Gemstones & Pearls:News
Wrestling with the ins and outs of fillers
Concern about unstable or unreported emerald treatments have scared some
retailers away from the gem in recent years. Still others joined the exodus
from emeralds after an exposé on "Dateline NBC" and several
well-publicized court cases late last year.
No doubt about it, retailers have to understand these treatments and
discuss them intelligently with in-creasingly sophisticated and wary consumers.
They have to be able to answer questions about a treatment's durability
and stability and make it part of their disclosure policy so customers know
what they're buying and how to care for it. "I always put myself in
the consumer's position," says Daniel Sauer of Amsterdam Sauer, a Brazilian
retailer. "I want to know what I'm buying and I don't want my stone
The Swiss Foundation for the Research of Gemstones in Switzerland (known
by the acronym SSEF for its German name) has been investigating and classifying
emerald fillers for over a decade, says director Henry Hänni. Identification
of fillers is at least 90% possible for cedarwood, epoxy resins, wax, Canada
balsam and other fillers via FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared and Raman)
spectroscopy, he says, even when different fillers were used to treat a
single stone. Identification of decomposed or aged fillers is not always
possible by any method, he says. SSEF gemstone certificates provide separate
slips of paper identifying fillers. As a result of the congress, SSEF will
now place filler information on the certificate itself. "This is full
disclosure," Hänni says.
The Gemological Institute of America doesn't identify fillers because
there are so many known and unknown says Mary Johnson, manager
of research and development at GIA's Gem Trade Laboratory. GIA is conducting
a major study in which nine known fillers combined with emeralds from various
sources are examined. Results are expected soon and will be published in
Gems & Gemology, GIA's quarterly journal. Pending the GIA study's results,
the Colombian Emerald Dealers Association agreed at the congress to reject
the use of palm oil (an epoxy resin) in favor of cedarwood. As an alternative
to cedarwood, emerald customers who prefer another treatment, such as Canada
balsam or the Groom-Gematrat treatment, could have those done, depending
on individual preference. GIA's Gem Trade Laboratory does acknowledge the
need for more consumer information on reports. "It is a message we
are taking back to our headquarters," said GIA President Bill Boyajian.
GIA doesn't offer colored gemstone grading now but may at some time in the
Ken Scarratt, director of the new lab the American Gem Trade Association
will open soon in New York City, says the degree to which emeralds are filled
none, minor, significant is also important information. "It
is with great satisfaction that I go back knowing what the industry wants,"
by Robert Weldon, G.G. Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.