Gem treatments confuse consumers and jewelers alike

It seems like there’s another gem treatment around every corner these days. While gemologists have to stay on their toes to keep up, a curious consumer just gets more confused over what is natural, synthetic and treated – and their jeweler may not know.

As gemologists we have seen inclusions (what we need to identify origin) change over the years to make the identification of treatments more challenging than straight synthetics. So when Tom Chatham, (Chatham Created Gems) was speaking at a recent GIA Alumni presentation about the history of his company’s “creations” and the properties of these new inclusions in natural gemstones, he asked the question “Where do we draw the line between natural and synthetic?”

A very good question since more and more natural stones are altered with synthetic foreign material. Is a glass-filled ruby still a natural ruby? The material may be red corundum (ruby) but with synthetic features including flux residues.

Flux residues are a major characteristic of synthetic flux-melt rubies! We might think the stone was of a synthetic origin. Well, part of it is. Of course, a ruby may owe its color entirely to treatment to begin with. What used to be a venerable gemstone has definitely been tainted due to these treatments.

While the industry allows “traditional” treatments to gems it tends to shun radical means of color enhancement until enough people are doing it to add that treatment to the tradition. As long as the consumer wants purer color in their gems, there will be a market for whatever treatment brings it to them. Every day, consumers at the supermarket buy artificially enhanced produce over organic because it looks better, so it’s not surprising.

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