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Will Jyotish Quality Gems Soon Be Only a Memory?

By Howard (Hamsavatar) Beckman, GG, PG

Until a fellow gem dealer whose main business is the trade in gems for clients of Vedic astrologers, or jyotishis, coined the terminology “jyotish quality gems”, this was not a term ever used to describe a gemstone. Sure we knew what was necessary for a gemstone to be effective for this purpose, but as gemologists and certified gem appraisers we used gemological terms that were actually descriptive of a gem’s quality. This is the subject of this article and will give the straight unadulterated truth as to what comprises a “jyotish” quality gemstone and how easily obtainable such qualities are and will be in the future.

Let’s start with ruby and all colors of sapphire. The species of these gems is the same and the properties are identical, but for a difference in color. They are optically, physically and chemically identical otherwise. All rubies and sapphires are “corundum”. If corundum occurs in a red color then it is called a ruby and it will transmit the red cosmic ray of the Sun. Using ruby to strengthen the Sun’s potency as understood through the horoscope is extremely effective. If corundum occurs in ANY other color it is called a sapphire. If yellow sapphire it will transmit the blue cosmic ray, which is that emitted by the planet Jupiter. If blue sapphire it will transmit the violet cosmic ray, which is that emitted by the planet Saturn. If white sapphire it will emit the same cosmic color as diamond, the indigo ray, and this is the cosmic color emitted by the planet Venus.

It should be noted that NOT all ruby and sapphire is what we call “gem quality”, which is absolutely necessary for the gems to have benefic and healing effects on the wearer. The requirements for a ruby are that the gem is natural (meaning from the earth and not synthetic) and if treated at all can ONLY have been subjected to what is called by gem laboratories “standard heat treatment”. As ruby is for the source of all planetary light and heat it can take this lower temperature and lesser form of heat without damage.

The clarity should be extremely clear with almost no inclusions seen within the gem. It should be noted that NO sapphires of any color should have been subjected to any form of heat treatment as their potency becomes completely destroyed in the process. The clarity must be “eye clean”, meaning little to be seen within the gemstone but small bits of “silk”, or rutile, and color saturation will determine how potent the gem will be. The greater the saturation and depth of color the more powerful the gem, but NOTE, if the saturation becomes too much it will affect the clarity and thus start to reduce both potency and value. The gem should be a nice crystal or "glass-like" and you should easily see into it, if not easily with the naked eye certainly under magnification. The problem that now ensues today is that newer processes of heat treatment have been discovered and perfected that make a much better looking final product. Today’s heat treatments are almost 100% diffusion heat treatments for not only ruby, but all sapphires as well. This is accomplished by coating the gem crystal with a melted crystalline substance that will "diffuse" the desired color deep into the gemstone. This makes a low quality rather washed out color become deep and vibrant when finished. As iron oxide is what is in ruby that creates the red color, the first diffusion treatments coated the gem with iron oxide and then under massive temperatures it burned the deeper red color into the ruby. Now more recently temperatures hotter than ever used before are used to actually melt the species of gem chrysoberyl (which produces the sought after varieties of “chrysoberyl cats-eye” and “alexandrite”) and this melted chrysoberyl is used to coat the ruby or sapphire to increase its color. Such gems are useless for jyotish purposes and their energy will be “dead”. Unfortunately for us, as the trade is accepting this newer treatment (for they are in the business of selling gems for their beauty and not astrological reasons) making a prettier and less expensive product makes them more affordable for their customers. This is especially so in the depressed economic climate of today. Even worse are the glass-filled varieties that use melted glass to actually fill serious fractures within ruby. These treatments are becoming more and more prevalent so that truly natural sapphires with no heat treatment whatsoever or even just the standard heating that was used previously for ruby are now quickly becoming scarcer and scarcer to find. There are some reputable gem dealers that deal in natural, unheated sapphire and will give certification with each sale of such, but beware of anything cheap in price. Fine gemstones cannot be “cheap” in any case, but the motto “if it sounds too good to be true it usually is” will always be a fact when talking about precious gems. Unless you have the best of contacts in the gem trade and can find someone with the odd natural ruby or a very few left from old stock, they are almost impossible to find anymore. They are already a distant memory to most jewelers and gem traders. You can pretty much be 100% sure that if the ruby OR sapphire being offered to you for purchase is from Thailand or has even been through Thailand from dealer to dealer, it will be heated. Only a few top gem dealers in Thailand have truly natural, untreated ruby or sapphire due to their experience and having the best sources world-wide. Anyone with any experience in the international gem market knows that the Thais are the “kings” of the “heat-treaters” and they are the ones that have created the acceptance for their treatments in the worldwide gem market. Demand guarantees for any sapphires or rubies you buy. No heat treatment is acceptable for sapphires in any instance. No diffusion treatments are acceptable for ruby in any instance. You might as well just forget about buying one if so, at least if for jyotish or ayurvedic purposes.

Most pearls traded today are cultured. What this means is that man induces the mollusk to make the pearl and usually a bead is first placed into the mollusk (oysters usually) with a piece of tissue. This disturbs the mollusk and its defense is that it coats the foreign intrusion with layers of nacre and conchiolin, which it produces, and this is the pearl material. What you see is nacre. If the pearl is x-rayed you would find that the bulk of the “size” is a large bead that is in the center. It is not that cultured pearls have no potency, but have proved to have very little, so if you are wanting a pearl to strengthen the Moon’s effects as per your horoscope, it’s doubtful you will get what you are looking for in buying a cultured pearl. Tissue nucleated pearls have a bit more effect than bead nucleated, but the ultimate best is a natural pearl never touched by man. This is produced when a grain of sand or some other tiny foreign material somehow gets into the mollusk. The mollusk then coats it with the nacre substances and the longer it is in the shell with the mollusk, the larger the pearl will be. Such pearls are becoming so rare that only a very few dealers worldwide even have access to them and prices are extremely expensive. Insist on an x-ray certificate from a gem lab if you are buying a natural pearl for thousands of dollars. Very few exist. The next best thing is a keshi pearl, which is a pearl produced by a mollusk after being disturbed by man’s insertion of a bead, BUT it managed to eject the bead from its shell. Due to the disturbance, though, the mollusk creates the pearl, but the entire thing will be nacre and NO bead in the center. As culturing is getting more advanced and they check the pearl beds more frequently, reinserting beads into mollusks that might reject them, far fewer keshis are on the market today. Those that are available are generally very undesirable shapes, at least for our purposes, and far too small to have any effects. For the most part they are already gone from the market unless a dealer has old stock that was not sold. Color should be white, off white, silver white and in some cases golden colors are desirable. Black pearls are never used for jyotish purposes. One must also be sure that their pearls are not dyed or bleached as this is also common in more inexpensive pearls on the market.

The best red coral comes from the Mediterranean Sea and is mostly controlled by the Italians. It is becoming rarer and rarer as due to man’s devastation of coral reefs worldwide most coral harvesting of rare corals is now banned. Some from the China and Japan seas is of good quality, but not as prevalent as the lower qualities. Most is a cheaper variety from the Seas of China and Japan, but it is not as vibrant color as the Mediterranean. Most coral is treated with a plastic or wax impregnation to make it smooth and unbroken on the surface and with it being so rare the majority of coral coming from the orient is also now dyed red. When I was a young boy my family would buy the best red coral imaginable for about $1 per carat from Italy. Today such quality is hardly to be found and when it is the pieces are smaller and cost $100 to $150 per carat. Oriental is less expensive but simply not of the same quality. Cheap “coral” is usually fake and made of plastic.

Emeralds should be a nice medium to deep green color and although we tolerate more inclusions in emerald than we do, for instance, in sapphire, as it is a far more imperfect stone generally, it must still have only a minimum of visible inclusions to be effective. (Those who are expert in this science should be consulted as to what is acceptable.) It should be a nice glass-like crystal and as with other crystalline gems if it becomes oversaturated with color that it affects the clarity of the stone, it will be less effective and far less valuable. The treatment for emeralds, which can have many fractures within them, has always been using cedar oil to fill the fractures. (Emeralds cannot be heat treated, so don’t worry about that.) The refractive index (the angle at which the light passing through a transparent substance bends) is just about identical to that of emerald. Therefore when the fractures are filled they become almost invisible to the eye, unless one is trained in examination. The emerald must have fractures reaching the surface to allow oiling so the highest quality emeralds will not have any inclusions reaching the surface. Still, a small number of small fractures that are oiled is not harmful and will not be an impediment to the gem having the potency to strengthen the cosmic rays of Mercury. However, stones with too many fractures, even if filled, will not be potent and may also be harmful. The least imperfections the better, but when it comes to emerald most people must accept some bit of insignificant imperfections to be able to afford one. Completely flawless is not necessary and such a gem will be phenomenally expensive to most buyers. Today there are also polymers being used in place of the oil in the emerald trade that ends up making a lesser quality stone look far better than it is and can mask most fractures to the point where they are very difficult for many jewelers to possibly tell, what to speak of laypersons. For jyotish purposes these are not acceptable as they will almost certainly be of a far inferior quality to begin with in most instances, although again the finished product “looks” beautiful. Far worse than this is the latest cheating to hit the market from Colombia. Emeralds that are actually assembled with smaller pieces with pulverized emerald material and glue have been seen in the trade. It was only discovered when jewelers sent emerald to experts to “reoil” the gems and when the emeralds were placed in a solution to remove the oil they literally fell apart. As with all gems, if you can’t afford good quality then it is better not to buy any at all. A quality emerald will have wonderful effects in strengthening Mercury’s cosmic rays, but buying something of low quality will do nothing positive. Quality is never cheap, yet having said that the higher up the rung a dealer is to the actual importer (given they are also honest and reputable) the better the price will naturally be.

Diamonds are generally not treated, although there are some and they are also being made synthetically as well. Always insist on a GIA or other reputable gem laboratory report when buying a diamond. These are controlled by the diamond monopoly and deals do not exist. Anyone who is a diamond dealer will be paying pretty much the same price, which is controlled by this worldwide monopoly. For jyotish reasons the lowest grade acceptable and therefore effective will be G color and VS2 clarity. Prices vary thousands of dollars per carat from one grade to the next so the only way to be 100% sure you are getting what you paid for is insisting on a recent gemological laboratory certificate. Today even most jewelers will not buy without one, so what of a layperson?

Hessonites are the one gem, a variety of garnet used for Rahu, that is not treated. The best should be extremely clear and of a cinnamon color. They are still relatively inexpensive so cheating has not been found among most in this business’ knowledge. Only some small dealers selling obvious garbage quality that will be blackish or cloudy is a pitfall for those looking for the absolute cheapest stones available. If a gem is not attractive then you can be sure it is not of a suitable quality for any reason.

Chrysoberyl cats-eye is still available in good qualities and treatments are virtually nonexistent. The important thing here is that it is of good quality to have the effects sought for transmitting the energy to strengthen the cosmic ray of the planet Ketu. The gem can be from opaque to translucent and it is the more translucent variety that has the most potency and the highest value. Opaque cats-eyes are much cheaper, but also far less effective. The gem will have an “eye” at the top, which when hit with light will show beautifully. It should be white and fairly straight across the length of the gemstone. When two penlights are held together vertically, one slowly turned towards the left side of the gem (beginning from the very top) while the other is turned towards the right side of the gem, the eye will open. When slowly brought back to the position of being together along the vertical length of the eye, the eye will close. The colors will vary from dark blackish brown to green to a honey color. The dark blackish brown gems are the least desirable and lowest quality. Both the better and more translucent green and honey colors are more desirable and highly prized, with the “milk and honey” variety (denoting a honey color with a white milky color eye) being the finest and of course also most expensive of the chrysoberyl cats-eyes. It should be noted that this variety of cats-eye that conducts the infrared ray and therefore will correspond to Ketu is of the species “chrysoberyl” only. There are other species of gems that have varieties that also produce cats-eyes, but they do NOT conduct and transmit the infrared wavelength of light. The general public does not know this fact. Unknowledgeable persons looking for something cheap can easily obtain a “cats-eye”, but it will be of the gem species “apatitite” or even a type of “quartz” usually which has a variety of cats-eye. These varieties of cats-eye are not effective for jyotish purposes, so you want to be sure that the cats-eye is a “chrysoberyl cats-eye” and not a variety of any other species of gemstone.

So, will jyotish quality gems become only a memory before long? More than likely, yes. We still have a bare minimum of access to good quality natural rubies, but soon they will be unobtainable as supplies of fine quality are scarce and the diffusion treatments are becoming the norm. Natural pearls and good keshi pearls are exceedingly rare now and cultured will soon become the only thing obtainable. Except for the wealthier sector of society all pearls will certainly have to be cultured. Except for the wealthiest section of society natural untreated ruby is already beyond the reach of most buyers. At least for the moment there is a supply of natural, unheated yellow and blue sapphire, but almost exclusively of Sri Lankan origin. We see almost no African or Thai yellow sapphires that are not heat treated, nor do we see much blue sapphire that is unheated from any other world sources. The better qualities are becoming more costly, but still within the reach of many buyers. Demand a guarantee and insist on Sri Lankan origin sapphires. White sapphires that are unheated are actually harder to obtain as most will have a light shade of color and are therefore sent to the heat treatment facilities to try to bring about a deeper color and make them saleable. As there is little or no demand for white sapphire in the normal gem and jewelry trade there is not enough demand for them generally to make it worthwhile for dealers at the source to worry about trying to sort enough stock for the jyotish market. We generally only find enough white sapphires for our clients by buying large parcels of mixed color natural sapphires in Sri Lanka, taking out those few really white ones we find in it, then simply selling the parcel back onto the wholesale market right there in Sri Lanka. We find that emeralds of African origin, at least from our family’s gem cutters in Jaipur, can be purchased far more reasonably than similar quality from Colombia. There are also less unscrupulous cheaters finding new ways to hide fractures and we have never seen nor heard of any “assembled” emeralds coming from the gem cutters that deal in African material. The best qualities are still not cheap, but reasonable and an extremely worthy investment monetarily speaking. As with all things "you get what you pay for". Precious gems are the most rare of commodities and pass the test of time in being highly prized and valued. Buy quality and you will never be disappointed and the value will always be there.

In closing I would say that if you were looking for a fine quality natural gem for jyotish purposes, look for a reputable dealer whose reputation precedes them. Do not be lulled into a false security by hearing that one seller is more “spiritually” in tune to be able to choose the right gems, nor with adjectives such as “sattvic” or that they have a particular cosmic feel to them. Qualified experts are who you wish to deal with and not just jewelry salespersons when looking for guaranteed natural precious gems. The most experienced gemologists, certified by any of the top international gemological institutes, and those that are also qualified appraisers and members of the most reputable international appraisal organizations are the best suited to guarantee the best quality gemstones. And you will know unequivocally that you are getting exactly what you are looking for in a quality natural, untreated precious gemstone. With those qualifications met the gem will be capable of being a tool for the reasons you are buying it, which for most reading this article will be jyotish or ayurvedic prescription.

Howard Beckman, Graduate Gemologist GIA, Senior Member National Association of Jewelry Appraisers, PG

The Sanskrit name for the PGA was composed by HONORARY PATRON Prof. Dr. Satya Vrat Shastri, Padma Shri