Legitimate Gem Buying?
LostCoastSteve
India > India Travel Basics > India Travel > Scams and Annoyances in India
#16
| Maha Guru Member
Many years ago in the seventies, I did a bit of gem buying. cool:

At the time my hobbies included lapidary and metal work so was always on the lookout for interesting stones and rough.

Besides a dog eared copy of The Golden Guide to Asia I traveled with a book called Van Nostrand's Standard Catalog of Gems by John Sinkankas.
This book is a mine of information about grades of stones and what the prices were when it was written. It also talks about what to look for in cut stones. Native cut stones are often poorly shaped to increase weight and cost. The trouble is that it also decreases brightness of transparent stones. Don't know if there has ever been an updated version put out, prices in the original are way out of date.

I stayed away from most of the higher priced stuff and mainly looked for things to use in projects. India used to be good for garnet and moonstone. The four ray star diopside look neat, but are quite soft and don't wear well.

My wanderings also took me to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, ThaiLand, and Australia. Found interesting stones both rough and cut in all those places. Spinels and moonstones seemed to be abundant and at a decent price in Sri Lanka. Spent a bit extra while there and splurged on a Catseye Chrysoberyl that became a ring for a lady friend. Another find there was very inexpensive star quartz. Bought quite a few as they look very much like large white star sapphires. Star sapphires with imperfect stars or colour were also reasonably priced.

Try looking in lapidary journals for contacts. Way back, I remember reading their ads from dealers all over the world.
The phone book is also a good tool for finding merchants once you arrive. If you have a local rock hound shop look through the books and magazines they all seem to sell.

While wandering during the seventies I would carry a small jewelers loupe and try to look the part of the knowledgeable buyer. For today a refractometer and small digital balance would be handy if you were spending big. I always trusted the sellers scales and don't think I was ever cheated but a little paranoia can be healthy.

When not wandering my day job was doing science stuff at Canadian and Australian universities. One of the gadgets I worked with was a magnetic resonance spectrometer. When an Australian gem dealer found out I had access to one he asked me to test some sapphires for him. The blue colour is due to titanium in the crystal which my machine could measure. It seems that Australia produces a lot of sapphire, most of which gets sent to Thailand for cutting and heat treating. Auzi sapphire tends to be quite dark, often too dark. Heat treating lightens the stones and makes them look like the more expensive Thai goods. It was hopped that magnetic resonance techniques could tell the two apart. Unfortunately the spectra were too complicated to figure out so never did much good.

The perfect stones in that link crvlvr posted all look man made. A perfect ruby every time if you add just the right amount of chromium to the crystal as it's grown. Certain flaws are more common in a natural specimen and can help identify fakes.

For a fun read pick up Chasing the Mountain of Light by Kevin Rushby. .... "Across India on the trail of the Koh-I-Noor diamond".

Have fun looking for unique pieces, they're out there.

W22
#17
| Search, be your own guru

Originally posted by: LostCoastSteve View Post

crvlvr: You have a good point about gems not being mined in India.
India is not a big producer of gems, but there are mines, like Padar in Kashmir and Kishangarh in Rajasthan (emeralds)or Panna for diamonds (from where Koh-e-noor orginated).

Originally posted by: crvlvr View Post

LCS, from what I understand that only the low quality or small size stones are cut in India by hand. and that is due to its lower labor costs. I suspect there might be more sophisticated methods of cutting bigger better stones elsewhere.
I do not think so. India has one of the largest gem cutting industry in the world, and the people who are involved (Gujaratis) are smart (they would have the most sophisticated machines and methods). And the Indian labour is most ingeneous and inventive. They, I believe, can cut a diamond with an iron file (so to say). This, in India is known as 'jugad' (somehow managing things). :)
Truly that Dharma is the Truth (Satya); Therefore, when a man speaks the Truth, they say, "He speaks the Dharma"; and if he speaks Dharma, they say, "He speaks the Truth!" For both are one. - Brihadaranyak Upanishad
#18
| Loud Noisy Bird
What's changed in the jewellery trade is not so much the tools and techniques, but the way of powering things... treddles have given way to electricity, and so on. Look through a jeweller's tool catalogue, and there isn't that much modern high tech (ultrasonic cleaning, electric welding, micro-flame torches, off the top of my head). I suspect that the same thing applies to the stone cutting and polishing trades.
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
.
#19
| Professional cynic
I must confess to purchasing a gorgeous 18K gold sapphire & diamond ring in Bangkok a few years ago at an obvious tourist shop. A very huge & posh kind of shop.


I know that shop :) And so do all rickshaw drivers in Bangkok ;) . They indeed have a museum, lots of jewels out and iirc even some people working machines in the back. It's all a huge tourist setup. Mainly it's rubies, sapphires and diamonds with some jade on offer also. I didn't buy because I didn't like the designs. Also, they didn't really have top quality in rubies, the stone I was interested in. That being said, a top quality ruby costs more than a similar diamond beyond a certain size.

If you're interested in learning about rubies and sapphires I can wholeheartedly recommend this book by Richard Hughes. It's a reference work and the man really loves those stones.

I wouldn't buy rubies and sapphires in India, btw. Quality is almost uniformly low and for the high end items you pay the same price as in Europe and the US. There is no such thing as a cheap, real, high-quality stone, never forget this.

For diamonds there's indeed lots of Gujaratis in the business but it's mainly small stones, shipped from Antwerp and cut in India due to lower labour costs. The big stones are still cut in Europe or NY/Tel Aviv but also there the market is dominated by Indians.
"It is preferable to have a criminal for a servant rather than a fool because a criminal's actions are predictable and you can protect yourself against them, whereas there is no telling what a fool's next move will be.
#20
| 10 year Visa okee dokee

Originally posted by: dillichaat View Post

I know that shop :) And so do all rickshaw drivers in Bangkok ;) . They indeed have a museum, lots of jewels out and iirc even some people working machines in the back. It's all a huge tourist setup. Mainly it's rubies, sapphires and diamonds with some jade on offer also. I didn't buy because I didn't like the designs. Also, they didn't really have top quality in rubies, the stone I was interested in. That being said, a top quality ruby costs more than a similar diamond beyond a certain size.

If you're interested in learning about rubies and sapphires I can wholeheartedly recommend this book by Richard Hughes. It's a reference work and the man really loves those stones.

I wouldn't buy rubies and sapphires in India, btw. Quality is almost uniformly low and for the high end items you pay the same price as in Europe and the US. There is no such thing as a cheap, real, high-quality stone, never forget this.

For diamonds there's indeed lots of Gujaratis in the business but it's mainly small stones, shipped from Antwerp and cut in India due to lower labour costs. The big stones are still cut in Europe or NY/Tel Aviv but also there the market is dominated by Indians.


I love how much information you all have! I just knew there would be people here on IM with some great information!

And dillichat I appreciate you not telling me I was a dunce! I did know the shop was for tourists like me. That's the only customers that were there--literally busloads! My husband & I like the lighter color blue sapphires & we know we took a risk in what we bought. They claimed it wasn't heated. But how can we prove it (well, we could here at home). Anyway, we did love the design & I'm happy with it.

It's funny that we did buy at all. In 1980 we spent several months in Thailand--not as tourists, my husband worked in a Laotian border refugee camp & didn't buy anything because we thought it was all a tourist ripoff & we also didn't really have any extra cash. Coming back as a 2 week tourist, we fell right into all of it!:p

Wanderer I read that book. Excellent!
[paniccow] My selected India photos http://www.indiamike.com/photopost/s...r/7030/cat/500
#21
| Guru
Wanderer, thanks for the background. I agree a lot of the stones are heat treated to improve the color etc. But as ti the stones being completely artificial, I think that is done only with the precious ones (Diamonds, Rubies etc.) Doing that for the semi precious ones are just not worth it.

BTW, the source for gem stones in India are from the same sources as the ones in Thailand etc,. In India, the honest jewelers will tell you that the "yellow sapphire" that they sell are actually citrines. Most wont.

Well I bought a couple of big stones from ebay and plan to get it tested in India. Will report back. What I do like about this seller is that listing indicates if the stone is treated or not. Like this one. I figure if they are being honest about that, they might be honest in the rest of the listing. Apparently the seller is located in Chantanburi which appears to be some kind of "gem town" Details here and here

Related Posts