Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to Identify a Yellow Sapphire

How to Identify a PUKHRAJ

Yellow Sapphire or pukhraj is a semi precious stone which is often recommended by astrologers for enticing the goodwill of Jupiter in their birth charts.

Technically, even though only a natural yellow sapphire qualifies as a Pukhraj, however jewelers and con men often try to mislead people with misnomers, synthetics and imitations. There is a very fine line difference between ethical disclosure of information and legal disclosure. Most of these con men rely on the ethical disclosure or rather not disclosing information which is unethical.

In this blogpost I have listed ways in which you can minimize the risk of being mislead or cheated while buying a Pukhraj or a Yellow Sapphire.


Why is a pukhraj is more expensive than most colored stones
  • Because of its astrological demand. Not only is pukhraj suggested to most believers for good health, temperament and other positive personal enrichment, but also it is 1 stone which astrologically does not harm any wearer. The demand is very high for good quality pukhraj
  • Rarity: In good color and good clarity, yellow sapphire is a fairly rare stone especially in larger sizes that are usually recommended by astrologers.
  • It belongs to the Corundum family. Technically, a pukhraj is yellow sapphire, or the 'yellow' colored stone from the corundum family of gemstones. When this stone is red in color it is called "Ruby", when it is blue then it is called "Sapphire", when it is orange it is called "Padprasha" and any other color is denoted by the color name - sapphire , eg purple sapphire, pink sapphire, green sapphire etc.
  • Corundum is 9 on the Moh's scale of hardness which makes it very good for everyday wear
  • It is a gorgeous stone which looks rich and elegant. It has been given a lot of credit by designers over a period of time which only enhances its value
Synthetic Pukhraj

When sapphire is found in the nature and is only cut and polished by machine/ man, without any other interference to enhance or edit its physical properties, it is considered to be natural. When the same chemical, physical and molecular composition is recreated by man, the new product is known as Synthetic Yellow Sapphire.

Astrologically, I cannot comment on how this would make any difference to the wearer as compared to a natural sapphire.

Chemically and physically the stone tests the same as its natural counterpart unless very high level testing is conducted or some visual 'imperfections' or indications of synthetic building of the stone are present.

This is one of the most difficult testing types for pukhraj. However, like I already mentioned, that if you are getting a synthetic and it is declared the value of that stone is much lower than a natural one and yet astrologically it may not even matter for you to buy a synthetic stone. It is important however that you know that your stone is synthetic so that you pay for what you get and no more...

Imitation of a Pukhraj:

The imitation stone of a pukhraj is the one that will 'look' like a real pukhraj but it is essentially not the same in chemical or molecular structure. Anything including a glass, plastic, other natural/ synthetic stones, some non-precious stones etc can be used for imitation stones.

Astrologically unless it has only to with the color, this would not suffice your needs.

The hardness, the refractive index, the look and definitely the price will differ between a pukhraj and its imitation. Imitation stones are usually used for visual appeal and cost saving only. These can be as inexpensive as a piece of glass or as expensive as a yellow diamond.

Treated Sapphire:

This is probably the biggest challenge when trying to predict the value of your pukhraj. Treatments can be temporary in which case they wear off over a period of time or they can be permanent, in which case the chemical or molecular changes are permanent.

Treatments are done on stones to enhance the color, clarity, value or sometimes to create homogenetity. This is a fair enough practice as long as it is declared clearly so that you pay only for what you are buying and no more. 
 
How to 'see' the difference between a Pukhraj and any other stone:

Essentially, it is very difficult for a person without sufficient gemological experience to distinguish between a synthetic pukhraj and a real one and in most cases even an imitation. However, by process of elimination, you can fairly well rule out any misnomers and imitations.

COLOR
  • Color is one of the best giveaways for imitation sapphire.
  • A pukhraj is a very elegant yellow which is neither greenish nor orangish
  • Look out for similar colors of Citrine, Yellow/ Golden Topaz and yellow Tourmaline.
  • Citrine has a slightly greenish hue, a golden topaz will lean towards an orangish appeal whereas a yellow tourmaline will be a lot more intense in color. When your 'pukhraj' looks greenish, brownish, orangish or very intense yellow, then definitely consider further testing or appraisal
  • Each of these 3 imitations are fairly expensive in good quality but nothing close to the value of a yellow sapphire
  • Blended color - Many stones by nature can be multi colored but a yellow sapphire cannot naturally have any other color in the same rock. It will be various degrees of light and dark yellow - mostly colorless to a more vibrant yellow, but never a green and yellow or orange and yellow blending in the same rock. So any such coloration will probably a tourmaline, quartz or glass etc
HARDNESS
  • Look closely at the surface, edges and corners of your stone. Use a loupe or a magnifying glass or if possible a microscope. If you have blemishes, scratches or other signs of wear and tear especially such that occur when it may have come in contact with other stones, your stone may be a fake 'pukhraj'
  • Yellow sapphire, corundum is a very hard stone. It is not the hardest but still, under normal wearing conditions, it should not get all scratched up etc. So indication of excessive wear and tear CAN be an indication of imitation stones
  • If you suspect fraud here, clean your stone and then look at it again, sometimes grease can look like scratches.
  • These scratches and blemishes will be more obvious in glass, plastic and CZs
WEIGHT
  • If you have a loose stone, this is easier... yellow sapphire is a fairly heavy stone and you can get exact specific gravity and weight of your stone for further testing
  • If your stone is already set in metal then you will need to use estimation and guess work which is good if you already have fair amount of experience handling stones
  • If not, then this is not really a great method... skip to the next
FEEL
  • This is what MOST jewelers told me when I was an internee... FEEL the stone. Especially to distinguish between a topaz and a sapphire
  • Hold the stone firmly between your index finger and thumb and 'rub' its belly firmly by sqeezing it. If it feels smooth and soft, it is a Pukhraj, it if it gritty or rough-ish, then it is most likely not a pukhraj
  • I personally dont trust this either because I do not believe in tales or because I dont trust jewelers as a general rule ;-p
 INCLUSIONS
  • Now this is a more scientific and reliable way of ruling out imitations AND synthetics of yellow sapphire
  • For this you will definitely require a loupe, appropriate light and as much experience as you can get
  • Look inside the stone for inclusions including little black knots, bubbles and feathers
  • Bubbles - almost a definite surity that you are holding a piece of glass or a synthetic stone UNLESS... unless you somehow got hold of an EXTREMELY rare natural sapphire with a bubble trapped inside - either ways, discard it or spend a bit on getting it tested depending on where you got it from :-)
  • Black knots- these could be natural but in most cases, if they look like little bits of 'iron' balls or pieces then they most likely are residue of synthetic stones - get the stone tested further
  • Feathers - these are one of the inclusions in natural stones but they do appear very frequently in synthetic stones and in imitations as well... beware !
  • Spiderweb - these are usually an indication of synthetics but they can look very similar to a natural stone as well - test further
  • Needles - Unless these curve even mildly, these are usually an indication of natural stones... in other priceless stones such as diamonds sometimes 'needles' are actually the 'hole' created by laser to 'burn out' the inclusions. In other stones, such as some tourmaline, ruby, sapphire etc these are natural inclusions caused by nature and are very much a part of the stone
VALUE
    • This is a fairly tricky statement to make but a very practical one to be honest. This is not what most jewelry background people will reveal, but honestly, if a Deal is too good to be true, then it most likely is NOT TRUE !!!
  • If your pukhraj looks like it is a steal, then DEFINITELY get it tested. Especially if you are buying it from a jeweler
HIGH QUALITY
  • If the stone you are looking at has a stunning yellow and very clean, then please be aware that if it is a pukhraj, it has GOT to be more pricey than most other colored stones
  • It will be very rare
  • It is more likely to be a synthetic than stones of lower quality
  • Since it will be more expensive than other stones of lower quality, it requires more attention and testing
  • Since it has 'no' inclusions, you can hardly rule out any of the above listed inclusions or issues so please take professional help with determining its value and identity
MISNOMERS
  • Uma Sapphire - A company that creates synthetic sapphire - many jewelers will try to sell sapphire under this name to make it sound mysterious - these are usually synthetics
  • Golden Sapphire - This is sometimes a misnomer used to increase the 'aspirational' value of your regular sapphire. Most of the times, a 'golden' or yellow topaz is called 'golden sapphire'
  • Peela Neelam - Peela means yellow and neelam is sapphire, but this is usually a denotation given to an imitation or to treated sapphire
  • Hydro Sapphire - This is the name give to some synthetic stones, but are not even sapphire - so these are imitations of synthetic sapphire
  • Surya mukhi patthar - Means sun-faced-stone - Usually yellow Topaz is sold under this misnomer since it has an orangish look
  • Golden Sapphire - This would technically mean yellow sapphire, but if your jeweler uses this phrase, think twice about what you are buying. This misnomer is usually used to 'enhance' the verbal value of the pukhraj to raise the cost
  • Any other 'stunning' association that is given as a prefix or precursor to your sapphires name
BUY IT FROM A RELIABLE SOURCE
  • This is extremely vital. Buy your stone from a knowledgeable and honest jeweler. Remember if your jeweler himself does not know about half the scams that happen in the industry then how can you rely on him to get you a 'good' value piece?
  • If your jeweler is looking at building a business with reputation and branding, he will put his personal effort in making sure that whatever he sells to you will be true to its word. Still, since I do not trust jewelers, please make sure he gives you the information about your purchase in written with a company stamp or official signature
  • Definitely make sure that the return, exchange and upgrade policies are very clearly given to you in WRITTEN - BEFORE you make your purchase. I have several callers with grudges against old reputed jewelers who 'refused' to do anything about the exchanges or returns etc since its not 'written anywhere' !!!
  • You will need at least a few weeks for testing your stone - ask the jeweler to get you a certificate from an autonomous body or else agree on complete refund if you get it tested by yourself and that reveals some issues
CERTIFICATION
  • Most jewelers will give you a 'certificate' but read the fine print. What are they stating... IN CASE some years down the road you find out that the stone you bought is not what you bought it as and you have to file a lawsuit... what do you have on your certificate which will nullify the case
  • Most of the times, the 'certificate' clearly states somewhere in the bottom corner or the back of the card that the jeweler will not bear responsibility for the mis-identification of the stone at the time of purchase - please find this section and question - you do not want this if you are paying for what they are telling you !
  • The only certificate that I trust is the one given by GIA. Despite a few issues somewhere in the past regarding their integrity, I honestly choose to ignore all masala news about GIA, since I have personally seen their working and standards. If your stone is still not set in jewelry, you can still send it to GIA for identification.
  • APPRAISAL is not the same as identification, so to get your jewelry appraised, you will need to look for a good appraiser who will have to identify your stone to actually give you a value for the product
COMMON SENSE
  • This is the MOST vital information that will tell you whether what you are buying is actually a pukhraj or a scam or misinformation
  • Experience may be priceless, but dont just go by the experience of moms and aunts blindly... back up their experience with your common sense. They may have been fooled by clever mis-doers forever and they would still not know it. You want to be safe, use their experience in better forms such as the practicality of wearing a jewelry piece or the design etc... 
WHEW!!!
I'm sure if you managed to read the ENTIRE blog, by now you have realized that there is NO SURE WAY OF DETERMINING the true identity of your pukhraj so if you really think it matters to you and if you want to be sure, get it tested !!!

PS: Just in case you want to see some untreated, natural GORGEOUS pukhraj... visit THE NATURAL SAPPHIRE COMPANY I love this company for their simple rule - they charge you but they give you the REAL stuff !!!

Write to me if you have any questions or if you need more gyaan ;-p
surbhi@jewelsutra.com
732-986-8132
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