Laboratory update says beryllium blue sapphires are no accident

Gem trade labs will now be looking at all blue sapphires for possible beryllium treatment, according to the American Gem Trade Association’s weekly Gem Testing Center laboratory update. Over the past several months, U.S. gem laboratories have seen a number of blue sapphires treated with beryllium.

The Gemological Institute of America’s gem identification laboratory reportedly showed that the beryllium found in blue sapphire is due to one of two things: “either the beryllium entered the gemstones via accidental contamination from treatment in furnaces previously used with beryllium treatment, or beryllium was added deliberately (probably with an eye towards lightening the color of overly dark blue sapphires.)” The GIA’s findings coincide with the findings of two other laboratories, which has the led the GTC to conclude that the high concentration of beryllium found in blue sapphires is no accident.

No matter how or why the color is being enhanced, the amount of beryllium treatment taking place in Thailand will definitely impact the sapphire market worldwide. But many sapphire dealers aren’t concerned.

“I like it in its place: disclosed and at the right price,” says Bear Williams, Bear Essentials color stones supplier with AGTA. Roland Naftule of Nafco Gems, Scottsdale, Ariz., agrees. Naftule told JCK in February that he was disappointed that the trade press was not being more positive about the availability of these fine color-enhanced sapphires and rubies.

“Sophisticated treatments are a fact of life,” reads the GTC’s update. “Even though this treatment appears to be in its infancy, stones have entered the world market. As a result, the policy of the AGTA GTC from now on will be that all corundums showing signs of long-term/high-temperature heat treatment will require advanced testing before beryllium diffusion can be ruled out.”

Knowing that the tests for beryllium treatment are quite expensive and will not always be requested, general identification reports will include the following comment: “Further advanced analysis is required to determine whether or not a foreign element has been introduced.”