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Gem Identification, Beyond Mere Authentication 

Finding The Origin Of A Gemstone 

More Articles  | Diamond RingsCustom Rings |  Claddagh RingsMens RingsContact Us 

The development of gemological sciences has taken the process of identifying gemstones to an impressive degree of precision. In the very early days, gem color was the only feature that would be observed to identify a gemstone. This made things simple but rather innacurate. For example, all red gems were taken to be rubies and all green gemstones were identified as emeralds. The lack of equipment and knowledge lead to some real high profile mix ups. One often quoted example refers to, the priceless 'emerald' collection treasured by Cleopatra. She would have been truly sad to hear that, some of her favorite 'emerald' gems and jewels had mistaken peridot for emerald. The British Royals, proudly display their 'ruby' crowns and other ruby jewels. It was only a few decades later that, scientific developments revealed that some of these 'rubies' were in fact red spinel.

When you send a gemstone to the gem labs today, the possibility of a wrong identification of gemstone type, is quite unlikely. The standard equipment used by gemological laboratories, is sufficient to correctly do a gem identification report for almost every known gemstone. A new challenge developed a few decades ago, this related to gemstone treatments. While most regular gem buyers are aware that, rubies and sapphires are almost always heated to improve their color and clarity - the processes to treat these gemstones did not stop at mere heating. Experimentation by trial and error, gave rise to additional types of gem treatments that could be applied to specific gems. Gem experts had to develop more detailed methods and use more advance equipment to, identify gems that had been treated in ways that deviated from the conventional treatments normally used. For example, emeralds which have normally been treated with colorless natural oils for centuries, began to be treated with colored resins. More importantly, some of these gem treatment procedures do not provide a stable or permanent effect on the gemstone. Other gem treatments, negatively affected the physical properties like hardness and overall durability of the gemstone.

Gem laboratories, need to keep a constant watch for gemstones that have been treated by processes that have not been applied before. The application of certain gemstone treatments might, yield a gemstone that looks absolutely gorgeous. At the same time it is possible that a gem treated in a specific way might have a lower value and price point. If gemstone treatments are not accurately identified and disclosed to buyers, the buyer might end up paying a higher price for the gemstone. This is the reason why the role of gemstone labs, can significantly safegaurd the interest of the buyer.

The challenge to correctly identify a gemstone and the way (if any) in which it is treated, takes care of most buyer requirements. There is however one important factor that, weighs on the equation for the price of a gemstone. For example, a ruby is a ruby but, the moment it is identified as a Burmese ruby, the gemstone commands a higher price. In the case of emeralds, it is widely known that Emeralds from Colombia are the top preference of many seasoned gem buyers. Most of you would be aware that Ceylon blue sapphires, have always been placed a step above blue sapphire gems from other locations. The point is that, when the origin of a gemstone can make it more desirable and therefore more expensive, the buyer would need to be given reasonable assurance regarding the specific origin of the gem.

While authentication regarding the gem type and gem treatment, are today identified with a high degree of accuracy, the origin of the gem takes a lot of research to determine. In the case of some high profile gems like, ruby, blue sapphire and emerald, gem experts can often identify gems from Burma, Ceylon and Colombia (respectively) by closely observing the features of the gemstone. However this identification with reference to origin, needs to be constantly studied. For example, if a gem lab is aware that Colombian emeralds have an overall bluish-green color, they need to keep in mind that a new mining location in Colombia, could yield emerald gems that have a dark green (no blue hue) color.

The process adopted by gem laboratories to identify the origin of a gemstone, would utilize a range of sophisticated instruments. It is not uncommon for two different instruments to be used to check a single parameter. Microscopes and refractometers might still be utilized but, findings from these instruments would be run across more advanced equipment to confirm that observations were accurate and factual. As you might expect, a gemstone lab report that provided accurate information related to gemstone origin and other features, would not be cheap. These advanced test reports are generally requested by buyers for gems that are expensive. For example, if you wanted to correctly determine the origin of a piece of white topaz, the cost of running the tests and getting the lab report would be many times more expensive than the gem itself.

Identifying the origin of diamonds takes on a special significance. Ethical diamond traders are expected to keep away from diamonds that come from certain regions. These regions are known for rebels, who sell diamonds to earn money to buy arms that are then used to topple legally elected governments. Commonly referred to as conflict diamonds, you might hear the term 'blood diamonds' - these are the same as conflict diamonds. However the possibility of separating diamonds by origin is quite difficult. Diamonds are generally collected at major diamond hubs where they are sorted by grade, this might be done at the rough diamond stage and once again at the cut and polished stage. Once this is complete, identifying each diamond by it's mining origin would be an expensive, tough and tedious task. And even with the most advanced instruments and high budgets, the identification would be a substantial chance of being wrong! Attempts are therefore made to inspect and catch such diamonds, right at their origin. It is needless to say that the economic benefits of circumventing such checks are quite high but, the monitoring authorities try to do their best.

When talking about gem testing to determine the origin of a gemstone, there are some rather interesting cases. A few select gems, are commercially mined in just one locality or region. These gem would need to be authenticated with reference to their specific type, one this is done, the origin can be easily fixed without any further tests. Moldavite, a greenish tektite is mined only in the republic of Czech. Similarly, Tanzania is the only known source for tanzanite gemstones. It is important to understand that the situation could change in the future, other gem sources could be discovered for these gems too.

Another interesting category of gems, show some very specific characteristics which point to their origin. However, it would take a professional gem expert to accurately these characteristics. For example, some shades of Ceylon blue sapphires are so typical that, you will not find a similar shade in natural blue sapphires from other regions. Similarly, fine Colombian emeralds can very rarely be imitated by natural emerald gems from other mining locations. Working with precious gems like blue sapphires on a regular basis, we sometimes come across some very interesting cases. An example is a piece of Thai (Kanchanaburi) blue sapphire with a Madagascar blue sapphire color. But then, such cases are very rare and generally, it is quite easy to pick blue sapphires from Thailand.

For the general gem buyer, we have some very useful suggestions to make. When you plan to buy a specific gem, have a budget in mind. Next, take some time to pick a reputed gem or jewelry provider. Your basic effort should aim at authenticating the gemstone, for example a sapphire should be a natural sapphire and not a man made look-alike. If you plan to spend more than 200 U.S$ for the gemstone, consider requesting for a gem authentication certificate from the seller. This is a good idea even if, you are expected to pay 25 U.S$ to 50 U.S$ for the test. Knowing the origin of the gemstone adds to your knowledge about the stone but, think twice if you are paying more just because of the origin of the stone. We have seen buyers, paying a heavy premium for a blue Ceylon sapphire when the gem, was quite ordinary with wide color zoning and very little uniform blue color in it.

The above report is not meant to confuse gem buyers, the intent is not to discourage you from buying a specific gemstone. Our strong belief in the fact that, a well informed buyer will most likely make the right buying decision prompts us to share our findings with all gem lovers. We view a satisfied gem or jewelry buyer as a great benefit for then entire, gems and jewelry industry. On the other hand, a buyer who has not been fully informed regarding a purchase, feels let down and even cheated. This is not the way that any industry should be treating a customer.


If you have any requirements or questions related to gems and jewelry, send an email to our expert team at sales@kaisilver.com We will be glad to provide you with information and guidance without, pushing you to make a purchase from us. We are not the only source for gemstones and jewelry and urge you, to evaluate and check other options too.


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