That was the theme of a morning session of the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) meeting in Tucson, Arizona where gemologists and appraisers are meeting this week to discuss and share information on the latest gemstone treatments and detection methods that can be used to identify stones that have undergone the latest treatments.
Beauty Personified! But Is It “Treated”?
As the gemological community races to keep up with the latest treatments, one thing seems clear: Gemstone treaters, and those who sell their gussied-up wares, are speeding ahead, nimbler than ever.
“To paraphrase Jimmy Carter, we have to declare the moral equivalent of war on these issues, and if you don’t do it, nobody’s going to do it,” panel moderator David Federman, editor-in-chief of Colored Stone magazine, told the audience. “This is like global warming. Deny it all you want, but the glaciers are melting.”
The impetus behind the new treatments is, as always, dollar signs $$$$. Ted Themelis, an expert on Burmese gem deposits, says rough ruby that would sell for $70 to $100 per kilogram could go for $1,000 per kilogram after undergoing treatments that make poorer quality goods look much more attractive.
Lead glass-filled rubies, the heavily treated stones coming out of the gem-trading center of Chanthaburi, Thailand, are often undergoing more than one process.
Among the new treatment techniques discussed during the session are cobalt-infused sapphire and pink-diamond treatments.
Christopher Smith, vice president and chief gemologist of American Gemological Laboratories, said the cobalt-infused sapphire is a neon blue, similar to Paraiba tourmaline or Malagasy apatite.
The treatment is detectable, through the use of a Chelsea filter, through spectroscopy, which reveals bands of cobalt, and through various other methods, including the use of a microscope.
“When we looked in more detail at the color, we saw blotches and black pits in the center of color under microscope,” Smith said.
Branko Deljanin, director of Canadian operations at EGL USA, says colored-diamond treatments are also a concern, with high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT), coating and fracture-filling irradiation among those used.
“Or there’s some combination of all, and that’s the scariest,” Deljanin said.
Buy colored gemstones from a reputable dealer with grading reports from a reputable grading laboratory.