Friday, October 26, 2012

Fluorescence, Lighting & Color-Grading Diamonds: Time To Re-Examine Its Impact and The Need For Change!

A few years ago, the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) organized a lighting task force that investigated the impact of lighting on the grading of fluorescent diamonds. Debate ensued, there was some positive impact, but then the discussion abated and little was done. The time has come to revisit this important topic.

Whether or not a diamond fluoresces, whether or not it is a good thing or a bad thing, and how it affects what consumers are getting and paying, are all issues the trade needs to address. Fluorescence is probably the least-understand of all the factors affecting a diamond’s appearance and value, and confusion and misunderstanding are rampant.

No one can begin to understand or address the issues however without understanding the root of the problem: the lighting used to determine the color grade, and how changes over the past few decades have actually caused most of the problems we have today.

So here is a brief summary of some of the findings from a research project undertaken by the AGA (see for
for the full story and research findings/conclusions).


·      The color shown on many diamond grading reports issued by labs globally indicates the color seen only when exposed to sufficient UV emission to excite a fluorescent reaction.
·      This is NOT the color usually seen when worn by consumers; a fluorescent reaction is usually only excited when the diamond is worn outdoors, during daylight hours. Given today's lifestyles, most people spend most of their time indoors during the day. 
·      This is NOT the color that will be seen when worn at night, whether indoors or outdoors.


·      UV emissions should be eliminated from the lighting in which diamonds are being graded because failure to do so results in over-grading of diamonds with "medium," "strong," and "very strong" blue-fluorescence--which account for close to 10% of all diamonds sold

·      UV emissions should be eliminated from the lighting in which diamonds are being graded because failure to do so results in under-grading of the inherent body color – the color most often seen when worn today – in yellow fluorescent diamonds. 
         Blue and yellow are the two fluorescent colors most often present.  Today, diamonds that fluoresce yellow will show their inherent – and whiter – body color in most environments in which diamonds are worn today; and in outdoor daylight, when fluorescence is stimulated, yellow diamonds often look more fiery and possess a “warmer” color, that may be desired by many diamond buyers.

·      Over-grading results in over-pricing, even with discounts. The time is not far away when this will be the center of another media exposé charging consumer fraud.

·      Grading in a UV-free lighting environment will provide the color that best reflects the color most often observed, and as was done historically, is in the best interest of consumers.     

·      Diamond grading reports that indicate the "stable" color of the diamond as its grade (that is, when no fluorescence is excited,) with a comment that the diamond may look whiter in some lighting environments will remove the negative association now connected with fluorescent diamonds.
             A strong negative association to fluorescent diamonds is pervasive because of information on the internet and elsewhere. Retailers already see consumer avoidance because consumers believe there is "something wrong" with them, and that prices are inflated for what they are getting.  Currently prices are too high because the price is based on an inflated color-grade. Grading the inherent body color (the color seen when the diamond’s fluorescence is not excited) will eliminate over-grading and over-pricing, and with this we will also see a reversal of the negative bias.

             In summary, fluorescence in any fluorescent diamond is not being excited when it is worn in most indoor environments--which is where most people see their diamonds, most of the time, given today's life styles.
             Regardless of indoor lighting conditions, there is insufficient UV emission to stimulate the fluorescent response of a diamond. Just think about it: if indoor lighting produced enough UV emissions to excite a fluorescent reaction, and we exposed to them all day, every day, we'd all be dying from cancer!
        The color indicated on a grading report for a fluorescent diamond graded under UV emissions is not always representative of the color seen outdoors.  Sometimes the color is even whiter than indicated, even when the grade on the report is "D"; a couple diamonds in the AGA study that had been graded D and E actually appeared “light blue" oudoors in daylight!          [This results from a number of variables affecting the intensity of the UV radiation to which the diamond is being exposed – which is affected by such variables as time of day, altitude, air pollution, and so on – and the strength of the diamond’s fluorescent reaction. Thus, the fluorescent reaction can be stronger or weaker than the conditions present in the diamond-grading light unit under which the color was graded.] 
            Industry organizations continue to argue about this, but the science is irrefutable. There are insufficient wavelengths of UV to stimulate a fluorescent reaction in fluorescent diamonds when worn indoors; regardless of whether or not the room is flooded with light, even daylight, the UV emissions present are negligible at best. When a consumer/retailer is only a few inches from a glass windowpane (even plain untreated glass) the UV is greatly diminished; when only a few inches away from a UV-emitting light source, the same is true.
             And last, but not least, another factor that can't be ignored is that more and more homes and offices are moving away from fluorescent bulbs to LED lighting, which contains insufficient UV emission to stimulate any fluorescent reaction in any stone. This means that any rationale that some have used at one time – however flawed* – to justify allowing UV emissions in a diamond-grading light source will soon be obsolete.

* When indoor lighting moved from incandescent to fluorescent lighting, some believed that the fluorescent lighting present in any indoor environments containing them were sufficient to stimulate a fluorescent reaction in any diamond that fluoresces. Thus, any diamond that fluoresced blue, would look whiter, and any that fluoresced yellow would look more yellow. Thus, it was thought that allowing UV emissions in the diamond-grading lighting units would be more representative of the color that would be seen most often. This flawed logic resulted from a lack of knowledge pertaining to the physics of light.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Allure Of Gemstones – Keeping The Sparkle In Your Asset

Article orginally posted on on August 21, 2012.

"To tell the truth there is no fraud or deceit in all the world which yields greater gain and profit than that of counterfeiting gems." From The 37th Book of the Historie of the World by Pliny, 77 AD.

Whenever stock markets fluctuate widely and global economic forecasts are uncertain, there is stronger interest in tangible assets. Diamonds and colored gemstones are among the rarest and most desired of all things and have also performed well historically, so it is no surprise that they are again gaining the attention of investors, who have an unusual opportunity today. Changes in the types of gemstones now on the market also put investors at greater risk however; the term “natural” is used only to distinguish gems created by nature from “synthetic” gems made in labs or factories. Today, most “natural” gems are, in reality, treated in some way.


Left: Exceptionally rare, naturally beautiful, 5.42 carat flawless Zambian emerald. Center: Exceptionally rare color and clarity in 10.00 carat natural Afghan Ruby. Right: Superb 21.25 carat natural Burma Sapphire. Photos by David Nassi of 100% Natural Ltd.

For many decades most sapphires and rubies have been heated to improve color and clarity, and most emeralds contain some type of filler to reduce the visibility of fractures typical of the extreme geological conditions under which they form. With each passing year we find new treatments and a wider variety of gemstones being "improved." Unless a gemstone is accompanied by documentation from a respected gem testing laboratory stating that the gemstone is both “natural” and has not been treated in any way, one must assume the gemstone could have been treated.

Exquisite antique Tiffany brooch centering 8.32 carat natural Burmese Sapphire, with natural pearls and diamonds. Photo by David Nassi of 100% Natural Ltd.

There is nothing wrong with buying or selling treated gemstones. In fact, were it not for the use of treatments, only the wealthiest among us would be wearing gemstone jewelry today. But it is still possible to find natural gemstones that have not been enhanced; it is these that are becoming rarer and rarer, and these that investors should be seeking.

In the diamond industry, people are paying close attention to the rate at which prices for large diamonds (over five carats) of very fine quality (D-F color/FL – VS2 clarity) have been escalating over the past year, with no indication of reversal. All of the major auction houses are seeing record-setting prices: at a recent Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, five diamond lots—with stones ranging from 10.69 carats (D/VVS1) to18.00 carats (G/VS2)—sold for over $1,000,000! The historic 34.98 carat Beau Sancy diamond, a stone with a royal history going back over 400 years, fetched $9.7 million dollars, almost five times its pre-auction estimate, and it is not of exceptional quality; its color is very tinted (K) and it is slightly included (SI1 clarity). The following month an 8.01 carat fancy-color vivid blue diamond with VVS1 clarity fetched $13 million in Hong Kong.

Historic "Beau Sancy" pear-shape double-rose cut diamond weighing 34.98 carats. From the Royal House of Prussia. Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's. Reprinted with permission of Sotheby's.

There are also unusual opportunities for fine, rare, colored gemstones with documentation that no enhancement has been used; for the finest quality natural gemstones, documentation of origin (such as Burma for ruby, Kashmir for sapphire, Colombia for emerald, and so on) can also affect value. Demand for such stones is rapidly outpacing supply, and I see this gap widening over the next 10 years as wealth continues to spread to more people globally and the markets for precious stones expands in Southeast Asia and China. Demand and appreciation for rare, naturally beautiful colored gemstones will probably outpace diamond performance. Record-breaking auction prices for emeralds, rubies and sapphires are driving up prices dramatically. At Christie’s in Geneva, a brooch centering a 47.15 carat natural sapphire of Burma origin brought $3.6 million dollars, almost six times its pre-auction estimate of $482,000-$590,000. At Sotheby’s Geneva sale, a ring with a natural ruby weighing 7.66 carats reached $1.12 million dollars, almost twice the pre-auction estimate. At Christie’s Hong Kong sale a month later, a ring containing a 6.04 carat ruby of Burma origin hit $3.3 million, a record $551,000 per carat, well over its pre-auction estimate.

There have also been significant price increases in less-well-known natural gemstones such asalexandrite, spinel and tsavorite. An amazing red spinel necklace (an Indian Moghul piece) set a world record for spinel in 2011, at $5,210,902. In Christie’s recent Hong Kong sale, a ring with a 15.58 carat alexandrite sold for $934,480. (Alexandrite has been sought by connoisseurs for many years, but never at such prices). Spinels and tsavorite (a rare emerald-green variety of the garnet family) used to sell for a few hundred dollars per carat in the finest quality; these natural beauties are now several thousand dollars per carat.

Most experts agree that prices will go much higher. Supporting this are gloomy predictions about the fact that mine production has been decreasing and extraction costs increasing. Since diamonds and gemstones represent a very small percentage of their total profits, it is expected that many leading mining companies will withdraw from gemstone mining and focus much more heavily on more profitable minerals and metals. Minor players will not have the resources to invest in expensive exploration and extraction.

These predictions, if accurate, combined with increasing demand from emerging economies, point to continued price increases, as well as far more artificially enhanced material entering the market. We're already seeing it; the character of the gem industry is changing. Many treatments can be easily detected by experienced gemologists, but some require sophisticated testing only available at major gem testing laboratories such as the American Gemological Laboratories (New York, NY) or the Gemological Institute of America (New York , NY and Carlsbad, CA). When considering any gemstone investment, having a report from a respected gem-testing laboratory is essential.

A sound investment in gemstones also requires the ability to obtain what you want at prices as close as possible to "wholesale" or below. You cannot buy “retail” and then sell back to a jeweler and expect to make money. Other sources of fine, rare gems, include auctions, estate sales; even flea markets and pawnshops.

We are also seeing a re-emergence of private diamond and colored gemstone investment funds, and I can’t overstate the importance of taking time to learn before considering investment. In the late 1970s, when Wall Street “discovered” “diamonds and gemstones, virtually all of the popular investment publications such as Business Week, Fortune magazine and others began to recommend them to investors. Investment houses specializing in diamond and gemstone funds sprang up across the country. Many of them succeeded in conning buyers out of tens of thousands of dollars or more. Investors knew nothing about the products or the market dynamics. There were no books to help lay people understand the ways in which gemstones could be created, duplicated or altered to look better than they really were. With the Wall Street impetus, it didn’t take long for diamond prices to strengthen. In 1978, the wholesale price of a 1-carat diamond of the rarest quality (D/FL) was around $6,100; by March of 1980 the wholesale price of such a stone had soared to $62,000! In September, 1981, the price for that same quality stone plunged to $23,000, and by 1985, it bottomed out at about $9,600 per carat. Some investors, conned into buying fakes, lost everything they’d invested. Some purchased stones in sealed containers, with warnings—if the seal was broken, all buy-back guarantees were voided. Shockingly, many didn’t realize that if you couldn’t remove the stone from the sealed container there was no way to know if it was what it was represented to be! The same scenario occurred with colored gemstones, where the absence of universal grading standards made it even easier to exploit investors.

There are still many pitfalls, but in my opinion, the world of diamonds and gemstones has changed in ways that provide unique investment opportunities for the serious investor. It is still true that investment risk is greater with diamonds and gemstones because of the scientific complexities. As with other specialty investment areas, successful investment requires extensive knowledge, or the availability of expert counsel to guide you in making a careful selection, one stone at a time.

Today however, there is also much more information available about what to look for and how to avoid the risks. There are quicker, easier ways confirm the facts. There is greater awareness of the quality factors that affect rarity, desirability and value. There is greater due diligence with regard to verifying facts before money changes hands.

The best advice I can offer? The wisest initial investment in diamonds or gemstones is to take the time to learn as much as possible about their sparkling history and allure, about the factors that set one apart from the other, and about the hidden dangers as well as the delights!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Gem Merchant by David Stanley Epstein

David Stanley Epstein's first edition of The Gem Merchant was great, but as anyone in the gem trade knows, the only thing constant is change! Here Epstein has done a thorough update which is an even more valuable resource than the first edition. Not only is this a book that should be read by someone interested in becoming a gem dealer (or rather, a successful gem dealer) but it is equally valuable for those who are simply interested in knowing more about gemstones and understanding the marketplace. It may be a compact book in terms of its size, but it provides extensive information on the gemstones themselves, and how to judge their quality and market desirability. After reading this book, not only will you become a more savvy buyer, but you'll avoid many costly mistakes and pitfalls along the way. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

YOU Can Help FTC In Revising Its “Guides For The Gem and Jewelry Trade”

The Federal Trade Commission has advised the jewelry trade that it is seeking comments from organizations and individuals—including the public—pertaining to ways they can revise the current guides to make them more effectiveness in protecting the public from fraud and misrepresentation. Of particular interest to the FTC are problems related to purchases of lead-glass/ruby imitations sold to consumers as genuine ruby by jewelry stores across the country, often with respected names.

"Anyone who has bought any ruby jewelry in the past few years, should immediately
seek confirmation from an independent gemologist-appraiser that the ruby purchased is, in fact, a ruby," warns well-known gemologist and author Antoinette Matlins. Matlins was among the first to warn the public about this product several years ago, in her book Jewelry & Gems: The Buying Guide and on ABC's Good Morning America (for more, please visit

The timing is critical because the FTC is seeking comments specifically from people who have purchased lead-glass products unknowingly. Unfortunately, this isn't as straightforward as it might appear because most people who have them don't yet know it!

These ruby-look-alikes were introduced about 6 years ago in small quantity but began to flood the market within a few years. "Today many are being sold as genuine ruby by unsuspecting jewelers, at highly inflated prices," explains Matlins.

Looking back, part of the problem is that when these stones were first introduced, they were thought to be a new type of "treated" ruby; no one realized that these contained "lead" glass, or how much glass was actually in them, or how dramatically different they were from ruby, in every way. This is one reason the vendors were able to sell them. The realization that these were something very different took time to understand, and today the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) identifies them as "manufactured products," joining American Gemological Laboratories (AGL) and other labs in recognizing them as an "artificial" product that cannot be sold as "genuine."

But vendors are still selling them as genuine rubies to retailers, and retailers are still selling them to customers…and at prices much, much higher than the few dollars per carat at which they sell at gem shows around the world.

Consumers AND Jewelers Have Been Conned… But Now It Can Be Stopped!

Matlins stresses that the scale of this problem is unprecedented because so many have been sold unknowingly by jewelers themselves. According to Matlins, the changing dynamics of the jewelry industry have played a role in creating such a situation, especially the big chains and mass-marketers selling jewelry, which are run by people who have no gemological background. They have no idea how many treatments, imitations and synthetics are in the marketplace and, as a result, they often hire buyers who are inadequately trained, people with merchandising backgrounds but who also lack gemology training. Buyer focus is increasingly shifting from the quality and value of the product to meeting the financial expectations of management. This combination leads to merchandise managers making buying decisions based almost entirely on the "price" – if one product looks as good as another (or BETTER as in the case of lead-glass "rubies") and the price is cheaper, that's what they buy because they think it gives them a competitive advantage by selling at more competitive prices. But they don't really know what they're buying!

Matlins tells of her own recent experience in Las Vegas at one of the largest jewelry trade shows in the world. She watched as the line snaked from within the booth of a major company out into the corridors, with buyers patiently waiting to gain entry to place their orders. She watched as they looked at the jewelry, and ordered one piece after another. "Not one buyer even pulled out a loupe (the jewelers magnifying lens always used by trained professionals) to check the stones, the quality of workmanship, or anything else"! She was quite appalled, and explained that this was because many lacked the skill to even know how to use one. Even worse, she explained that many buyers for major jewelry store chains think they can simply "trust the vendor" … and this vendor is now a very successful vendor, and one of the biggest financial supporters of major organizations.

Unfortunately, Matlins knew from her own first-hand experience with this same vendor is one of the largest sellers of these lead-glass infused imitations, that they know exactly what they are selling, that they mislead the buyers into thinking that they are getting genuine rubies and top quality diamonds, and that the prices they are charging are highly inflated for what the buyers are really getting.

We know where this leads – the buyers stock their stores with these artificial ruby pieces, add their own retail mark up, and sell them to customers as genuine rubies, at exorbitant prices. "It's a lose-lose situation for everyone," says Matlins, because many are being sold in stores where we put our trust.

 Lead-Glass Rubies Being Sold Everywhere!

In addition to jewelry stores in the USA, beware of purchases in port cities, online sites such as ebay, and a variety of auction venues. These are all major sources of lead-glass products misrepresented as rubies.

Stores in major ports are selling them by the thousands; cruise passengers are at especially high risk where these stones are concerned. Matlins most recent experience was in Key West, FL, in mid-June. "I went into a jewelry store and saw a lovely "ruby" ring in the showcase., priced at $8,400; the tag indicated the ruby weighed 2.34 carats. When I showed interest in it, he removed it for me to see more closely, explaining as he did so that they are really wholesalers, and the price shown on the tag is the price I would see in most retail jewelry stores, but the actual cost was much less. He further explained that they buy all of their own "rough" stones, cut the rough into the lovely gems they sell, and that they also make all their own jewelry, passing on all of the savings along the way to their customers. And in addition to all of this, they were having their annual "end of June" sale so the cost was 40% less than the normal wholesale price. The actual cost – if I purchased it that week – would be only $1,600! How could I refuse such a bargain –an $8,400 value for $1,600!

THEN I took out my loupe. The "ruby" was a lead-glass imitation. Its actual "retail" price SHOULD have been around $350 – $400 (for the gold setting and the diamonds; the retail value of the ruby was about $30). So the bargain was not a bargain at all, and anyone buying that ring at $1,600, will be paying an exorbitant price, approximately 4 times a full retail price. This particular firm has a couple stores in Key West and other places, and consumers buying from this jeweler are being misled and paying much more than the product is worth. In short, they are victims of fraud and misrepresentation."

What's Wrong With Them…They Look Great!

Matlins is very quick to point out there is nothing wrong with the product if properly described and priced. "In fact," says Matlins, "I made some very pretty earrings for my teenage granddaughter using them, and she loves them; but I only paid $20 for the two "rubies"! She points out that they make great costume jewelry because they really look like the real thing, and you don't have to worry if you lose them or if they break! But the problem is the scope of the misrepresentation and exploitation of unsuspecting buyers.

We don't know how many have been sold to date, but we know they've been sold for several years, and are still being sold, in stores with good reputations. Most people purchasing from a store with a good reputation never bother to get independent confirmation about what they purchased. Herein lies the problem, because where these are concerned, failure to do so will result in your being stuck with a stone for which you have over-paid by an enormous factor. More importantly, people have certain expectations where "ruby" is concerned, but these "manufactured products" won't meet those expectations because they are NOT ruby and they lack the characteristics that have made ruby so highly prized and desired.

Genuine rubies are very durable and have been passed down throughout history, generation to generation. This is not the case with these imitations; they are very vulnerable to damage and breakage just in the course of normal wear. Common substances like lemon juice that accidentally splattered onto your stone will cause a whitish etching that will permanently mar the beauty. Little nicks and chips occur much more easily around the edge. And worse yet, if you take any piece of jewelry containing one to a jeweler to have anything done, such as re-sizing a ring, or changing the setting, it can be quickly, horribly – and irreparably – damaged! Where these "rubies" are concerned, this is not the fault of the jeweler! The jeweler has done nothing wrong, but these lead-glass rubies are quickly damaged by the normal techniques that have been used for centuries on ruby. But now we have another "victim"—not only has the consumer been deceived in terms of what they purchased, but the innocent "bench" jeweler gets blamed and suffers irreparable damage to his reputation, as well as the out of pocket cost in replacing the stone.

"But now," urges Matlins, "consumers can do something about it."

Revising the FTC guides as they pertain to this product is essential if we are to stop the unscrupulous from selling them as "ruby," but we need the public's help in ascertaining the scope of the problem. You can take an active role and help make a real difference in reducing consumer fraud and misrepresentation where these lead-glass products are concerned.

But first you need to know what you really purchased. You may not be a victim, but the only way to know for sure is to get an independent appraisal from someone with reliable credentials.

Prestigious Group Offers Public Free Ruby Verification

As an incentive to get an independent appraisal, and to make it easier for people to find a qualified professional, the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) is offering help.
If you or anyone you know has purchased ruby jewelry in the past few years, here is an excellent opportunity to verify whether or not it is genuine.  

Members of the Accredited Gemologists Association have volunteered to do identification of rubies or ruby jewelry purchased in the past 3 years – at no charge – if the owner agrees to send a letter to the FTC should they discover that their ruby is not genuine. To find an AGA member near you, go to
If there is no AGA member near you, Matlins recommends checking with the American Society of Appraisers ( to locate a qualified appraiser in your area.

If you discover you purchased one of these stones unknowingly, just send a letter to the FTC telling them when you made the purchase, where it was purchased, what you were told re: the identity of the stone, how much you paid, whether or not you  were told specifically about the need for extreme care when wearing or repairing them, and how the seller handled the situation when you found out and confronted them; if you could no longer locate the seller, this is important to indicate as well. They would also like to have copies of any “documentation” and/or “appraisal” provided by the seller.

To post comments directly with the FTC, visit:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Troops Should Be Seeing Red

Troops Should Be Seeing Red
By Antoinette Matlins, PG
Author of Jewelry & Gems: The Buying Guide (GemStone Press, USA)

For thousands of years, rubies have been sought and treasured, prized as one of the most valuable of all things on Earth. A fine ruby has everything a precious stone should have — magnificent color, shimmering brilliance, extreme rarity, and excellent hardness and overall durability. Such stones command high prices, and the finest and rarest rubies are among the costliest of all gems, costlier than sapphires, emeralds, and even the finest colorless diamonds.

So of course, when stationed in, or near, gem-producing countries, it is only natural for our troops to be looking for a beautiful ruby, or other gem, to bring back home. But today, rubies are quickly losing there sparkle for many military personnel returning to the states only to learn they didn’t get what they bargained for.

An ever-increasing number have become the unsuspecting victims of a costly scam in which they are sold what appear to be beautiful, sparkling rubies—at bargain prices “because they are so close to the mines” or for some other equally compelling reason—only to find out when they get home that they are not real rubies at all, but fakes! In fact, what they are buying is a “blend” – a composition of extremely poor quality corundum which has been infused with a huge amount of  tinted lead-glass (corundum is the mineral known as “ruby” only when it occurs in a lovely red color, and “sapphire” when it occurs in other lovely colors including blue and yellow). Gem testing laboratories are calling these a “lead-glass composite ruby” or a “manufactured product.”

To make matters worse, while these lead-glass products look pretty, they are very fragile. They can break much more easily in the course of normal wear—an accidental knock or blow can do it—and simple cleaning solutions, even lemon juice, can damage them. Worse yet, they can crumble apart when a jeweler goes to set them into a piece of jewelry, or remount them into a new piece.

There is nothing wrong with buying one of these lead-glass/ruby composites as long as you know what you are buying, pay an appropriate price – such stones in sizes under 3 carats should sell at a jewelry store for under $25 per carat – and as long as you understand the type of extreme care that is required to keep them looking lovely. However, this is usually not the case. Most buyers are led to believe they are paying much less than the stone is really worth, and some have been encouraged to buy them in quantity for re-sale at a profit upon returning home, to earn some extra money in these tough economic conditions. Gemologists and appraisers across America are seeing them in alarming numbers, but by the time they see them, it is too late for our troops; the money is gone, and they’re stuck. 

Internationally respected gem testing labs are finding that many, if not most, contain more glass than anything else. Composite stones are not new, but these are produced in a different manner than old-fashioned composite stones, and as a result, went undetected until recently. The World Jewellery Confederation known as CIBJO (an affiliation of organizations from 40 nations and whose mission is, among other things, to protect consumers) does not recognize composite stones as genuine gemstones. CIBJO defines composite stones as: "artificial products composed of two or more, previously separate, parts or layers assembled by bonding or other artificial methods." And this is exactly what we find in composite rubies…and exactly what is being sold to troops abroad by unscrupulous vendors.

In the USA, it is a violation of FTC guidelines to sell any composite stone or manufactured product without disclosing what it is. Furthermore, when a treatment reduces the durability of the stone, the FTC requires disclosure of this fact as well. Nonetheless, these stones are being sold extensively without any disclosure that they are composite, and without mention of the need for special care.  
What Can The Troops Do?
1.      Buy any ruby—or any fine gem—only from a reputable source, ideally one who is a gemologist or has an on-staff gemologist or gemologist consultant working with them for quality control purposes. Your base BX, post PX, or AAFES catalog, is an excellent source, at home or abroad.
2.      Ask whether or not the ruby has been treated*, and if so, what type of treatment.
3.      Ask whether or not any special care is required, and if so, what type of care.
4.      Make sure to get all of this information in writing, on the sales receipt (and if told that it is natural, get this in writing, too).
5.      Verify what you have purchased by taking it to a qualified gemologist-appraiser. A more complete list of questions and information pertaining to selecting a reliable appraiser can be found in any of Antoinette Matlins’ books, including Jewelry & Gems: The Buying Guide. Matlins’ books can also be found at your local exchange……
Members of the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) are willing to provide free IDENTIFICATION for any consumer who suspects they may have a composite ruby. Please contact the AGA at to find an AGA member in your area who can help. Note: The free service is for IDENTIFICATION only. It does not include an appraisal or valuation of the stone, although these services may also be provided for a fee.

* Today gemstone buyers must understand there are two general categories of gemstones:  treated and natural (that is, not enhanced in any way). Rubies have been routinely enhanced by a variety of techniques for almost half a century, and are well accepted within the trade. The most common type of treatment for ruby is heating, which improves the color and clarity to varying degrees. Today anyone buying a ruby should assume it’s been heated (and possibly treated in other ways) unless there is documentation from a respected laboratory confirming that it is entirely natural. Natural rubies (that is, rubies that have not been enhanced in any way) are among the rarest of all things—an exceptional 8.60 carat natural ruby sold at auction for $3.6 million dollars, $465,000 per carat! The price of this extraordinary gem reflected the extreme rarity of anything comparable in today’s market—its pure red color, high clarity, and brilliance, all found together in a stone of such large size. The price of rare natural rubies as seen in the case of the 8.60 carat gem exemplifies the underlying reason for the introduction of treatments: the increasing scarcity of beautiful rubies. This is what led to the introduction of techniques to improve the appearance of natural gems. Natural rubies of the finest color and clarity were disappearing; the mines were depleted and supply couldn’t keep up with demand. Heating techniques were introduced in an effort to provide beautiful rubies (and sapphires and other gems as well) at prices people could still afford. Otherwise, only the world’s wealthiest would be able to dream of owning magnificent rubies or other gems today!  
In addition to the routine heating of ruby, there are various other treatments used today, and varying degrees of treatment. Treated rubies are priced according to the type of treatment used, how extensively it was treated, and the overall post-treatment appearance compared to that of other similarly treated rubies. There can be minor glass residue in small surface-reaching cracks, and when unsightly cracks detract from the beauty of an otherwise beautiful ruby, they can be filled with glass to reduce their visibility; these are called glass-filled rubies. With so many treatments now used on rubies, many fine jewelry stores only sell rubies that have been submitted to gem-testing laboratories and each stone is accompanied by laboratory documentation. When present, treatments are indicated on the reports.

But “treated” rubies should not be confused with “rubies” made from multiple pieces of low-quality corundum fused together with red-tinted glass. “Treated” rubies are single stones that have been improved in some way to look more attractive. Some were lovely even prior to treatment, the treatment simply having made them even more attractive. Composite rubies are an altogether different thing, much less durable, and of much lower value.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"All-Diamond" Ring Raises Questions

I’m sure many of you have seen the media surrounding what is being touted as the “world’s largest diamond RING” created by the Swiss jeweler Shawish!
At $68,000,000, and from the sketches they’ve shown, one is led to believe the ring is fashioned entirely from the same stone.  This brings many questions to my mind. First, if you have seen the video and some of the images in the press, it appears to have been cut from a much larger “briolette” cut diamond—which from the images would indicate a diamond in excess of 300 carats, which would certainly have ranked it among the world’s largest diamonds. So do we know of this diamond by another name? And if not, why not? And if one had such a diamond, it must certainly have had a diamond grading report, but there is no description of the quality, especially color and clarity. And what was done with the center portion of the original diamond—a nice carving perhaps, for the vanity table of the owner of the ring? I think this would be very revealing!
More important to my practical nature, if you have such an important diamond, why re-cut it and lose so much weight? Especially in light of the fact that there is always a risk in re-cutting any diamond? And then, of course, I must ask how would one “re-size” it for a particular finger?
I’m also wondering who cut it; it would take a master diamond cutter.
Of course, we’re all assuming it’s fashioned from a natural, single diamond. But is this an accurate assumption? It’s becoming more and more difficult to know for sure whether or not a diamond is natural or lab-grown; at the moment, major labs are confident that they are able to distinguish natural from lab-grown, but with the amassed experience of diamond growers and technological advances, is this reality? There are rumors about large colorless lab-grown diamonds already in the market — a topic that will be addressed in a couple months at a major conference on the future of diamonds (for anyone interested in knowing more about the conference, visit the Accredited Gemologist Association website:
I’m not suggesting this diamond ring is lab-grown, but it would certainly make much more sense if it were! Or if it were assembled from more than one diamond. In short, it raises lots of unanswered questions. I think this is a story to which we should all stay tuned!