Feature Gems & Gemology, Winter 2000, Volume 36, No. 4

Gemstone Enhancements and Detection in the 1990s

Gemstone enhancements and their disclosure became the most important gemological issue for the jewelry trade in the 1990s. Growing public awareness of treatments and the greater use of sophisticated technology to enhance the color and/or apparent clarity of gem materials brought to the forefront the need to maintain (or in some cases regain) the consumer confidence that is so vital to this industry. The treatments with the greatest impact were those that affected the gems that were commercially most important: heat and diffusion treatment of ruby and sapphire, “oiling” of emeralds, and fracture filling of diamonds. At the end of the decade, the decolorization of diamonds by high pressure and high temperature posed one of the greatest identification challenges ever faced by gemologists worldwide. Yet most other gem materials were also subjected to enhancements—ranging from traditional processes as with quench-crackled quartz to novel “impregnation” techniques such as the Zachery treatment of turquoise. This article discusses the treatments that were new or prominent during the ‘90s and suggests methods for their detection.