Recent gemmological posts have been beaming with information about the misinterpretation of Madagascar Sapphire as Kashmir Sapphire.

In March 2017 a trade alert with technical information was published by the leading Swiss Laboratory – SSEF on the misinterpretation of Madagascar Sapphires as Kashmir sapphires.

Sapphire is a variety of the species Corundum and can occur in various colours. When a corundum is blue in colour, it is termed as sapphire. All other sapphires have their colour mentioned before the word sapphire.

Blue sapphires are minedfrom different regions of the globe which include the historical Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Thailand, US, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, Myanmar (Burma), Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar.

Kashmir is known as the historicalsource of high value sapphires due to the rarity factor which is associated with them. The Kashmir mines have not been explored in many years leading to the stock depletion of these beautiful sapphires.

Till date, the term ‘Kashmir’ is popularly associated with sapphires having a corn flower blue colour and a velvety appearance.

Sapphires not hailing from Kashmir but appearing to be similar in colour and appearance to Kashmir sapphire have been misrepresented numerous times due to lack of information.

The lack of information includes the actual identification features of Kashmir sapphire which can only be determined by a reputed gemmological laboratory having various high-tech scientific gem identification instruments alongside years of research.

It would be inappropriate to term a sapphire as Kashmirsolelybased on its colour and appearance. This is one of the main issues faced by traders and retailers especially when the customer demands a Kashmir origin.

According to the trade alert by SSEF, sapphires ranging from 5 to 50 carats in weight were submitted to the Swiss laboratory for identification of Kashmir origin. Origin identification is not easy and needs precise information gathered over the years to narrow down on the origin of the gemstone. Origin identification of rubies, sapphires and emeralds is more in demandcompared to other gemstones and diamonds.

While further analysing the submitted sapphires and referring to the documented identification features of Kashmir sapphires, it was noticed that the sapphires were actually from Madagascar.

Sapphires originating from a new deposit at Bemainty near a small town – Ambatondrazaka, Madagascarwere misinterpreted as Kashmir origin.

According to the trade alert by SSEF, sapphires ranging from 5 to 50 carats in weight were submitted to the Swiss laboratory for identification of Kashmir origin. Origin identification is not easy and needs precise information gathered over the years to narrow down on the origin of the gemstone. Origin identification of rubies, sapphires and emeralds is more in demandcompared to other gemstones and diamonds.

While further analysing the submitted sapphires and referring to the documented identification features of Kashmir sapphires, it was noticed that the sapphires were actually from Madagascar.

Sapphires originating from a new deposit at Bemainty near a small town – Ambatondrazaka, Madagascarwere misinterpreted as Kashmir origin.

Madagascar has gained popularity as the new mining area for sapphires and has been of keen interest to gemmologists and mining companies in the past few years. Many traders likewise retailers in India are unaware of the sapphires that come from Madagascar as well as their colour and appearance.
Off lately, mining in Madagascar has caught the attention of the entire world due to the environmental issues that have been associated with the mining process.
Many qualified gemmologists would also agree that identification of gemstone origin is a tough task as it involves knowing the types of inclusions present inside the gemstone as well as its structural growth pattern.
During the investigation of the Madagascar sapphires, many identification features of both Kashmir and Madagascar origin needed to be thoroughly studied side by side before coming to any conclusion. This included thorough examination of the inclusions present inside the sapphire as well as the zoning pattern.
It was noticed that few features were similar although with thorough examination, the varying differences could be identified. One such similarity was the UV-Vis Absorption Spectrum; both originsshowed the similar absorption spectrum.
Although, Madagascar sapphires have a clearer clarity compared to Kashmir sapphires, it is not enough to prove the origin and will require a gemmological origin certificate from a reputed gemmological laboratory.
In India, many traders and retailers use their years of experience to identify a sapphire as Kashmir, however, due to the new mines sprucing up, one should no longer risk giving an opinion solely based on experience.
As a trader and retailer, one needs to know the new sources of gemstones to avoid any conflicts in the future.
To be able to tackle the issue, a trader or retailer should update themselves on the information available on new mines and the gemstone properties mined from that area. It would be unfair to a consumer if they were to purchase a Kashmir sapphire without documented evidence especially high value sapphires.
Tips
•Use high magnification while checking the inclusions.
•Using a gemmological microscope will give you an added advantage.
•Use reference materials which have information related to origin identification.
•Do not assume a sapphire is Kashmir based on the stone’s colour, look for other identification features.
•Low quality Kashmir sapphires can be heat treated to improve their appearance although treatment is not regularly done.
Typical inclusions in a Kashmir sapphire include corroded zircon crystals, crystals (opaque, black, cubic) with stress cracks and dust tracks (term for white inclusions appearing to look like dust).
•When in doubt or if the stone has a high value attached to it, consider submitting the stone to a reputed gemmological laboratory for further identification of origin and treatment if any.
In conclusion, before trading in a ‘Kashmir Sapphire’ be sure that the sapphire is actually from the famous origin else the valuation of the so called Kashmir sapphire will largely get affected,thus leading to huge monetary loss as well as affecting the reputation of the trader or jeweller.

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