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Romancing the Stones: An Interview with JB
by Tony Ellis
Tony Ellis interviews JB, GIA Graduate Gemologist, about using Jyotish gemstones to alleviate suffering, improve one's life, and bring one closer to the Divine. JB advises people to follow their heart when choosing a gem.
This article originally appeared in Issue #132, April/May 2007 of The Mountain Astrologer magazine (www.mountainastrologer.com). Reprinted with permission.
The science of Vedic astrology, or Jyotish, as it is known in Sanskrit, uses high-quality natural gemstones for remedial purposes, to increase fortune, improve health, and generally protect the wearer from harm. Gemstones are prescribed using a person's birth chart (prashna), which is calculated according to a very precise time, date, and place of birth. Gems can strengthen a planet that is weak or protect the wearer from negative planetary influences.
They can also be recommended according to different planetary periods in a person's chart, called dashas. Each planet has a corresponding gemstone (ratna); for example, emeralds are for Mercury, and diamonds, for Venus. There are also secondary stones (uparatnas) that can be substituted when a person's budget will not allow a more expensive primary gemstone.
In the following interview, Tony Ellis talks to JB, founder and president of the JB Company, one of America's leading suppliers of high- quality gemstones for astrological purposes, about his experience in the business and some of the common misconceptions about prescribing gemstones.
JB is a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America residence program. Besides being an expert on Jyotish-quality gemstones, JB is one of the nation's primary experts in colored gemstones and is frequently quoted in trade journals. He is also senior gemstone buyer for Jewelry Television, and in this capacity he is responsible for purchasing tens of millions of dollars' worth of loose gemstones per year. In almost 30 years in the business, JB has circled the globe many times, seeking gemstones at their source. In his quest for the best stones, he has sometimes entered the world of Indiana Jones, having guns pointed at him in the remote Mogok Valley of Burma and facing hair-raising helicopter rides with heavily armed Colombian emerald dealers. Although he is a passionate believer in the remedial power of gemstones, he began his career as a complete skeptic. In 1983, a perfect eight-carat, oval-cut white sapphire changed his mind. Within minutes of taking possession of it, he closed a lucrative gem deal that was much needed for his nascent gemstone business. In addition to his white sapphire, he now wears a beautiful three-carat emerald and two fine diamonds.
JB can be reached via his Web site: www.AstrologicalGem.com
Tony Ellis: What do you consider to be the most important factors when selecting a gem for Jyotish purposes?
JB: If a gemstone is to be prescribed for Jyotish purposes, then it has to be of very high quality. It is difficult to find a suitable stone without the benefit of an expert. The vast majority of gems sold at gem shows or in jewelry stores are not of Jyotish quality. Even in the tiny subset of Jyotish-quality gemstones, only a handful will be superb enough to give the desired results. So, I would always recommend working with an experienced gemstone dealer, someone with a good reputation and a great deal of knowledge about the gem business and about Jyotish purposes in particular. This creates a series of filters, and only the good stones will get through. I like to refer to these stones as sattvic, a Sanskrit term that means pure and good.
Then, it is just a matter of selecting which stone fits your budget - whether it is a two-carat or a three-carat gem or one of the maha (great) yellow sapphires of ten carats or more. And your mind is at rest, knowing that you're dealing with someone who knows what he is doing and who has your best interests at heart.
TE: Is it easy for dealers to locate the right gemstones for Jyotish purposes?
JB: It is hard to appreciate the huge variety of gemstones available. Take rubies, for example. There are rubies that sell at the source for 25¢ per carat. Then, there are rubies that sell for $2, $10, $100, $1000, $5000 - and up to $100,000 per carat. The most expensive ruby ever sold went at auction for $425,000 a carat! It was a flawless, untreated, eight-carat ruby - the best color available. Between $425,000 a carat and 25¢ a carat, there is a vast number of qualities and grades. Our job is to find the ones that will give the best results from these thousands of different stones. Only one or two will be suitable.
TE: When you are selecting gems to buy, what process do you go through to make your selection?
JB: There are standard procedures used by all gemologists to determine clarity, proper proportions of the cut, comparison of color, etc. But I think all experienced gemologists also develop a refined sense of intuition. Early in my career, I noticed that certain gems stood out more than others, and I responded to them in a completely different way. It was as if I could actually "taste" the nature of the gem. Not on my lips or on the tongue - the normal organs of taste - but in my abdomen. This probably doesn't make sense, when I describe it, but for me it is very clear and concrete. I will look at certain gems and feel this "sweetness" in my gut. This sense of sweetness is what I use to judge the level of sattva in the gemstone. Some gems have it far more than others; others don't have it at all. Lower-quality gems are completely devoid of it. Initially, I noticed that the gems with more sweetness sold the fastest. Later, I found that these were also the ones that worked best for Jyotish purposes.
TE: So, assuming an astrologer has done the chart and identified the gemstones needed, and then sends his client to a qualified gem dealer, how does the customer decide which gem is the right one?
JB: One way is to let your supplier decide for you. But if you want to choose a gem yourself, then you should always follow your heart: Just shut off your mind, trust your instincts, and go with the one that feels best to you. You don't have to intellectually understand why. Go with the one you love the most. No one should use a gemstone for Jyotish purposes that does not attract them or generate a flow from the heart. Part of the relationship between you and the gemstone is loving the gemstone and having that love come back to you. A stone that is not attractive or easy to love is not the right gemstone for you. Take the one you love the most, and that will be the right choice. If you have gone to a proper source of Jyotish-quality gems, and if you follow this principle, then you can't go wrong.
TE: What about formulas for testing a gemstone, like taping it to your finger or putting it under your pillow?
JB: Yes, these methods are effective. I think the most important thing is to line up your intention with the Universe, and ask for a sign that this is the right gemstone for you. Tape it to your finger, and see what happens in the first two hours. You don't have to look for some flashy experience. These things rarely happen to any of us. But if you understand the predicted results of that particular gemstone, such as improving your income, and after you tape it to your finger you get a phone call out of the blue from someone wanting to repay an old debt, obviously that's a good sign.
So, you have a subtle awareness of the desired result, and then see what happens. In my experience, more than half the time people don't notice anything definite. That's okay. You can't have subtle experiences on demand. But if you have selected a gem properly, and if there is this feeling of love and appreciation between you and the gem, then that is the best sign. Many people say they cannot stop looking at their gem, or they see a lot of light coming out of it.
TE: Do you have instances of people who received a very clear sign that this was the right gem?
JB: I remember one lady from Arizona who bought a six-carat yellow sapphire. Within a couple of days of wearing the new gemstone, she found a buyer for a property that she and her husband had been unsuccessfully trying to sell for 22 years. In all that time, they had never received an offer. Yet, just two hours after this woman put on the new ring, they received three cash offers for the property and ended up getting $45,000 more than their asking price. With some of the profits, she bought a three-carat ruby and a 13-carat piece of red coral. Now, she has so much energy that she has to take off the red coral from time to time so she can take a rest; otherwise, she would keep on going and never stop.
It is also possible to get good results but not notice the difference. One of my favorite stories to illustrate this point involves a businessman from Los Angeles. He called me just as he was about to go bankrupt for the second time. He said he couldn't ever seem to make his business work. A Vedic astrologer had told him that his business would turn around if he got a large yellow sapphire. He wasn't sure he believed it. I told him wearing Jyotish gemstones had helped me enormously in my business, so he decided to take the plunge. He didn't have any money, so he put the purchase on a credit card. Normally, I don't recommend buying a gem unless you can afford it, but in this case, he went ahead, and we made him a ring with a six-carat stone.
I didn't hear from him again for a long time. He called five years later, saying he wanted to sell the yellow sapphire. Apparently, he couldn't tell if it was working and saw no use in wearing it anymore. So, I asked him how his business was going. Turns out his business was doing great! He was making $250,000-300,000 per year and starting a second business that was about to make him tens of millions of dollars. His life had turned around in a dramatic fashion, but he had forgotten the predicted results, so he hadn't given any credit to the stone. When I pointed this out, he decided to keep the yellow sapphire.
TE: Many people who receive a gemstone prescription worry that, if they don't buy a gemstone, then something bad will happen to them. Or they feel pressured to buy an expensive gemstone that they cannot afford. What do you say to these people?
JB: No one should ever feel pressured to buy a gemstone. I believe that properly prescribed gemstones are gifts from the Divine to mankind that can alleviate suffering, improve one's life, and bring one closer to the Divine. But I also understand healthy skepticism. First, a person has to want to explore this way to enhance their life. If they are willing to try it, a dealer can usually find a gemstone that will fit their budget and give them sufficient power to experience the predicted results. But it is important to have your birth chart read by a fully qualified Vedic astrologer, so you know that the reading and the gemstone prescription are correct.
TE: What is the formula for assessing price versus size, when it comes to recommending gems according to a person's budget?
JB: The amount people are able to spend varies enormously, and yet everyone needs equal amounts of help. The same kind of Jupiter energy available in a high-quality, unheated yellow sapphire can be purchased for a great deal less, but in a less powerful form, in one of the uparatna (secondary) stones: a yellow topaz, a yellow beryl, or a yellow citrine. The power of Jupiter is not as strong in these other stones, on a per-carat basis, so each of these optional gems would have to be progressively larger to get the desired results.
Whatever your budget, you should always try to get the most powerful gemstone possible within your means.
There is also a unique element of fate involved, concerning how much a person believes in the process; this determines how much that person is willing to spend on a gemstone. Some people have complete faith, and it is very easy to find something for them. Others are very skeptical. One approach is to start with an inexpensive gem or an uparatna; then, when good results are felt, upgrade to a better stone to get a more powerful effect.
TE: In what circumstance are uparatnas effective? Is it purely related to the cheaper price?
JB: No, it isn't really related to price. It's to do with the proper energy and sattva of the stone. It doesn't matter whether the gem is a Colombian emerald, a Brazilian emerald, a Zambian emerald, a green tourmaline, or a peridot. If there is sufficient Mercury energy, then the stone can be effective. This energy can be found in different gemstones at different levels of power and at different dollar amounts.
TE: In your experience, are there any circumstances where gems are not necessary?
JB: Yes. There are times an astrologer will look at a look at a person's chart and say, "You know, really, you don't have to wear anything." But in most cases, people can get good results from wearing one or more gemstones. It is completely related to the strengths and weaknesses of a person's chart. As I said, the highest use of gemstones is to alleviate suffering and bring us closer to the Divine. If they are purchased with that in mind, with the proper astrological or Ayurvedic prescription, and if they are gems of the right quality, then anyone can have very good results. [NOTE: The use of astrological gemstones for remedial health purposes is part of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian natural health care system.]
TE: In your opinion, what are the most common misconceptions about prescribing Jyotish gemstones?
JB: I think the most unfortunate mistake has to be choosing size over quality. This can lead to choosing a gemstone that is large but of inferior quality. Experience has convinced me that the importance of high quality far outweighs that of size and that increased size matters only when all other factors of quality, color, and clarity are equal.
Another common practice is to recommend a minimum of two carats. In most cases, gemstones need to be at least two carats, but there are exceptions to this rule, just as there are with the rules of astrology. In particular, two types of gemstones are much more powerful on a per-carat basis: a high-quality diamond that is colorless or nearly colorless and VS1 (an industry standard) or better in clarity, and a high-quality ruby of fine color and clarity. In these two instances, one carat to one-and-a-quarter carat is more than enough to strengthen their respective planets (Venus and the Sun). These gems give results equivalent to the three- or four-carat size in other types of stones. Hardly anyone needs a two-carat diamond or ruby, if the stones are of sufficiently high quality.
TE: Would you recommend the use of synthetic or heat-treated gemstones?
JB: Personally, I don't recommend synthetic gemstones at all. Natural gemstones are the most effective - without treatments or enhancements and as flawless as possible. With certain gemstones, it is absolutely critical that they be free of treatments or enhancements. In other cases, it is almost impossible to avoid some kind of treatment. Blue sapphires, in particular, should never be heat-treated. Saturn is a cool planet and doesn't take heat well. The Garuda Purana, a Vedic scripture that deals with the astrological uses of gemstones, mentions heat treatment for blue sapphires as being very bad for the wearer.
On the other hand, heat-treating a ruby doesn't seem to spoil the effect at all. The Sun is a hot planet, so heat is compatible with its nature. Virtually all rubies of good quality and clarity in the world today have been heat-treated. I would say that less than one tenth of one percent of rubies of one carat or larger of good quality and clarity are free of heat treatment. It is done to enhance the clarity, but it doesn't seem to spoil the effect. Occasionally, you can find rubies that are not heat-treated, but these are very rare. My son, for example, wears a heat-treated ruby with excellent results.
The other exception is emeralds. All emeralds are treated with some type of oil or resin to help stabilize the gem, fill in the cracks, and diminish visibility of the flaws. It's virtually impossible to find emeralds that have not been treated in this way. Again, it doesn't seem to spoil the effect. Mercury is a changeable planet, both moveable and fickle, and that is just how emeralds are. Mother Nature made them with inclusions, flaws, and fissures. Their green color comes from a chromium molecule replacing an iron molecule.
There is not enough space in the crystal lattice for this chromium molecule, so it creates fissures at the molecular level that go all the way to the macro level. Emeralds are soaked in oil to lessen the visibility of those flaws or inclusions. This is traditionally done as soon as the gems are mined and after they are cut. It's best to look for emeralds that are nearly flawless or with an absolute minimum of inclusions or cracks; then, the oil will have the least effect. If there are no cracks at all, the oil will have no effect whatsoever. The clarity and flawlessness of emeralds is what's most important, not whether they are treated or not.
TE: How important is it to follow the correct procedures - in terms of the metals that the gem is set in, the day that you start wearing it, cleaning the stone before you put it on, etc.?
JB: All of these things are valuable. If an astrologer has prescribed a particular muhurta (auspicious time) to start wearing a stone, then it is good to follow that advice. But I believe that by far the most effect - I would say at least 95 to 98 percent - comes from the purity, quality, and color of the gemstone.
TE: In the absence of a qualified gem dealer, are there any guidelines for how to select gemstones?
JB: For the past two years, I've been working with Vedic astrologer Andrew Foss, to find a way to evaluate which gems produce the best results, based on the key factors of color, quality, size, and origin. The results are being analyzed at the moment. Initial reports are very encouraging, including the use of uparatnas. We hope, one day, to be able to develop some comprehensive guidelines that everyone can use.
TE: You often purchase gems directly from the source. In your opinion, what are the best sources for primary gemstones?
JB: Certain parts of the world are known to produce the highest-quality gems for both non-Jyotish and Jyotish purposes. For untreated yellow sapphires, the area is Sri Lanka. For untreated blue sapphires, it is Sri Lanka or Madagascar or (very rarely these days) Burma. For rubies, the Mogok region in Burma is undoubtedly the best for clear red stones; Madagascar is a second source, and also Sri Lanka, but these stones are far more pink and purplish in nature. Colombian emeralds seem to produce the best results; they have a certain glow to them. Some emeralds coming out of Brazil now have extremely high clarity and are very sattvic in nature.
Occasionally, Zambia produces some good emeralds. The best sources for coral are the Mediterranean and the Sea of Japan. It is getting increasingly difficult to find Mediterranean coral in large sizes, but most dealers still have a good supply. In the case of diamonds, most dealers buy after the gems are cut and certified. Stones certified by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) of high color and clarity and with good proportions are preferable. Natural pearl is wonderful but nearly impossible to find these days. Over the last 15 years, a type of cultured pearl from China called "tissue-nucleated pearl" has become available. These are created using a process that closely mimics Nature. They should be of extreme roundness and high luster with no blemishes. Sri Lanka is the best source for hessonite (for Rahu) and cat's eye (for Ketu). [NOTE: Rahu and Ketu are not actual planets but rather two important additional influences used to interpret a birth chart in Vedic astrology.] Sri Lanka is also the primary source for white sapphire, which is the best uparatna for diamonds.
TE: After 30 years in the business, what have you learned?
JB: As I said, I went from being a total skeptic to a complete believer in the benefits of Jyotish gemstones. I'm no scientist, so I can't pretend to fully explain how gemstones work, but I believe that it has to do with the different frequencies of light generated by these high-quality crystals.
According to quantum physics, our bodies are not what they appear to be. Rather than being flesh and bone and tissue, they are, in fact, a complex interweaving of different quanta of light, which make up the various levels of our bodies - physical, mental, psychic, and karmic. A properly selected, high-quality Jyotish gemstone has a certain frequency of vibrating light in a very powerful format. When it is worn close to the body, this somehow affects the frequency of the overall quantum mechanical body, rather like a tuning fork that, when struck, causes the strings of a guitar on the other side of the room to resonate in harmony.
These relatively small crystals that were formed deep within the earth, millions of years ago, by seemingly complete flukes of Mother Nature, have this living divine energy within them that can dramatically change a person's life.
Imagine a chart that has a weak Jupiter, either by placement or by aspect. Now, imagine that you could wave a magic wand and suddenly that planet would be turned into a strong benefic influence. That is the power of a Jyotish gemstone. How it is prescribed, the rules, the exceptions to the rules, etc. - these are things that I have not studied because I have devoted my life to gemstones rather than astrology. But I do know that, when they are properly prescribed and selected, they can produce amazing results. The experience of thousands of customers over the years has taught me that.
© 2007 Tony Ellis - all rights reserved
Tony Ellis, a writer and poet based in Fairfield, Iowa, has spent more than 30 years as a student of Vedic science. He can be reached via his Web site, www.tonyellis.com
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