Journey to the Stone - Padparadsha Sapphire
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In this episode of Journey to the Stone, we talk about one of the most difficult Sapphires in the world to find. One of the stones I love the most, and one of the stones, I made it my sole purpose every time I buy rough—and I buy hundreds and hundreds of kilos of rough Sapphire every month. Today we talk about the legendary Padparadscha Sapphire.
There is a whole world within the world of Padparadscha Sapphire. Now, Padparadscha Sapphire is, by far, one of the most coveted precious gems in the world. This particular gem is really, really unique. It gets its color from the trace elements of Iron and Chromium. But it is very rare when you see the perfect mix of Iron and Chromium creating the crazy lotus color that is naturally created by the hand of Mother Nature.
Now, a lot of stones are heated to reach this, but to find it in the natural form is almost impossible. You're talking about one in a hundred million Sapphires. It's extremely coveted and extremely rare. So let me take you to where it all began. Let's go to Sri Lanka.
The Padparadscha was named in Sri Lanka. It was one of the most favored gems by the Maharajas during their time. This particular stone is named after the lotus flower. So when you're looking at the perfect Padparadscha, you’re looking at a perfect pink-orange mix. Now, this is because Chromium and Iron penetrate the crystal structure, and it's very, very rare to see it perfectly crystallized. So if you have a Padparadscha that is crystal, that you can see into it, that is not hazy or anything of the sort—you're looking at big money, five digits up. And it's very, very, very uncommon, if the color is truly a Padparadscha.
Now, let's talk about how it all began. So these particular gems are found among the Sapphires that come out of all different parts of Sri Lanka, because they represent one in 100 million Sapphires. They're very uncommon, because pinks are rare. But we do get pinks, right? We get violets, we get blues, we get oranges, we get all the colors of the spectrum in rough coming out of Sri Lanka. But this is the perfect mix of two colors to create the legendary Padparadscha.
You know, there's different types of Padparadschas that different, particular people collect. There's the sunrise color all the way to the sunset color. And I'm going to explain about that. The sunrise color, I would say, is probably 80% pink to 20% orange. And then it goes all the way to the sunset color, which is the exact opposite: 80% orange, 20% pink.
Now, there is a whole world and a whole opinion within the gemological associations of the world: what they accept as Padparadscha and what they don't. It all really depends on the laboratory, but the range can be 80/20, the range could be 70/30. Some labs only will give Padparadscha determination to 65/35 going in each color range. So it really depends on the laboratory.
But listen, if you can get a certificate that states Padparadscha, you're in good shape, because they're pretty much respected. If the lab is a reputable lab, and if the gemologist who certified it is reputable.
So when we're talking Padparadscha, we're talking about something that is rare, it is collectible, it's one in a hundred million Sapphires. And no joke, I move about 1,000 to 1,200 kilos of Corundum every month. That is my core business: wholesaling, cutting factories all over Thailand, all over the world. And I tell you, my core business is buying rough from all different locales. So I'm going to get into that in a minute, where Padparadscha is discovered, besides the legendary Sri Lanka. But it does represent a very minuscule amount of the material in the natural form.
Now, I saw a lot of rough. For example, I'll take you over to Ilakaka. I was one of the largest suppliers of rough Sapphire into the Chanthaburi and the world market of Ilakaka Sapphire at the time. When the discovery of Ilakaka happened 20-odd years ago, I was there, I was aggressive, I was buying rough like no tomorrow. And we did have a lot of Padparadschas that came out of Ilakaka. Predominantly after heat treatment, once they were exposed to 1,800 degrees of heat. A lot of times the silk would reduce, and the colors would improve, and there you would see an orangey-pink saturation. They still get certified as Padparadscha in almost every lab.
Kat Florence, she's a purist. She only sells Padparadscha that is 100% unheated, which is like looking for the needle in the haystack. It's the D Flawless dilemma. The reason why she will only use D Flawless in her jewelry is because she's a purist.
Every other major brand in the world sells VVS1. It's just the way it is. They also sell heated Padparadscha in most cases. Some of the most important Padparadschas out there are heated. And all that's happened was you took a natural Sapphire; you put it into a crucible at 1,800 degrees; you heated that stone. And it's sort of an aging process of what Mother Nature would have done over another billion years, etc. And therefore, you get a Padparadscha.
But Kat, no! If it ain't natural unheated, it ain’t Padparadscha in her world. But anyway, that's a different story. But if you've got a Kat Florence Padparadscha, you know what you got, you know the rarity and you know the collectibility.
So I'll take you: this is where it all began, it started in Sri Lanka. And we get this very sporadically. You buy 100 kilos, you maybe get one stone. It could be a 00.25 carat, could be a 00.50 carat, something like that. But it's not big sizes. You get a big Padparadscha, you're talking big, big money: $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, a carat in 2.00, 3.00, 4.00, or 5.00 carat sizes.
And if you can get above 10.00 carat, you slap yourself and wake yourself up, because you're dreaming. You're dreaming. Good quality Padparadscha. Good color, perfect mix. Unheated, natural. 10.00 carat up. Big, big money. Big money. You got lots of money coming to you. Lots of money. They're just very, very uncommon. Something about when you mix Chromium and Iron together within the crystal structure, it's almost impossible to get clean. And it's very, very difficult to get it in large sizes.
So from Sri Lanka, I started going to Ilakaka. Now, Ilakaka was a crazy area. If you don't know what happened with Ilakaka, okay, we're talking about southern Madagascar. Now, nobody could imagine this would happen. Literally, I'm telling you, within 30 days of the discovery of the Ilakaka mine in Madagascar, there were 20,000 miners. They built a town. I've never seen anything like it. They built a town. There were gambling stations, there were restaurants, there was everything there. It was a town with 20,000 people living, and they were just mining randomly everywhere for Pink Sapphire.
The Thais were flying in, because the Thais are the number one buyers of rough Sapphire in the world, when it comes to material that needs heat treatment or heat enhancement. And because the majority of the heating is done in Chanthaburi, Thailand. So they were flying in. It was crazy. It was chaos. It was like the gold rush in California was: wow, 20,000 people, boom, town built along this road. Mines going up left, right and center. You’re discovering pinks, greens, blues, all different varieties of color, coming out of Ilakaka. Crazy, crazy times.
And then: I'll give you the next locale that was found. Now, we fast forward about ten years, going into the Didy location. Now, Didy was very short-lived, lived for only about nine months. This was in a national reserve. Now the Didy Deposit—really interesting as well—I was one of the first guys into the city. This grabbed a lot of attention, because the Didy deposit produced some Sapphires that really will rival the most important colors in the world, like the Kashmir, the Burma, etc. It also produced some amazing Padparadschas as well as some amazing Rubies.
And the story of this gem was actually quite interesting, because you had some illegal loggers who are not supposed to be, obviously, taking, logging in the middle of a national forest. And basically, they pulled down this tree or whatever and found these two rocks, didn't know what the heck was going on with that. Took them into the capital. Put them in his pocket, took them into the capital, sold them to a friend of mine, who paid $20,000.
I remember when he paid $20,000 for the stones. He showed them to me. I literally fell off my chair. $20,000 he paid for the stones, right? I tried to buy them for $50, $60, $80. Right? $100. That was my final offer.
He went back to Sri Lanka with those stones. He sold them for $600,000. $600,000! And then they went to auction, fetching $2,000,000. Crazy days.
Now, what happened with Didy is: all of a sudden, 10,000 of the miners in Ilakaka migrated to Didy. It was like, crazy. They just grabbed the town and started moving to Didy. I remember when Dr. Peretti came in by helicopter from GRS Swiss Lab, everybody was rushing to Didy to see what the heck was going on there with all these different discoveries. And then the military came in and said, “No, no, no, no mining in the national forest.” And they shut that down.
I mean, good for them. They came in and they shut it down. It was a matter of a week or so, and everybody was removed. Everybody started walking back. And it was a crazy time, so good on them. That's what happened.
I was in very early days. I got in and out when there were only a couple of hundred people mining in the area, and basically got out some amazing collectible pieces at the time. But that was a very short-lived deposit. But it produced some of the most amazing Padparadschas as well. And I collected those and held on to them since literally 2012. So we're looking at around ten years I've been holding onto those really gem-quality stones.
I give them to Kat every once in a while, but they're finite. There is no more coming out of that particular material. I also collect Padparadscha that comes out of the Mogok Stone Tract. These are extremely rare. Now, Mogok doesn't produce. It produces some of the most important Rubies in the world, but it doesn't produce Padparadscha. Surprisingly, not a lot of Padparadschas coming out of the Mogok Stone Tract. So when I see them, I collect them. Especially around heated, I'm like, oh my goodness, Jackpot! Burmese unheated natural Padparadscha! The unattainable. So I collect those as well. But they're very, very, very uncommon. So don't hold your breath to see one of those. I think Kat, in history, has sold one or two pieces only. And I've got a couple of stones that I have on display in museums, and that's about it. Just very, very uncommon.
All Padparadschas are rare. You have to understand that. Whether you go sunrise or sunset or perfectly the lotus flower in the middle, they're all extremely rare. You must understand the importance of this Sapphire, because it is one of the most difficult Sapphires in the world to find, especially if you're going above 1.00 carat. If you go above 1.00 carat, it reduces your chance dramatically. If you go above 3.00 carats, you're not talking one in a hundred million, you’re talking one in… I mean, just like, one a year. They're very rare to find: top top gem, perfect color Padparadschas above 3.00 carat, 4.00 carat, 5.00 carat. And they demand huge prices at auction. And they're very, very coveted.
So as a guy who sells like over 1,000, 1,200 kilos of rough Sapphire and Ruby every month, I can tell you Padparadscha is very close to my heart, and something I really try to collect when I get it. You know, the majority of the Padparadschas I see right now, I get it very sporadically out of Sri Lanka. So basically they'll be pan mining in the river, and they'll pull out a stone and there it'll be: a Padparadscha. I tell you, it's almost impossible to buy it from the miners. If you have a Padparadscha in Sri Lanka, it's very difficult to get. But every once in a while you'll be able to get a deal, and that's what I focus on. Because I buy so much.
So a lot of times they might have collected, like, 50 kilos of rough material over a period of 3 to 6 months or whatever, out of pan mining with their whole family. And they have one big stone. And I get a good deal because I buy it all. Because I sell rough as my core business, but I'll take that Padparadscha as my prize! And that's how I get the Padparadschas coming into the collection.
Kat only focuses on the best. So if you've ever seen a Kat Florence Padparadscha, some notable stones she's actually worked with. She's done about four or five of my 10.00 carat up Padparadschas. They're extremely rare, and there's no chance they're coming back. I mean, you see those once every five, six years I'll run across a stone that I can cut into a 10.00 carat. You'll see some notable 2.00, 3.00 carat sizes, 4.00 carat sizes coming out of the Didy deposit. But I think I only had like 20 stones in total. And that's the end of that era.
You get some Sri Lankans randomly come in a 5.00 carat, a 3.00 carat, a 2.00 carat. Very, very limited. I mean, I've bought a lot of antique Padparadschas in the past, stones that I actually buy from miners who have held on to these crystals and had them for multiple generations as well. Because this is a historical gem that dates back and has been collected for over 100 years. So this is something that even the Maharajas of ancient India wanted. Even the kings and the people who traded those routes at that period all wanted Padparadscha. It's just a color that is remarkable. Whether you're getting the orangey-pink or the pinkish-orange, they're all unique. They're all special.
If you've got good crystal, and you've got an unheated stone, pat yourself on the back. It's only getting more and more difficult, with Ilakaka going out to play, with the Didy Sapphire deposit not producing anything right now, and Sri Lanka still pan mining after all these years. Most likely, Padparadscha: we will see very, very few in the future to come.
So thank you for listening to my episode about Padparadscha. You know what to do. Remind yourself to be reminded when I make a new podcast episode. Whatever you guys call this thing, right? Always trying education. If, you know, I think they have a button there that says “click on me if you want to be updated.” Usually, I put out my podcast every week on Monday. Occasionally, I do it with other people along my journeys. Thank you for listening. Glad to educate you about the legendary Padparadscha Sapphire.
And remember, if you have a Padparadscha, hold on. The value is only going up and up and up, because the supply is going down and down and down. Welcome to my world. Everything is finite. Hunting the world's rarest gems is not an easy task. Love you all. See you in the next episode.