April 2012 Newsletter: New Sapphire Find in Sri Lanka

It is a rare event in the gems world when there is a major new find of top grade sapphire or ruby. It happened in 1991 when a huge ruby deposit was found in the Mong Hsu district in Burma. It happened again in 1998 in Madagascar when sapphire was discovered near the town of Illaka, and in 2000 when ruby was discovered near Andilamena. But it has been a number of years since a major conundrum discovery, and the world demand for high quality ruby and sapphire continues to exceed the supply.

So recent news from Sri Lanka of a "massive" sapphire find in the southeastern part of the island has created a major buzz in the gems trade. The National Gems and Jewelry Authority (NGJA) of Sri Lanka announced an important new deposit was discovered about 220 km southeast of Colombo, near the town of Katagarama. The sapphire was first discovered in mid-February in soil brought to a road construction site. The soil was traced back to land owned by the Forest Conservation Department. The government moved quickly to secure the 1.3 hectare site and then held an auction on Feb 24th for one year mining rights on 52 individual lots.

The NJGA made bold claims for the new deposit and the auction was an enormous success, with mining rights bringing in more 2 million dollars. The chairman of the NGJA, Prasad Galhena, was quoted as saying that "“We believe that the blue sapphires that were found here are of more worth than the famous Burmese Blue Sapphires and the Kashmir Blue Sapphires." 

News of the discovery quickly reached Bangkok and the GIA lab here sent a team to collect samples. Initial indications are that the material is part of a primary deposit, since the crystals have sharp edges and show no signs of alluvial transport. Some large crystals with a fine deep blue color were found, with most of the material found thus far being quite included.

Mining is now proceeding, and some of the initial enthusiasm has diminished. In fact one of the Sri Lankan news sources has already reported that miners have been disappointed that they have found sapphire in only a few of the lots auctioned at high prices. But it is still too early to draw any conclusions. Clearly there are large sapphire crystals of top color in the area, we are just waiting to see what the yield will be.


Notable Gems from the AJS Collection

This month we feature fine Ceylon sapphires from our collection. Even though the island nation changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972, its beautiful sapphires are still labelled Ceylon in the gem trade. Click on any photo for details and pricing.


4.18 ct Blue Sapphire from Ceylon  [SOLD]

A classic blue sapphire in the rare 4 carat size, with the royal blue color that has made Ceylon sapphire famous. This gem has beautiful crystal and outstanding clarity. We've graded this gem "loupe clean", a clarity grade we hardly ever find in sapphire. Certified by GIT. See all our Blue Sapphires


2.03 ct Hot Pink Sapphire from Ceylon  [SOLD]

Sri Lanka is famous for all colors of sapphire, but the pinks are quite rare. This intense pink is an especially rare color, even more so when found in a very clean and well cut stone over 2 carats. This is simply one of the finest pink sapphires we've owned. Certified by GRS, with the color designation "vivid pink."

See all our Pink Sapphires


8.60 ct Unheated White Sapphire from Ceylon  [SOLD]

Most white sapphires have a tinge of color even after heating. So a pure white unheated sapphire is quite unusual. But for a truly rare white sapphire consider this 8.60 carat unheated Ceylon sapphire. Not only is it a pure diamond white, it is an exceptionally clean stone that we've graded loupe clean. The elegant princess cut maximizes the brilliance and fire of this special gemstone. Certified as unheated by GRS.


7.41 ct Unheated Yellow Sapphire from Ceylon  [SOLD]

Yellow sapphires may sometimes be found in large sizes, but clean unheated material is increasingly rare. This 7.41 ct beauty is distinguished by its soft lemon color and a dazzling radiant cut. Certified as unheated by GRS. See all our Yellow Sapphires


13.97 ct Blue Star Sapphire from Ceylon

Sri Lanka is well known for star sapphires, including the 536 ct Star of India in the American Museum of Natural History. Some months ago we acquired a very fine 13.97 ct specimen. We were so impressed by the exceptional color that we had it set in a platinum ring with two half carat diamonds. This star sapphire is certified by GRS as completely untreated.


3.17 ct Blue Sapphire Cabochon from Sri Lanka

Fine Ceylon sapphires over 2 carats tend to be expensive, but this lovely blue cachochon is an exception. A fine violet blue with very good translucency, this 8.50 x 7.50 ct oval will make a gorgeous ring or pendant. See all our Cabochon Sapphires


News from AJS and the Gems World

  • Arnold is off to Africa this month to buy gems in Kenya and Tanzania. He'll go first to Nairobi in search of fine tsavorite garnet, then head across the border to Tanzania to see what's new in spinel, zircon, sapphire and tanzanite. He'll finish up at the Arusha gem show which has just been revived after a 12 year hiatus.

  • We have starting cutting some gem silica rough and have just added our first pieces to our website. Gem silica (or gem silica chrysocolla) is a rare copper-bearing form of chalcedony quartz, often occurring in a vivid turquoise color. The top grade specimens are translucent and are sought after by collectors. We have rough stone from several mines in Arizona, as well as from a new source in Peru, and we'll be adding more pieces as we cut them. Click here to see our Gem Silica.


Ask the Gem Experts

Each month we answer questions from our customers. We welcome your questions and you can submit a question from our contact page.


What is the difference between jade and jadeite? Are they the same gem? PB, Canada

Jade is one of the oldest gemstones known, with a history stretching back more than 7,000 years. But it was only in 1863 that gemologists discovered that jade is in fact two separate and quite distinct minerals: nephrite and jadeite. Though it can be difficult to tell them apart just by looking, the two varieties differ in hardness, chemical composition and crystal structure. Experts can often detect nephrite by its lower translucency and luster. Nephrite tends to have a resinous luster, while jadeite is more vitreous.


I bought some cabochons and noticed they were unfinished on the bottom, and I noticed several small chips and gouges on the base. Is this just poor polishing? Thanks for your advice. AH, USA

Transparent and translucent cabochons are always finished on the bottom, but opaque cabs usually are not. There are two reasons for that. One reason is that the base doesn't show when set, so any work to finish the base is unnecessary. Another reason is preserving weight -- removing those small chips on the base (the widest part of the gem) can result in significant weight loss, a matter of concern with expensive materials like ruby and sapphire.



All the best in gems,

Arnold, Rung & Ron