For Your Staff:Selling Treated Gemstones
Most sapphires are enhanced by heat to produce their kaleidoscope
of colors. Here's how to tell your customers about it
Sapphires come in a vast array of colors. Most are heat-enhanced
to brighten the color, change it and/or make it more saturated. Heating
often dissolves unwanted inclusions. Gems courtesy of James Alger Co. Inc.,
|This is the third in a series of articles in Professional
Jeweler showing how to explain gemstone enhancements honestly and positively.
Emerald started the series in June, followed by ruby in July. Look for pearls
The bright, permanent colors of sapphire sold in most jewelry stores
are usually the result of heat enhancement. Controlled heating transforms
somewhat dingy, uninspired sapphires into an array of dazzling colors. These
attributes are the desired effect of heating sapphire, a treatment that
has been done for centuries.
Disclosure of sapphire heat treatments need not be a painful process
if you weave it into your sales presentation with candor and honesty. As
with any other gemstone enhancement, it's best to be straightforward with
your customer about sapphires' final step in becoming a jewel.
Sapphires are sometimes treated in other ways, such as dyeing, coating,
surface diffusion or irradiation (ask your store's gemologist to identify
to you any sapphires enhanced by these less-common treatments). In this
article, we will focus on heat enhancement, by far the most common treatment.
Natural sapphires almost always contain fibers or needles of another mineral
that form during the growth process of the sapphire crystal. In some cases
the fibers impart a velvety, hazy appearance that is considered a desirable
trait. But in many cases, such fibers compromise the color and/or transparency
of the sapphires. Heating is sometimes performed to dissolve the fibers
and make the sapphires more transparent, lighter and more colorful. Other
times, heating is performed merely to deepen and enrich weak color.
Blue sapphires respond in various ways to heat. Some become pale, some
become more saturated either outcome may be desirable. If a blue sapphire
is too dark, for example, heating may make it lighter and bluer. If a blue
sapphire is too light, heating might deepen the color.
Pale yellow sapphires can become more intense. Some sapphires even change
color when heat-treated. Pink may become orangy-pink, sometimes resulting
in sapphires known to the trade as padparadscha, a highly collectible form
of the gemstone. (Padparadscha is a Sinhalese term describing the beautiful
pinkish/orangy hue of a lotus flower.) Natural greenish sapphires may loose
the yellow component and become blue, while some blue sapphires turn greenish.
It's all in the fine tuning of the heating and cooling process.
While premiums are paid for unenhanced sapphires that can stand on their
own color merits, such gems are rare in today's market. Luckily, heating
technology has made many attractive sapphires available to consumers at
prices that are more affordable. As an example of the differences in price,
a top-quality, non-treated, 4- to 5-ct. blue sapphire may reach $2,500-$4,000
wholesale per carat possibly more. A similar heat-treated sapphire
is $2,000-$4,000. (These prices do not include your markup. Be sure to include
that when quoting prices to customers.)
In special cases, natural, needle-like inclusions in a sapphire (any
color) may give rise to asterism effect star sapphires. Some star
sapphires are heated and cooled in such a way as to preserve asterism while
saturating the color.
Special Care Advice
With a hardness rating of 9.0 on the Mohs scale, sapphires are among the
hardest of gemstones and are resistant to general wear and tear. That's
why sapphires are often worn in rings or bracelets. The heat enhancement
itself is not subject to change over time and requires no special attention.
Most sapphires can be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner or with a toothbrush
and warm, sudsy water. Advice for Sales Associates
- Store policies. Learn your store's policies on how to explain
heat treatment to customers and on merchandise returns.
- Written statements. Be sure to give your customers a written
statement detailing the fact the sapphire has been heat-treated to enrich
The Heat Treatment of Ruby and Sapphireby Ted Themelis, ISBN 0-9409-6510-0.
Published by Gemlab Inc., Type-egraphics Inc. USA.
- The Ruby & Sapphire Buying Guideby Renee Newman, International
Jewelry Publications, Los Angeles, CA.
- Ruby & Sapphireby Richard Hughes, RWH Publishing, Boulder,
- Gem Identification Made Easyby Antoinette Matlins, Gemstone
Press, Woodstock, VT.
- GIA's Gem Reference Guide,published by the Gemological Institute
of America, Carlsbad, CA.
- AGTA Source Directory, 1997/1998 Edition,[contains Gem Enhancement
Manual] American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.
- AGTA Gemstone Enhancements, What You Should Know,American Gem
Trade Association, Dallas, TX.
Even though sapphire heat enhancement is considered permanent by the
trade and the enhancement itself does not pose special care considerations
other than normal care, it's still wise to disclose any treatment or enhancement
to customers. Take into account that state consumer laws allow customers
to sue if they feel you did not disclose properly or advise them about proper
care and protection (in spite of the FTC Guides for the Jewelry Industry
saying permanent treatments need not be disclosed). Letting customers know
what their beautiful product has gone through before they buy it can avert
unpleasant surprises later.
The FTC Guides say "it is unfair or deceptive to fail to disclose
that a gemstone has been treated in any manner that is not permanent or
that creates special care requirements, and to fail to disclose that the
treatment is not permanent, if such is the case. The following are examples
of treatments that should be disclosed because they usually are not permanent
or create special care requirements: coating, impregnation, irradiating,
heating, use of nuclear bombardment, application of colored or colorless
oil or epoxy-like resins, wax, plastic, or glass, surface diffusion, or
dyeing. This disclosure may be made at the point of sale, except that disclosure
should be made in any solicitation where the product can be purchased without
viewing (e.g., direct mail catalogs, on-line services), and in the case
of televised shopping programs, on the air. If special care requirements
for a gemstone arise because
the gemstone has been treated, it is recommended that the seller disclose
the special care requirements to the purchaser."
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.