I sent away for a jewelery supply catalog and noticed that
many of the gemstones sold in it were irradiated, treated, or dyed
in some fashion. I was recently told by an associate that this is
"an industry-wide practice." My question is two-fold: is this
really true, and if so, why isn't it more widely disclosed to
consumers? Perhaps I am being old-fashioned in wanting to work only
with *natural* stones. Isn't this kind of dishonest to not disclose
to consumers - as I am assuming that the irradiated/treated stones
are less expensive than the natural ones of the same quality.
Hi there. Yes it's true. Many gemstones are treated in some way to
enhance color, apparent clarity, etc., and it is also true that it
is standard practice in the industry. And instead of using the word
'treatment', the word 'enhanced' is more typically used. A great
deal of these 'enhancements' are performed at the mines or by the
first buyer, before it gets to the manufacturer. The vast majority
of these enhancements are stable for common jewelry applications and
have been performed for generations in some cases, and that's why
miners, dealers and manufacturers don't think twice about it.
The honesty/dishonesty issue about this subject is seldom raised
because the fact is that a large bulk of the world's gem rough comes
out of the earth looking much different than the gems you see
available for sale to the public. For example, the vast majority of
the lovely, often vivid blue or purple Tanzanite you see as loose,
finished gems or set in fine jewelry actually comes out of the
ground a dull, uninteresting brownish color. It must be heated under
controlled temperatures and times before it obtains that luscious,
velvety blue color. Even most topaz is heated and irradiated to
bring out the blue color...it's most often found clear, with no
apparent color. It is thought that most of the citrine available is
amethyst that has been heated. There will likely be a time when you
hear a parcel of citrine referred to as "fried amethyst" These
treatments are considered permanent, so the industry sees no reason
to disclose them. However, when a treatment (or enhancement, take
your pick) that is unstable (like when the effect fades in time, or
in sunlight, etc.) is presented for sale and said unstable
enhancement is NOT disclosed, that it would be considered unethical.
And yes, you hit the nail on the head when you assumed that natural
stones are more expensive than the same stones that have been
enhanced. Because much of the available gem rough is enhanced before
it even leaves its' country of origin, natural stones are difficult
to find, and therefore they sell at a premium (rarity always adds
value). Since most gems are enhanced at some point before you can
ever get ahold of them, many responsible people in the industry who
sell colored gemstones and jewelry will post a disclaimer that might
read something like "Unless otherwise stated, all colored stones are
assumed to be subjected to a stable and possibly undetectable color
That's a disclosure that anybody should be fine with. And unless you
have a good relationship with some miners, you should always assume
that even rough materials have been at least color-enhanced and YES,
you should definitely disclose any known AND/OR SUSPECTED
enhancements to your customers. Despite the fact that many
enhancements are undetectable, a very great deal of them ARE
detectable. So, non-disclosure can get you in trouble!
Question 2) How as a newbie making jewelery do I buy
graded diamonds at wholesale prices/from a manufacturer? Is it even
possible or am I going to have to deal with a dealer who charges
slightly more? It was my understanding that depending on the cut
and specs of the diamond, dealers charge anywhere from 15-20%
below the Rap sheet whereas manufacturers typically charge around
30%-35% below the Rap.
There are probably a thousand people who contribute to this forum
who can answer your second question a lot better than I could. But,
I suspect that you would only need a re-sellers' license to buy
wholesale diamonds (graded or not) from a dealer. A manufacturer?
Well, they're in business, so I'm sure that cultivating a
relationship with one (some would be better) would be fruitful,
eventually. The amount "back of Rap" you would pay often depends on
exactly what, and how much you wish to buy. The more, the merrier
(cheaper). I wish I had manufacturer sources to show you, but I'm
not that closely involved with the diamond trade in particular.
Perhaps someone else in the group can help you...?
James S. Duncan, G.G.