By Brecken Branstrator
Two “Kashmir-like” sapphires of exceptional quality and size, weighing 30 carats and 13 carats, from the new source at Bemainty, near the town of Ambatondrazaka, Madagascar
Basel, Switzerland--The Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF is urging the trade to be vigilant about the “Kashmir-like” sapphires from Madagascar now hitting the market.

In October, a new deposit at Bemainty, near the town of Ambatondrazaka, began turning out sapphires.

The source has produced a large amount of blue, fancy colored and padparadscha sapphires of “partly exceptional size and quality,” and appears to be “a new gem source of greater importance than anything we have seen in recent years,” SSEF said in a statement.

In fact, SSEF Director Michael S. Krzemnicki told National Jeweler in an email that the highest quality goods from the source can compete with sapphires from any other gem deposit.

However, the lab has analyzed a number of these “Kashmir-like” sapphires from the new deposit, ranging from 5 to 50 carats, and began noticing in January that many of the stones coming into the lab were accompanied by gemological reports denoting a Kashmir origin when they actually are from Bemainty.

SSEF said it came to the conclusion after observing the gemstones under a microscope and using a number of scientific methods including Raman microspectrometry, UV-Vis absorption spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence and GemTOF for trace element concentration.

20170331 Sapphire zoningAt left is the dense zoning seen in the new sapphires from Madagascar, compared with the block zoning of Kashmir sapphires, pictured at right.
The lab said as soon as it started getting the Kashmir-like sapphires, it initiated research and established stringent criteria to identify the new material and distinguish it from Kashmir sapphires when characteristic features permit.

The work is based on the lab’s decades of experience with origin determination, top-of-the-line analytical information and an extensive collection that is constantly upgraded with gemstones from new deposits.

And while the sapphires coming from Madagascar do have a “Kashmir-like” visual appearance--with a subtle and fine “milkiness” that results in a velvety blue color typical of those that come from Kashmir--there also are a number of telling factors that distinguish goods from the two sources, including differences in clarity, growth zones, color zones and variation in the zircon crystals that appear inside.

(For a more detailed explanation about the differences between the sources, see the lab’s full trade alert.)

Krzemnicki said the trade should be careful when offered Kashmir sapphires, especially in large carat sizes, as this is “highly prized material.”

“We (had submitted to us), during one week of the Basel show, an outstanding amount of large sapphires (that) claimed to be from Kashmir but in reality originated from Madagascar--about 10 stones between 10 and 50 carats. This is beyond any logic, as sapphires from Kashmir above 10 carats are very scarce and--even at SSEF and during a show--not submitted on a daily basis,” he told National Jeweler.

SSEF maintains that the new source in Madagascar has great potential and will be asset to the gem trade, as long as the true origin is correctly disclosed.

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