Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gemstone Enhancement Identification and Labeling

Owning a business is a learning experience everyday.  One of the things we are still learing about are the  FTC regulations.  A shocking regulation we learned about was that today gemstones are altered in some form.  True "natural" gemstones are still available, yet you have to be very careful when purchaing.  This translates into a regulation for seller's to identify whether stones have been chemically, heat, or otherwise been altered from there natural state in some manner.  As someone whom has a gemstone obsession I still have trouble wrapping my head around this regulation.  Of course that may be because I tend to collect and tumble my own or purchase gemstones from the local lapidary shop.

The challenge for us now is to find reputable suppliers who identify this information, so we can in turn supply this information to our customers in our descriptions.  While we have mentioned it in our listings when able and even have some listing we confess we haven't been able to identify the stone, not everything is identified.   This is due to not being informed when we purchased it, we are not trying to decieve anyone.  Even if we don't know the specific information for a piece, we can provide you with the standards and options that are being used currenlty in the industry.  

Having a tactile tendency in working with stones, we have been hesitant to order gemstones from on line suppliers.  Generally we buy our gemstones at gemology shows and lapidary shops.   Recently we placed a small order for gemstones from Fire Mountain Gemstones.   The nice thing about Fire Mountain Gemstones is they not only have a wide selection, they also clearly label all of their stones, including if they have been altered or not.  Not only on their listing, but there packaging and they have a full page guide.  We have been very pleased with the few stones we ordered so far.

For your convience we are including the Fire Mountain Gemstone Enhancement Guide:

We use the following symbols to designate natural, enhanced, synthetic and imitation (man-made) gemstones. All of the symbols used are those described by the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), of which we are charter members. It is the practice of Fire Mountain Gems to disclose all enhancements to the gems we sell (with the exception of normal cutting and polishing). We also disclose the method of enhancement, if known. This disclosure will appear both on the stone's advertising and on the stone's invoice. For the benefit of your customer and your company, we strongly suggest that you follow these guidelines when you sell stones and jewelry.

(ASBL) - Assembled: Products made of multiple layers or combinations of manufactured and/or natural materials joined together. Example: opal triplets.

(B) - Bleaching: The use of chemical agents to lighten or remove a gemstone's color.

(C) - Coating: Surface enhancements to improve appearance, provide color or other special effects.

(D) - Dyeing: The introduction of coloring matter into a gemstone to give it new color, intensify present color or improve color uniformity.

(E) - Enhanced: This indicates that this type of gemstone is routinely enhanced. Since many enhancements are difficult or impractical to prove definitively, the approach taken in our printed materials and invoices is to assume, unless otherwise indicated, that such enhancement has been done to the particular gemstone material being described. If the particular type of enhancement is known, that enhancement symbol will be stated, rather than the “E” symbol.

(F) - Filling: As a by-product of heat enhancement, this is the presence of solidified borax or similar colorless substances which are visible under properly illuminated 10x magnification.

(G) - Gamma/Electron Irradiation: The use of gamma and/or electron bombardment to alter a gemstone's color, which may be followed by a heating process.

(H) - Heating: The use of heat to effect desired alteration of color, clarity and/or phenomena.

(I) - Infilling: The intentional filling of surface-breaking cavities or fractures usually with glass, plastic, opticon with hardeners and/or hardened foreign substances to improve durability, appearance and/or add weight.

(IMIT) - Imitation: Man-made products, fabricated in such materials as glass, ceramic or plastic designed to imitate or resemble the appearance, but not duplicate the characteristic properties, of a natural gemstone.

(L) - Lasering: The use of lasers and chemicals to reach and alter inclusions in diamonds.

(MM) - Manmade: Fabricated products.

(N) - Natural: Stones which are not currently known to be enhanced.

(O) - Oiling/Resin Infusion: The intentional filling of surface-breaking cavities with a colorless oil, wax, natural resin or unhardened man-made material into fissured transparent/translucent gemstones to improve appearance.

(R)- Irradiation: The use of neutrons, requiring an environmental safety release from the NRC, with the combination of any other bombardment and/or heat treatment to alter a gem's color.

(S) - Stabilization (Bonding): The use of a colorless bonding agent (commonly plastic) with a porous gemstone to give it durability and improve appearance.

(SYN) - Synthetic: These are man-made materials which have essentially the same optical, physical and chemical properties as a naturally occurring counterpart.

(U) - Diffusion: The use of chemicals in conjunction with high temperatures to produce color and/or asterism (star-like) inclusions.

(W) - Waxing / Oiling: The impregnation of a colorless wax, paraffin and/or oil in porous opaque gemstones to improve their appearance.

Additional Notes: If you resell gems obtained from us, or any gems for that matter, it is your responsibility to provide all information pertinent to the enhancement of a gemstone at the time of sale. If a stone is man-made, it is the seller's responsibility to disclose that fact. This information is required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Failure to identify enhancement of natural gemstones, when present, is an unfair trade practice. Such information is required at each and all levels of jewelry commerce. Failure to inform buyers could subject violators to civil as well as administrative remedies. Anyone who is uncertain about these requirements may write the American Gem Trade Association, 3030 LBJ Freeway, Suite # 840, Dallas, TX 75234
As we move forward we will continue to provide accurate information when we know it or are able to find out.  Unfortunately this information is not always available to us.

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