Why Treated Gems Are Acceptable and Non-Disclosure is NOT
By Antoinette Matlins, PG
I was recently following a discussion on one of the gemology groups to which I belong, and thought that it might be useful to introduce it here as well.
The writer was pointing out that gemstone treatments seem to be much more prevalent among colored gemstones than they are with diamonds. He also pointed out that there was nothing wrong with the treatments themselves; the problem is only with the failure to disclose the treatments. While I agree in part, I think this requires a more in-depth examination.
I agree that it is not the “treatments” that are “bad” but the failure to disclose that the gemstones have been treated. Disclosure would be much easier if treaters themselves worked with a few respected gem-testing laboratories to keep themselves apprised of what will be introduced before offering them en masse to the trade. This would at least let the laboratories know what the identification characteristics are from the very beginning, thereby allowing them to disseminate the information to the broader gemological community, eliminating the time-lag between introduction and the laboratories “discovering” the treatment.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many “treated” gems are sold “without disclosure” before anyone even realizes the treatment exists. It then becomes much more difficult to begin disclosing since it throws into question what was previously sold. This, whether or not we like it, sometimes contributes to having a larger number of people in the trade preferring to be ignorant—“ignorance is bliss,” or so many think, until they find themselves dealing with an angry customer who has learned that what they sold is not what they were told! Due to this, there are more consumers seeking independent verification than ever before … and as I state in all of my books, if you aren’t getting independent verification from a gemologist-appraiser, you should be! Given the number of gems incorrectly sold today, even at the most respected stores, it is important to recognize how essential this step is, regardless of the reputation of the store or seller!
Furthermore, it does apply to diamonds as well as colored gemstones. While buyers of larger diamonds tend to be protected to a large extent from unintentional deception, there is still plenty of deception related to the failure to disclose treatments, even among honest retailers/designers; many fracture-filled diamonds are still being sold globally in every “diamond wholesale district” without disclosure—despite the manufacturers providing full disclosure to the sellers—along with pavilion-coated and synthetic “fancy color” diamond melee sold as “genuine, natural” fancy-color by “honest” people in the trade who have simply accepted what they are being told by sellers. Just a random sampling sent to a respected laboratory would help protect everyone ... but jewelry with melee is unlikely to go to a laboratory or gemologist-appraiser, and so it goes undetected.
Retailers, designers, and manufacturers need to find ways in today’s marketplace to keep up-to-date about what is actually in the marketplace, and how to protect themselves from buying/selling it inadvertently. But until this idea becomes the norm rather than the exception, the public needs to be much more vigilant.
In my opinion, the global marketplace could—and should—do more to prosecute people who are treating gems and selling them without disclosure at the start of the pipeline. This could be done, but as pointed out in the dialogue, there is no organization in place to oversee it. What is needed is an international group of respected people from all sectors of the marketplace that could deal with these issues, as well as arbitration in cases where laboratories disagree.
If this could be done, I think it would be an incentive that would lead treaters to understand that it could be more profitable to them to work with laboratories. This would create a situation whereby any treated product could be introduced without misrepresentation and customer deception, which in turn, could result in broader acceptance.
By eliminating the fear and anxiety associated with whether or not new treatments can be detected—and the negative association and avoidance that follows—I predict that treaters would experience greater sales of gems treated in new or innovative ways. They would then be less afraid to disclose, which would ultimately benefit the entire trade.
So maybe it’s time to start organizing an independent international body to begin identifying those who are not disclosing, and even more importantly, to facilitate ways to help treaters find ways to work with respected gem-testing laboratories prior to introducing new products into the market!
Or perhaps this is just more of my wishful thinking. Nonetheless, it is food for thought.