gem origin - Kashmir-like Madagascar sapphire
gem origin - Kashmir-like Madagascar sapphire

Gem Origin Opinions: When Gemology Labs Agree to Disagree on Sapphire Origins


Why do gemology labs sometimes have different gem origin opinions, especially for sapphires? Learn the science and history behind the debate.

18 Minute Read

gem origin = Kashmir-like Madagascar sapphire
14-ct Kashmir-like Madagascar sapphire submitted by Jeffery Bergman to Lotus Gemology, pictured on a background of sapphire rough from Kashmir, India. © Lotus Gemology.

One Gem, Three Opinions

Earth’s geology has a highly mobile history. Greenland was a tropical paradise two hundred million years ago. Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and India were connected one hundred twenty million years ago.

the continents 120 mya - gem origin opinions
The continents, 120 million years ago. © Beastmode22.

When they separated, the land mass that moved northeast became the Indian subcontinent, with the island of Sri Lanka trailing along. Madagascar moved northwest, following the new continent of Africa.

the continents 50 mya - gem origin opinions
The continents, 50 million years ago. © Beastmode22.

With this knowledge, we can begin to understand how and why well-respected gemological laboratories disagree on gemstone origins from time to time.

For gem labs, correctly determining the origins of sapphires presents a significant challenge. The rest of the “Big Three,” emeralds and rubies, just don’t compare. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the occasional sapphire auction with multiple origin opinions from highly respected gem labs. The most notorious example would be this 18.08-ct, unheated natural sapphire offered at Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels auction on December 1, 2015.

unheated, natural sapphire
8.08-ct, unheated, natural sapphire. © Christie’s.
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Jeffery Bergman, SSEF SGC

Jeffery Bergman, SSEF SGC, founder and director of 8th Dimension Gems in Thailand, is an American gem dealer with more than 40 years of experience in gemstone and fine jewelry mining, cutting, wholesaling and retailing. His career has taken him to more than 50 countries and every continent except Antarctica. He has appeared on the BBC, CNN, NBC, ABC and GEO; and has been featured in Time, USA Today, National Geographic, Gems & Gemology and Discovery Channel magazine. He is a regular guest speaker at gem lab seminars and gemological association conferences and universities.

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