, tone, great luster and all, GRS certified Burma, set in a simple platinum ring. This was a master gem. Selling for: $180.000. Totally fat ruby-priced but very nice. Loved it.

That was my last find. After five hours I ended the tour due to exhaustion and low sugar levels. I hate wearing a suit; and pretending. I also felt sorry for the branch managers.

I allowed myself a HägenDazs ice cream and called it a day.

Welcome to My Non-Commercial Website



We have been running since 2003 and I always enjoyed sharing the adventures’ world of an wildly unregulated gem-mining and -trade. Writing being my, only 2nd to Wife, biggest love since age five, the out-put grew daily, and our commercial site soon proved far too small for all those topics.

Hence, with the aid of Audra, my online editor & angel in the US, we started this free for all page.

How to judge sapphires or rubies and other practical issues around the gem business will continue to be published on


Here, I will share the stuff a gem trader gets to see in the remotest parts of the world, on the edge of globalization, I will foul my own trade and bash east and west for ignorance and laziness wherever I can. That said, no gloom, we live in the most wonderful of all possible worlds.