Orange and Pink Topaz

May 1999

For Your Staff:Selling Treated Gemstones

Orange and Pink Topaz

Deep orange, yellow and pink topazes are true rarities Gentle heat can intensify – or even change – the color provided by nature

There was a time when orange, yellow and pink were the only colors that came to mind when we thought about topaz. It wasn't until we learned to harness irradiation that we could create the bright blues that most people associate with topaz today. But the warm colors – orange, yellow, pink – are still available and are now often called Imperial or precious topaz, a description some feel adds value.

Even these warm colors are usually enhanced, but with heating, not irradiation. Heating to about 450° F transforms a brown component in topaz that contains chromium into orange, pink or, less often, subtle violet. Topaz from Ouro Preto in Brazil is routinely heated to achieve pink in a process called "pinking." In his book Gemstone Enhancement, Kurt Nassau says the colors resulting from heating are considered stable.

While blue topaz has almost always been treated, orange, yellow and pink topaz does exist in nature. But it's extremely difficult to tell whether the intense warm colors are natural or the result of heating (unless inclusions indicative of heating are present). As a result, valuable topaz gems should be sent to qualified laboratories to determine the origin of color.

Introducing Enhancements
Try to show your customers an array of topaz colors because there should be one to suit everyone's taste. But make sure you approach the matter of enhancement in a straightforward and factual manner. Understand the difference in treatments between warm-colored topaz (which is heated) and blue topaz (which is irradiated and heated).

If your customer is concerned about heat treatment, explain that almost all warm colors of topaz sold in the U.S. are enhanced this way. The treatment produces a stable color and doesn't affect the gem's durability.

Special Care Warnings
Topaz registers 8 on the Mohs hardness scale and is considered quite tough. This is the case even though topaz has perfect cleavage, which is a weakness in one direction along its atomic structure. With any topaz, direct knocks should be avoided. As we've already mentioned, heat treatment produces a stable color.

Advice for Sales Associates
Learn your store's disclosure and return policies regarding topaz. Your store may want to adopt a written policy for gems of this kind that a customer can read, understand and sign.

Recommended Reading:
Gemstone Enhancement by Dr. Kurt Nassau, Butterworths, London, England.

Gem Identification Made Easy by Antoinette Matlins, Gemstone Press, Woodstock, VT.

American Gem Trade Association Source Directory 1997/1998, American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.

AGTA Gemstone Enhancements, What You Should Know, American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.

The Guide Reference Manual, Gemworld International Inc., Northbrook, IL.

Gemstone Buying Guide by Renée Newman, International Jewelry Publications, Los Angeles, 1998.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

  Legal Considerations

The trade considers topaz enhancement permanent, but it's still wise for you to disclose any treatment or enhancement that alters a gem's color. Almost all commercially sold topaz has been heat-enhanced.

If you and your manager simply don't know about a particular topaz, err on the side of caution. (You may want to send costlier gems to a qualified laboratory for an opinion.)

Full disclosure becomes important because state consumer laws allow people to sue if they feel you did not disclose properly or advise them about proper care and protection. Letting them know before they buy avoids unpleasant surprises later. Weave disclosure into your sales presentation with candor and honesty.

Here is what the FTC Guides say about gemstone treatments:

"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."

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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