The Sapphire Sea: A Book Based on the Millennium Sapphire

MS Token
3 min readDec 15, 2022


Image source: Goodreads

As you may well know, the rough blue sapphire that was later carved and given the name Millennium Sapphire was discovered in Madagascar. Inspired by the origin of this gemstone, John B. Robinson wrote a thriller around a blue sapphire unearthed by a peasant farmer in Madagascar. While his book, The Sapphire Sea, is purely fictional, it captures with perfection and accuracy the gem trade in that part of Africa. After all, Robinson has dealt with rare gems in Madagascar and guided tourists to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. So, he knows a thing or two about Africa, precious stones, and their trade.

Book Overview

The Sapphire Sea is a fictional thriller initially published in 2003. It has four editions. The original 2003 edition featured 260 pages. It was published by William Morrow & Company. This was followed by another edition published by Thorndike Press in 2004. This print was 365 pages. The first two editions were printed as hardcovers.

In 2005, a 317-page paperback edition was released. This time the publisher was Avon Books. McBooks Press published the current edition as a 240-paged e-book and paperback three years later.

The Sapphire Sea Story

Jewel dealer Lonny Cushman, the protagonist of the story, leaves for Madagascar to get away from his father and ex-wife. He deals with blue sapphires but the low-grade kind. Lonny dreams of the day he will come across a perfect high-quality stone to change his imperfect life. A career back in New York as a gem dealer is what he yearns for, and an opportunity to see his seven-year-old daughter, Annie. So, when he comes across a peasant holding the greatest sapphire he has ever seen one morning, he knows his life is about to change.

“Il est beau. Magnifique,” said Lonny, against all the tenets of his trade and his father’s warnings about showing emotion in the presence of something valuable. “Merci,” said Jaoravo. He held out his hands to take it back, but Lonny had the gem up against the sky, plumbing its depths and calculating the type of cut that would bring out the stone’s best nature. He had the impression he was gazing into God’s iris.

Jaoravo, the seller, wants 66 white-headed zebus (a breed of cattle that signify spiritual wealth) in exchange for the gemstone. Lonny gives him all the money he has with him, which accumulates to about US$20,000. With the purchase complete, Lonny now faces the perilous task of smuggling the gemstone out of Madagascar. Standing in his way are powerful brokers in the port city of Diego Suarez, shady police, a seductive African-American CIA agent, and a tyrant called “The First Rooster.”

Readers will find themselves rooting for Lonny’s successful escape from Madagascar and, in the process, they will get a feel of Madagascar’s culture, its people, and geography. They‘ll also learn more about gemstones than they ever will anywhere else.

Where Can You Purchase The Sapphire Sea?

If you have a Kindle on your phone, tablet, or iPad, you can start reading The Sapphire Sea right away for only $9.99*. Alternatively, you can buy the paperback for $15.95* on Amazon or the used hardcover for $4.94* — when you buy the hardcover, you’ll get the original 2003 edition.

*The prices mentioned here may change.

Book Reviews

The Sapphire Sea has received glowing reviews from several top reviewers in the publishing industry. Here’s what they’ve written:

Publishers Weekly

“Robinson, who himself has traded in gemstones in Madagascar, crafts a briskly paced and gripping read, full of rich details about corundum stones, African geography, and Lonny’s maturation from Page Six playboy to would-be doting father.”

Winston-Salem Journal

“A masterpiece worthy of the highest praise.”

Library Journal

“Rich in exotic local color and gem lore, Robinson’s debut is an action-packed tale that recalls H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines.”


“Robinson, who once made his living trading in precious stones in Africa, may be a first-time novelist, but he writes like a veteran. His dialogue is sharp, his characters appealing, his narrative style engagingly playful.”

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