Jewelry’s Naughty (Not So) Little Secret

I found this great article by  Sarah Shannon written for the Business of Fashion on July 20, 2017. It gives a good insight to the treatments of gemstones and the disclosure of treatments to the consumer. Gem Lady Treasures uses only Natural Gemstones unless otherwise disclosed.

Jewellery’s Naughty Little Secret: Treated Gemstones

Unbeknownst to most jewellery consumers, gemstones are often treated, filled with glass and even irradiated, yet retailers rarely disclose this.

LONDON, United Kingdom — “Here in the US, if it’s pretty, it sells,” says Gary Roskin, executive director of the International Colored Gemstone Association. Processes like heating gemstones to enhance their colour are so common that “no-one is really concerned,” he adds, but other treatments like filling fractures with lead glass to hide the poor quality of stones are also commonplace and “need to be disclosed all the way to the consumers.”

According to the Gemological Institute of America which examines more than two million diamonds, coloured stones and pearls each year for grading and analysis, these treatments range from bleaching to surface coating to dyeing to irradiation (where gems are exposed to an artificial source of radiation to change their colour). Laser drilling is also used to remove dark spots on stones, while lattice diffusion, where an element such as beryllium is penetrated into rubies and sapphires to enhance the colour is common.

And yet disclosure isn’t always the norm. In a competitive market worth $310 billion according to Euromonitor, the potential negative sales impact of disclosing treatments is often seen as a commercial liability. It’s a stance that may surprise consumers increasingly interested in transparency and ethics.

The Gemological Association of Great Britain estimates that 98 percent of rubies are treated; heated, glass-filled or otherwise subjected to diffusion and flux techniques. Blue topaz is almost entirely treated, sapphires are 95 percent treated in some way by either glass filling, diffusion or heat treatment, while citrines are often heat-treated, according to gemology and diamond tutor Julia Griffith. Aquamarines are heat-treated, emeralds are often filled with oil or resins to hide fractures and turquoise is resin-coated. (Enhanced coloured diamonds are “not common,” however, Griffith says, and any treatment of diamonds is usually clearly described at point of sale).

“I would be surprised how many [stones] are treated” if I hadn’t studied it, says Griffith. “It’s accepted in the trade that all rubies are treated but it’s not told to the consumer,” she continues. While many gems require treatment to produce the colours consumers have come to expect, “people should be able to ask questions from their jeweller” and get honest answers, she adds.

The treatment of gemstones has been going on for centuries but the increasingly technologically-savvy treatments — and the difficulty in detecting these — makes things ever more complicated and often retailers hide behind these technicalities to avoid disclosing treatments to consumers, Griffith says. That or they simply don’t know. “It’s not always made very obvious to the customer because it could be quite a turn off. It’s a resistance to disclose or not knowing themselves and part of that is because it can be so complicated and yet so common.”

It’s accepted in the trade that all rubies are treated but it’s not told to the consumer.

To be sure, the supply chain for gemstones can be long and complex: miners often sell to “rough holders” who then sell to manufacturers who cut and polish. Gems are then sold onto wholesalers before they reach retail jewellers. Treatments can occur at any point in the process, making disclosure to the end consumer even harder, industry sources say.

Rubies that are not treated “are rare, and depending on the four C’s (same as diamonds), can reach record-breaking prices,” according to Gabriella Harvey, director of procurement and product services at Gemfields, one of the world’s largest coloured gemstone miners, which specialises in ethical sourcing. Heating, which improves colour, clarity and durability, allows for a broader customer base to enjoy coloured gemstone jewellery, she adds.

“Treatments are widely accepted, not only with rubies but with all other gemstones. The crucial thing is disclosure,” says Harvey. “We lead the industry with our approach to transparency and treatments is an area where this is crucial for consumer confidence.”

While suppliers and cutters may be increasingly transparent about it, jewellery retailers, particularly fashion jewellers, are lagging behind. “For many years, retail jewellers didn’t think about it. The miners would send to suppliers, suppliers would enhance them and because the retailer didn’t have the education to question what was coming from the suppliers, or the supplier felt it was traditional that these gems would need an enhancement of some kind,” the practice continued, according to Roskin from the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA). “It never had an importance that it has today,” he adds. Today the ICA — with 750 members; mostly miners, cutters and gemstone suppliers — has a code of practice which includes mandatory disclosure of treatments.

“We are trying to teach the retailers what’s out there and what’s available and how to detect it and when it’s not detected what labs can be used,” Roskin says. “We tell the retailers they should be much more actively searching out the supplier that is going to tell them what’s happened to the stone that comes from out of the ground.”

Mandatory disclosure of the treatment of diamonds is required for certified members of the UK-based Responsible Jewellery Council. Coloured stones are soon to be included in the product disclosure, according to Anne Marie Fleury, director of standards and impacts. The body has just over 1,000 members, including luxury jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Chopard, Boucheron and Bulgari. But that’s a drop in the ocean of the total industry and many lower-priced fashion jewellers are nowhere to be seen.

Mostly you pay for what you get, but businesses need to tell people what they are buying.

The World Jewellery Confederation, or CIBJO, publishes Blue Book guides with globally accepted standards for the industry including requirements to disclose treatments of gemstones at point of sale and in written material. But it’s a voluntary code and not enforced.

In the US, Federal Trade Commission rules state it is unfair or deceptive to fail to disclose that a gemstone has been treated if the treatment is not permanent, the treatment creates special care requirements for the stone or the treatment has a significant effect on the stone’s value.

On the lower-ground floor of high-end department store Selfridges in central London, the Astley Clarke concession offers a blue diamond wrist piece for £9,950 (about $13,000) sat below a glass counter on a taupe suede box. The “Firework” cuff has several thousand small blue stones set in yellow gold. The brand’s website lists the gem as “blue diamonds,” but as a sales assistant brightly admits, the gems are treated. She also points out the £695 mini coloured diamond halo hoop earrings with yellow, red, white, green, black and blue diamonds that are also treated and a popular choice amongst shoppers.

“Our blue diamonds are irradiated, this is a safe and stable treatment, we do not treat them ourselves but we only buy certified stones that are tested to ensure they follow the strict regulations,” says Emilie Robichaud, senior product development manager at Astley Clarke. “Our sapphires are heat-treated and some of our agates are dyed. These are widely used and accepted methods of treatment. All our sales staff are trained and do explain to customers who enquire. Our experience on the whole is that for pavé and beads, customers are not overly concerned. We strive to be open and honest about the gemstones we use and any treatments that have been applied to them.”

Kiki McDonough, the British jeweller known for her coloured gemstones, has a “Candy” collection which includes a “green amethyst” and diamond drop earrings for £2,300 (about $3,000). Green amethyst is formed by heating or irradiating amethyst or yellow quartz. A spokesperson declined to comment.

At London’s Selfridges department store on a busy afternoon, shopper Bell Hendricks peruses the fashion jewellery counters with her aunt. “I didn’t think it was that common,” says the 26-year-old of the prevalence of treated gemstones. “Mostly you pay for what you get, but businesses need to tell people what they are buying,” she adds.

Certainly the lower prices paid for treated gemstones typically reflect their value. “You’re not necessarily getting ripped off, the problem is in the understanding. I can see that it’s a challenge for jewellers if you give too much information people go, ‘Oh hold on, I don’t want that, I want a natural one,’” Ms Griffith says. “I don’t have a problem with treatments as long as they tell people and it’s sold at what they are worth.”

Introducing Our New Breeders Program!

Are you a breeder and would you love to see you business grow as fast as your puppies grow? Gem Lady Treasures would love to help you do just that!

As a breeder you have a most unique position, a position that other businesses don’t have. You do not sell puppies, you give families the opportunity to grow their family. Society has changed over the past twenty years. Dogs are no longer possessions; they are four-legged kids – fur babies!

According to an article written for Bloomberg Business Week by Ben Crair on August 18, 2015, he stated, “The U.S. pet industry has more than tripled over the past 20 years.” In an article for Consumer Affairs on August 15, 2016, Sarah D. Young wrote, “Americans spent upwards of $60 billion on pet products last year, and that number is expected to climb by $2 billion this year.” As a breeder I am sure you have felt this change. The question is, are you taking advantage of this boom in the industry?

How can you enhance your buyers experience? How can you create a relationship with your clients to build a repeat business? How can you encourage your clients to refer you to others? This is where Gem Lady Treasures comes in.

I spoke with a Dog Mom who received a unique collar when she purchased her dog from a breeder. She told me that even though her dog has outgrown the collar, she has kept it because it carries such wonderful memories for her; not only of the adoption, but the breeder as well. Another Dog Mom told me that she received a special dog collar from the breeder of her dog as a first birthday gift. She was absolutely thrilled to receive such a wonderful and unexpected gift. In addition to her dog being remembered by the breeder, it bonded her more to the breeder. She also said that she has sent other families to that breeder.

As a member of the Gem Lady Treasures Breeder Program, we will work with you in selecting natural gemstones and a design that would be specific only to you. Another option would be to create natural gemstone dog collars using the stone of the puppies birth month or adoption month. The dog collars would then either be a gift to the puppies family at the time of adoption, or as a first birthday gift. This gift is what is going to bond your customer to you just as your puppy is going to bond to their new family.

Business today is all about building relationships with our customers. Building a strong connection with your clients is smart business, doing so with natural gemstone dog collars is a creative way to grow your business.

Please contact me at gemladytreasures@gmail.com so we can discuss in depth how the Gem Lady Treasures Breeder Program can help you create that special bond and wonderful memories with your clients, as well as grow your business!

 

Healing Gemstones

Crystal healing is an alternative medicine technique that employs gemstones and crystals. Believers of the technique claim that the crystal or gemstone has healing (metaphysical) properties that when placed on different parts of the body often corresponding to the chakras, or around the body to construct an energy grid, that will heal aliments.

Gemstone medicine has a very long history. Stated in Gemstones, Symbols of Power and Beauty by Eduard Gubelin and Franz-Xaver Erni, St. Hildegard von Bingen, born in 1098, “…always used whole gemstones. They were either placed in the mouth for a while or steeped in wine, which was then consumed -naturally without the gemstone!”

Gubelin and Erni also stated that “The Zurich polyhistorian, doctor, natural historian, and theologian Conrad Gesner (1516-1565) was of the opinion that each of the gems mentioned in The Revelations to John (chapter 21, verses 19 and 20) had a special arcanum (secret).”

Despite the popularity of crystal healing, this alternative medicine is not popular with most medical doctors and scientists. There is no evidence that crystal healing can be used to cure diseases because diseases have never been fond to be the result of a “energy flow” in the body. There have not been any scientific studies to show that crystals and gemstones can be differentiated by chemical composition or color to treat a particular ailment. Therefore crystal healing is believed to be pseudoscientific. Alleged successes of crystal healing can be attributed to the placebo effect.

In 1999, researchers French and Williams conducted a study to investigate the power of crystals compared with a placebo. Eighty volunteers were asked to meditate for five minutes while holding either a quartz crystal or a fake crystal they believed to be real. After meditating, many of the participants reported feeling a warm sensation in the hand holding the quartz crystal or the fake crystal while meditating as well as an increased feeling of overall well being. The researchers found that the effects were found by both those holding the quartz crystal and the fake crystal. The study was repeated in 2001 by French, O’Donnell, and Williams in order to add a double-blind component to the study design. Similar results were produced.

Some medical doctors will tolerate crystal healing to a very limited degree. They see it more as a therapy that can induce relaxation which is therapeutic for stress management. However crystal healing can be extremely dangerous or even fatal if it causes people with illnesses to avoid or delay seeking medical treatment.

Authors Note

This subject matter could be easily discussed in much more detail. I wanted to touch the subject without getting into the major depth of the science. I realize that there are people who believe that crystal healing does work. For myself, I look up metaphysical properties out of curiousity and fun. If it gives me another excuse to purchase a gemstone, all the better (Giggle)! In addition to Gubelin and Erni’s Gemstones, Symbols of Power and Beauty, material for this blog was found on Wikipedia and an article written by Elizabeth Palermo for “Live Science” dated January 20, 2015.

 

Identifying A Colored Gemstone

One of the more challenging assignments a gemologist may have is to correctly identify colored gemstones, usually for appraisal purposes. At first thought this may seem like an easy task. As a matter of fact, there are many people who have worked in the fine jewelry industry for years that cannot correctly identify colored gemstones, I have worked with many. Identification first starts with a clean stone under a 10x gemscope. The color(s) throughout the stone and the type of inclusions offer a hint of what the stone may be. Another test using a Refractometer, which tests the gemstones ability to slow down or bend light, also aids in the id. Without getting to technical, the amount of slowing down of light it does is referred to as the Refractive Index (RI). The RI along with what was found, and not found, in the gemscope can lead to an identification. There are several other tests that a gemstone could undergo in determining what it is, but again, to keep this from getting to technical, we will just stay with these two tests as they are the most important.

In order to complete the requirements for a Colored Gemstone Graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America, the final exam is to correctly identify twenty gemstones. A very taunting task I assure you. Let’s have some fun and see if you can pass a three stone test.  From the three color groups below, pick out a Ruby, a Sapphire, and an Emerald.

Which is the Ruby?

1-rubypyrope-garnet

 

 

 

 

Which is the Sapphire?

blue-sapphireblue-spinel kyanite

 

 

 

 

Which is the Emerald?

chrome-diopside1-emeraldtsavorite-garnet

 

 

 

 

Left to Right:                                                                                                Red: Ruby, Pyrope Garnet, Red Diamond                                                  Blue: Sapphire, Blue Spinel, Kyanite                                                       Green: Chrome Diopside, Emerald, Tsavorite Garnet

So how did you do? Pyrope Garnet, Blue Spinel, Kyanite, and Tsavorite Garnets can be found in numerous pieces of fine jewelry, usually only found in specialty/designer fine jewelry stores. A Red Diamond is extremely rare and you will probably only see one in photos. Chrome Diopside is great for the look of an Emerald but at a much lower price, however it is not commonly used.

If you are looking for a particular piece of jewelry, unless you really want a specific stone, you may want to be open minded about what Mother Nature has to offer. After all, not all blue stones are Sapphires and not all Sapphires are blue!