Buying a padparadsha

A few words on buying a padparadsha (or sapphire closely looking like one):

To start with, those gems are really rare, and found is many places in the world. I have personally seen some from the following locations:
Sri Lanka (of course), Burma, Vietnam, Madagascar, East Africa.
Those from the first three locations can be hard to tell appart and usually have a few good characteristics (#177, #190):

  • Good color consistency (looks the same to our human eyes in any light)
  • Orange fluorescence, if any
  • Pink in one direction, orange in another, which allows a better color saturation than in both were “mixed”
  • Slightly milky, which enhances the color perception.

Some rare gems from Madagascar will share those good characteristics (less dichroism), but more typically, padparadshas from Madagascar and East Africa will be (#340):

  • Extremely clean, save for a few inclusions looking like mirors. That decreases perceived color quality.
  • Will look less saturated in warm light (sunlight) and show no fluorescence. They will usually look more orange on cold light (incandescent).

To add too the difficulty, most gems around are not from Ceylon, and beeing sold as Ceylon anyway, often by honnest sellers, who indeed bought them in Sri Lanka, often sometimes even straight from the miners.
The “source” (pre US/European/HK dealers) market for padparadshas and padparadsha like gems IS in Sri Lanka, and gems easily find their ways there. To a certain extent, that is also true of star sapphires, I have surprisingly bought some unequivocally Burmese padparadshas and star sapphires there. And I don’t even count the Thai and African sapphires. The same happens with Vietnamese rubies that tend to fly to Burma. And Asian padparadshas are really hard to tell apart, even for a good lab. It seems to me the only way to be 100% sure of the origin of an Asian padparadsha is to buy it in Burma or Vietnam…

Of course appart from the odd Burmese, padparadshas come from all of Africa and especially Madagascar. I tend to think that these days, you find more oranges from Madagascar than from Ceylon in Ceylon even in rough, even (maybe especially) from the mining area. If we restrict the sample to “no evidence of heat enhancement” orangy sapphires a large majority is from Madagscar. And… if a gem is orangy, unheated and has no silk and some dots/mirrors… you can figure out yourself.
For instance, I very recently bought an extremely nice pure-orange sapphire, unheated, from a respected dealer, who was sure it was from Ceylon as he bought it rough there, “from the miner”. A very nice gem indeed, but from Andilamena (Madagascar).

As an end consumer, you should care less about origin, and more about how the gem looks like, of course, but they just don’t look the same (I mean usually, as there is some overlap).

So, when buying a padparadsha, take a few steps:

  • If you are paying for the “Ceylon” price, ask for a lab certificate stating the gem to be from Ceylon (knowing it might be Burmese or Vietnamese) and check for a good color consistency across different light sources.
  • If you are paying the the name “padparadsha”, take care to use a conservative laboratory. The most respected are in my opinion GIA & SSEF for the purpose, and since GIA is quite cheap and convenient, there is no reason to go anywhere else.
  • In any case, ask how the sapphire looks like in different sources. Photos can’t tell, you need an honnest seller here. Some (#340) don’t look as good in outside light (photos) as inside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>