From the President of the Queensland Sapphire Producers Association - 17 November, 2004.

Hon. John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia. QLD. 4702.
Hon. Peter Beattie, Premier of Queensland.

Dear Sirs,

Subject : Sale of Artificially Treated Gemstones Without Disclosure.

We wish to bring to your attention the availability of artificially treated, chemically modified and radiation enhanced gemstones in Australia without any form of disclosure as to the treatments given or to the true nature of the gems.

Whilst the U.S.A. (and other countries) have recognised this rapidly growing problem and have introduced strong. legislation to protect consumers, Australian jewellery and gemstone buyers have no clear protection from the actions of unscrupulous traders and, in fact, many buyers are not even aware of the very existence of these modified materials on the market.

Some of the treatments used have been around for a long time and have either been recognised by the gemstone industry or have been readily identifiable.

However, some of the newer forms of artificial modification are very sophisticated and are much more difficult to detect by other than trained gemmologists. This has enabled uncaring traders to pass them off as "real, natural gems", and so achieve a significantly higher price than would otherwise have been achieved.

Some of the newer forms of artificial modification involve various levels of radiation treatment, which can sometimes be extreme. The factories involved in these radiation modifications say that they hold the treated gemstones back from sale until after the radiation decay has reached an "acceptably safe level", but this is not always true.

The consequences of this deception can be separated into two distinct groups:

1. Financial Deception.

The value of any gemstone is, in the most simple terms, a product of the inherent beauty of that gem and of its rarity.

Whilst the primary aim of carrying out the artificial modification of a gemstone is to improve its colour or its clarity (or both) in order to increase the beauty and therefore the saleability of otherwise lower quality gemstones, the very fact that the final appearance is a result of man's interference greatly reduces the rarity and therefore lowers the value.

Many consumers are not made aware of this lower value and believe that the article that, they have purchased contains a genuine, natural, valuable gemstone and are often unpleasantly surprised at a later date when their "precious" jewel is presented to a qualified gemmologist for identification or valuation to find that it may only be worth a fraction of the purchase price.

2. Health and Safety Risks.

Many gemstones are now altered by radiation treatments and some of these treatments are extreme.

Most gemstone buyers would not be aware that almost all the modified blue topaz sold as "London Blue" or "Super Blue" are produced by direct neutron radiation, or that other gemstones including diamonds, beryl, sapphire, tourmaline, zircon, quartz and even pearls may have been subjected to radiation in some form to produce the "desired" result.

Whilst all experienced and qualified jewellers and gemmologists are fully aware of this radiation treatment, it is extremely rare to find it acknowledged in any sales information despite the obvious importance for the consumer to be made aware of it.

We were even made aware at one public gem show of the severe health problems and eventual death of one Queensland lady which was directly attributed to the wearing of a ring with an irriadated blue topaz which was found subsequently to still be highly emissive.

3. Chemical Treatments.

The range of treatments applied covers almost all gemstones and would require several volumes to cover completely.

For example, a. significant proportion of sapphires offered for sale here in Australia have been chemically. modified by a bulk diffusion process which principally used beryllium, but may also include other elements such as lithium, titanium ....

The modification process, we understand, involves heating the sapphires to some 1850 degrees Centigrade, in the presence of powdered beryllium or crushed beryllium derivitaves.

During a recent Canberra gem show, we were visited by scientists from the Australian National University who had heard of this process and were enquiring as to whether it was really true that this was done.

These ANU personnel advised us that, not only is beryllium a highly toxic material, but all the beryllium salts are known to be carcenogenic. As a result of this, the release of any beryllium or vaporised salts during the high temperature treatment process would have significant health consequences, and there was even some concern that the very small residual amount in the treated gemstone may have lasting health consequences.

Of particular concern was the fact that, whilst the bulk of the treatment is carried out overseas, there are beryllium treatment furnaces operating here in Australia even here in Central Queensland.

We have discussed the necessity for full and adequate disclosure of all treatments with representatives of the Gemmological Association of Australia and of the National Council of Jewellery Valuers. The people with whom we have discussed this have unanimously stated that there should be strict legal requirements for clear and adequate disclosure as part of a responsible gemstone and jewellery marketing system.

We have also contacted the Jewellers Association of Australia, but have had no effective response from that body despite the fact that their members (whilst admittedly. some may be profiting from sales of undisclosed modified gemstones) are the people who will have maximum exposure to litigation as a result of legal actions by disillusioned or aggrieved buyers.

Australia, although we only have a small population, is seen by Asian processors as an affluent society where gemstones can be sold at relatively high prices with no necessity to disclose any artificial treatments to modified gemstones in fact, we are seen as a "soft target"!

We attach copies of the face page, of a detailed article in the Gemmological Institute of America magazine "Gems and Gemmology" which gives some detail of the legislation introduced to protect U.S.A. consumers.

We also attach a copy of information taken from the G.I.A. website which gives detail on the legislated testing requirement for radiation treated gemstones which are intended for sale in the U.S.A..

The introduction of clear, enforceable legislation demanding testing of any radiation treated gemstones and full disclosure of all treatments applied will not only provide consumer protection against unscrupulous or uncaring traders, but will also assist in protecting our Australian natural gemstone industries.

Since the undisclosed sale of artificially treated gemstones touches on legal, commercial and consumer issues as well as the obvious health and safety related matters, we are sending this information to you as heads of your Governments with the fervent plea that you initiate action to protect the interests of Australian consumers and producers without delay.

There are alarge number of genuine, caring jewellers who take the interests of their clients to heart and issue Certificates to guarantee their products and provide full details on the origin, treatment and authenticity of their products.

It is not in the interests of these genuine jewellers, the consumers or our own natural gemstone producers, that this misinformation and deception be allowed to continue.

Yours Faithfully

(Mrs) Jenny Elliot,

President Q.S.P.A.


Gemmological Association of Australia.
National Council of Jewellery Valuers.
Jewellers Association of Australia.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Australian National University.
Australian Medical Association.
Australian Facetors Guild.
Member for Maranoa.
Member for Gregory


Quoted from Gems and Gemmology - Summer 2004, Volume 40, Issue 2

Gem Treatment Disclosure and U.S. Law
Thomas W. Overton

In recent years, the obligation to fully disclose all gem treatments has changed from a mere ethical responsibility to a legal one. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission Guides for the gem and jewelry trade, which were fairly simple rules in the early 20th century, now require disclosure of any treatment to a gem material that substantially affects its value. In addition, all state deceptive trade practice regulations in the U.S. require that vendors not mislead customers as to the treatment status of gems they sell. Finally, vendors should also be aware that insufficient disclosure can subject them to substantial civil liability for fraud by nondisclosure. Several case studies demonstrate the serious risks involved in not complying with this body of rules and regulations.


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