Buying Gems in India: You Get What You Pay For

India is the motherland of the Jyotish tradition and the art of recommending gemstones based on one’s astrological birth chart. Vedic Astrology and Ayurveda were developed there thousands of years ago to help people acquire greater knowledge of the self, the cultivation of balance, and the promotion of lasting well-being. These sciences prove to hold tremendous appeal and value to this day.

Paradoxically, however, I’m afraid that India is not the ideal place to buy truly effective gemstones for Jyotish purposes.

This statement may come as a surprise to many, but spending my career deep within the wholesale gemstone business and supplying the Vedic Astrology community with gemstones for over 30 years, this is what I know to be true. Let me explain.

I have traveled extensively to nearly all of the gemstone producing countries and cutting centers in the world as a professional gemologist and gem buyer. My 38 years of buying includes over 100 overseas trips and over 2 million air miles, buying over $50 million worth of gemstones annually. My experience is quite unusual, even for a gem dealer.

From 1999 to present, I have been a senior gem buyer for a major US-based TV Shopping Network. During this time my job has been to search out the best sources and prices for colored gemstones on the international wholesale marketplace.

Me visiting a mine in Burma many years ago, a source country for top rubies.

During my tenor as the Senior Gem Buyer, this TV Shopping Network became the largest retailer in the world for colored gemstones. I don’t say this to brag, but to give you a context for understanding my experience with buying gems. (In addition to this, for over 35 years, I’ve been sourcing and buying premium Jyotish gemstones for my own personal company, Astrological Gem International.)

But for now I want to go back and explain why I say with confidence that it is very difficult to find top quality gemstones for Jyotish in India.

Don’t misunderstand me – it’s extremely easy to find plenty of gems used for Jyotish in India. With just a little looking, they seem to be everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find the proper quality gemstone for astrology at a fair market value there.

India does have Jaipur, a major cutting center for colored gemstones. However, it is estimated that over 98% of the gems that are cut and polished in Jaipur are mined in other countries. With a few exceptions for less commonly used gems, India is not the source country for the popular primary/secondary gemstones of Vedic Astrology. (I’ll give you a list of source countries for the best gemstones at the end of this article.)

The main reason India is not a good place to buy effective Jyotish gemstones is because of centuries of local buying and selling tradition: with the exception of the last 25 years, India has been an extremely poor country, so by necessity nearly all the gemstones sold in India for Jyotish had to be very inexpensive and therefore very poor quality.

A typical yellow sapphire bought in India next to a gem of proper Jyotish quality.

Globally, all mines produce a large amount of extremely low quality material. Finer gem quality material can be as little as 1-3% of what is mined.  Cheap gems cost pennies to a few dollars per carat and are not rare – it is even questionable if they should be called “gems” at all due to their substandard quality. From an astrological perspective, they have no real power to change or improve a person’s life.

For over 30 years I’ve been a proponent of highly flawless, untreated, properly colored gemstones for Jyotish because I know with certainty that this is what works.

Quality, flawlessness, lack of treatments, proper color, and a sweet sattvic nature: this is what is truly rare and scarce. The quality of the gemstone is directly related to the power its effect for Jyotish. The very low quality “gems” that are abundantly available throughout India are useless to very weak in potency.

(Learn more about what makes a gemstone the proper Jyotish quality here.)

In addition to being very familiar with the Indian wholesale gem industry, I’ve met with countless individuals – perhaps nearly 1,000 now – who have bought gems in India. They have sought me out for my opinion as to the quality and effectiveness of their purchases. I try to be gentle because in nearly every case, the gems bought were hugely overpriced and/or very low quality and useless for these purposes.

These days, nearly 20-25% of our customers are Indians living in the West who previously bought their Jyotish gemstones in India, often from “family in the business.” (In most cases these are smart, successful professionals, business executives, software developers, doctors, and engineers.) Once I showed them what true, powerful, effective, flawless, untreated Jyotish gemstones looked like, and they could see the difference, nearly all decided to purchase from me. They instinctively knew that I had the expertise and honesty to be trustworthy and all have remained very happy with their new proper quality gemstones over the years.

A customer’s old emerald ring from India next to a true Jyotish quality emerald. All emeralds possess some form of inclusions, but a completely opaque stone will not work for astrology. It should be an open color and as close to eye-clean as possible.

Here are the countries that mine the best quality Jyotish gemstones:

Rubies: Myanmar, aka Burma. Also some from Mozambique and Tanzania, SE Africa.

Unheated Blue, Yellow and White Sapphires: Sri Lanka and also Madagascar, and rarely very fine quality blues from Burma and Kashmir.

Emeralds: Colombia, South America and very occasionally Zambia. There is now a recent and promising new find in Ethiopia too.

Red coral: The best is from the Mediterranean, sourced traditionally out of Italy.

Cat’s Eye for Ketu and Hessonite for Rahu:  Sri Lanka.

Pearls: China is the best source for Jyotish quality pearls at this time. (Certified Natural pearls are exceptionally rare and virtually impossible to find in the proper quality these days, though we usually have one or two available for sale.)

These are the places I’ve journeyed to and sought out the best gems from. However, just knowing where the best gems are mined is not really going to help you obtain a highly effective, untreated, well-selected Jyotish gemstone.

Without the substantial knowledge and experience gained from many decades of buying and selling these kinds of gems, you should never try to do this yourself. The colored stone business is very difficult to gain knowledge and expertise in without making several expensive mistakes along the way. Without this knowledge in place, getting the right quality gemstone from the wholesale market on your own is an extremely difficult task.

Traditionally you’ll need to find someone who is an expert, who can be trusted, and who has extensive experience and impeccable reputation in the field.

We at Astrological Gem International are uniquely qualified to serve you in this complicated area, and we have earned the trust of many thousands of clients throughout the world for this reason.

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