The market for gemstones in Myanmar is one of the most vibrant and active in the world. Our natural resources have long been renowned for their quality and desirability. In particular, rubies and sapphires both come from the corundum family, with rubies being red and sapphires being any other colour but red. Rubies exhibit the “asterism” effect, better known as the “star” effect, which is one of their most prized characteristics. Natural rubies come in red, blue, purple, pink, white (clear), gray and black (both silver and gold stars).
With exciting new times in Myanmar come exciting new opportunities, and I have been speaking to an increasing number of people in the country recently who are considering making an online gemstone purchase to compare markets. There are certain things that you will need to consider, as the online market for fake gemstones is on the rise, even on the more reputable and popular sites like Ebay.
1) Ensure that the person you are buying the gemstone from has a good return policy.
2) Bear in mind that the colour of the actual gemstone will almost certainly not have been accurately reproduced neither by the camera nor the computer screen on which you are viewing it.Each computer screen is different in terms of its calibration and some online sellers have been known to digitally enhance the colour of the piece in order to increase its desirability.
3) Make sure that you check the Feedback section of the seller/store’s account. This is extremely important. If there are a large number of comments, you can use filters to select negative or neutral comments.
As I said, our domestic market is extremely exciting, to say the least, and in such a market there will always be those who wish to defraud consumers by counterfeiting desirable items. A major problem that stems from such an industry with regards to rubies and sapphires are the synthetic or “lab grown” stones, often referred to as “manmade”. In terms of the online market, there are probably more manmade corundum stones on sale than there are genuine articles. Key to spotting such items is looking for an overly transparent stone, in which the star is easy to define. In most cases this is indicative of a manmade ruby or sapphire.
There is also a treatment done to natural stones called “diffusion”, which improves asterism to make the star easier to see, but most stones that have been diffused are much darker and more opaque. As mentioned earlier, genuine rubies and sapphires come in a variety of colours, but synthetic varieties only come in red and blue.
Other stones on the market (including Star Garnets, found mainly in India and the state of Idaho in the US) are occasionally mistaken for rubies or sapphires (and can be used fraudulently as such), but they generally have fewer rays, which is the most effective method of determining the difference (garnets having four to six rays, corundums having six to 12 rays).
Hopefully this quick guide will save you the trouble and embarrassment of making a risky yet avoidable online purchase. With a bit of vigilance and due diligence, the internet is a safe and often preferred means of shopping.