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Apr 01, 2005 - To me the word natural in gems is sacred. Ideally, it should refer only to natural gems that have not undergone any process other than cutting, polishing and cleaning. Yes, we have seen rubies heated for centuries, to remove “silk” and sometimes improve red color by removing blue components. Yes, we have seen almost milky white geoda sapphires from Sri Lanka and Madagascar (Andranandambo and Ilakaka), which on subjecting them to high temperature, using fairly simple ovens, turn some of them to a velvety blue. I can swallow my tongue and, pending a clear disclosure, consider these procedures as legitimate, for there is no additional material, which was added to the product; a process such as that may have occurred in nature. The end product may still be referred to (classified) as natural ruby or sapphire. And then came treatments with additives, all under high temperature, such as diffusion of material to the surface of the gem, adding glass and borax to features, cracks and cavities in the gem. But, every now and then, there comes a time where I know that we are on the verge of disaster in the gem world. Normally we are like players in some kind of a Greek tragedy, where our fate is sealed and we are doomed to a certain very bleak future. Such was the case with the Beryllium. Using light materials such as beryllium, to penetrate the material to produce amazing colors.

Some laboratories were quick to produce thousands of reports for beautiful Padparadcha.

Sapphires, not suspecting the obvious question of how come?

It shook the world of gems, it ruined the faith of some major consuming centers, which are refusing to use sapphires unless free of any treatment. It caused what I call, the ETQ or “excess time for questions” during sale times, when you or your sales person are spending time to explain that your gems are OK instead of concentrating on how beautiful they are. Such is the case now with the new corundum treatment. They take low quality rough semi opaque corundum, full of cracks, fissures and cavities, pre-clean the material from the material in the fissures and impregnate the cracks with lead and some silica. The effect is startling. Those opaque cracks allow the light to travel through the material resulting in a rubylike material, comparable to a ruby worth many folds the ugly rough it originated from. And then came certificates:

In the Bangkok fair a few days ago, I saw a certificate (which was part of a pile of fresh certificates) clearly stating that the stone was a natural ruby, natural corundum and as a comment in the bottom a mention to the effect that some glass (lead) has been found in features.

How far do we have to go with treatments in order to lose the magic word natural? Will a product made out of natural powdered corundum impregnated with glass and lead still be called natural ruby?

We are going way too far.

Well friends let’s clear things up.

A ruby is a natural red corundum with chromium and iron as the coloring elements.

It is not a treated corundum filled with lead. The product is not a natural ruby, it is not even a natural corundum. It should be properly called: treated corundum, impregnated by lead to create an imitation ruby.

Let us protect what is sacred and not abuse the word natural.

Let us protect natural with a separate natural certificate, which will look different from the treated gems certificate.

Let’s cherish those precious gems for that which sets them apart from the crowd - they are natural.


The GemEWizard

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