Emerald Dilemma:We're Not in Kansas Anymore
Fans of The Wizard of Ozmay recall the scene when residents of
the Emerald City sang to Dorothy and her group as they approached: "You're
out of the woods, you're out of the dark, you're out of the night ..."
Unfortunately for jewelers on the front line trying to explain emerald
treatments to consumers, they've left Kansas but aren't in the Emerald City
yet. What they need is simple guidance in conveying the news that not only
are most emeralds treated, but the gemstone community can't always identify
the proliferating number of fillers or determine how stable each is.
I found myself particularly struck with this thought after listening
to a debate among gem dealers and gem laboratories during the AGTA GemFair
in Tucson. Even though it was progress to get the various labs together
to explain how they're trying to keep up, the debate was academic for most
retailers in the audience. A jeweler turned to me when it was over and said,
"This is why I don't sell emeralds anymore. They're up there discussing
fine points, while I still don't know what to tell my customers that won't
land me in legal trouble."
For now, the scientific work of categorizing the various fillers and
testing them for durability (and several other factors) rests primarily
in the hands of researchers at the Gemological Institute of America, who
are conducting a major study of the issue. Dr. Mary L. Johnson's fascinating
lecture the next day at a GemFair seminar broke the news the research is
yielding more questions than answers. So it may be awhile before we have
In the meantime, what if you included a statement such as this with each
emerald sale: "Virtually all emeralds are treated with fillers that
enhance their beauty and soften their natural inclusions. Because of amazing
strides in technology, many new treatments are coming onto the market, some
of which haven't been used long enough to know their long-term durability.
For this reason, we advise that you return your fine emerald to us for inspection
once a year. If the treatment destabilizes, we will re-treat or replace
the emerald promptly." Then, as long as your suppliers can assure you
they're doing everything they can to sell you emeralds with the most stable
fillers on the market, hopefully you'd have very few returns anyway.
When I showed this sample statement to our resident gemologist and Senior
Writer Robert Weldon, however, he pointed out not all dealers can remove
bad fillers completely and replace them, which means you could find yourself
buying replacement emeralds for your customers. That's a difficult position
to be in because an emerald's inclusions make it hard to find a like gem,
not to mention it's an expensive practice that may be an unbearable burden
Is my proposed statement practical and will it protect you? I tried to
frame it keeping in mind that consumers say they are mostly OK with gem
treatments as long as they're informed and assured their jeweler will take
care of any problems. How are you resolving this difficult issue? Please
e-mail me, write or go to our Web site (www.professionaljeweler.com) and
click on Brainstorm. There's got to be a yellow brick road around here someplace.
by Peggy Jo Donahue
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.