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Poor quality and fake Bangkok sapphires flood Indian market

The valuable blue sapphire widely available in markets today are mostly synthetic and manufactured in Thailand.

Mamta Chitnis Sen  Mumbai | 15th Dec 2012

A set of synthetic blue sapphires, with their aunthentication certicates marking them as genuine blue sapphires.

he next time you buy a blue sapphire (or neelam stone) as recommended by your family astrologer, "to ward off Saturn's evil effects on your horoscope", ensure that it is not of poor quality or worse, a fake.

Several astrologers and gemstone merchants in Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar claim that the blue sapphires widely available in the market are either synthetic or treated stones from Thailand, called "Bangkok sapphires" or "Bangkok Neelam".

These stones are priced much cheaper than the superior quality original sapphires imported from Sri Lanka or found closer home in Kashmir.

While the cost of an original blue sapphire begins from Rs 5,000 per carat, an entire five-carat Bangkok sapphire costs the same or less than that. Pradip Sharma, an astrologer-cum-dealer in blue sapphires in Zaveri Bazaar says, "Most blue sapphires, especially the Bangkok stones sold in jewellery stores or online do not have any astrological significance at all." He says that these are chemically treated stones with coloured latex, which holds the components of the stone together. "Any natural stone, including the sapphire is like a human body, with veins criss-crossing it. When light passes through an original sapphire, the natural interior state of the stone can be seen; light does not pass through a synthetic stone. It resembles a bulb," he explains.

He alleges that gem-testing laboratories pass off poor quality stones as genuine by giving them certificates, thus duping customers.

Mohan Joshi (name changed), who deals in gemstones, says that after diamonds, blue and yellow sapphires are the most sought after in India. "Blue sapphires are mainly used to convert black money into white. For example, a cheap two-carat blue sapphire gets issued a certificate by a laboratory as a genuine stone. Thus, Rs 1.5-2 cr black money turns white," he says.

This has led to a mushrooming of laboratories across the country. These laboratories, he says, cleverly do not make any mention of astrological gains when issuing certificates to the stones.

"Sri Lanka is the most sought after country for blue sapphires but its production has been affected with China and Bangkok producing synthetic stones on a large scale," he says.

"Every weekend synthetic blue sapphires are auctioned in Bangkok, with buyers purchasing 25 kg upward. The landing cost for these sapphires per kg is Rs 7,000 in India. The blue topaz is also often passed off as blue sapphire."

Mangesh Badrekar of Gemological Institute of India, which claims to be the only testing laboratory funded by the Central government, refuses to give any statistics on the blue sapphires being imported to India. "Diamonds, green emeralds, red rubies, blue and yellow sapphires are the highest sold gemstones in India and abroad. The most desired is the Kashmir sapphire, which is out of production because of the shutting down of the mines. They are priced at Rs 20 lakh per carat," says Badrekar.

He says that they do not give astrological certifications because their focus is on the R&D aspect of the stone and its scientific value.

"There are three types of stones, natural, synthetic and treated. Synthetic stones are created in labs while treated stones are natural stones which are fractured or damaged and whose cracks are filled to give it a natural look. We depend on human eye and machinery to support our claims," he says.

He adds that they certify Bangkok sapphires as genuine but refrain from saying how effective they will be astrologically.

"Not many people can afford to buy natural stones at exorbitant costs and hence they settle for stones which are somewhat nearer to the original stuff. There is nothing wrong in this. Astrologers themselves buy poor quality stones or treated stones and pass them off as good quality stones.If people want to make a fool of themselves by believing that a stone can change their lives how can we be held responsible for that?"

 
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