Labs Still Focused on Beryllium: A Review of Presentations by GIA and AGTA

Both the Gemological Institute of America’s gem identification laboratory and the American Gem Trade Association’s Gem Testing Center lab still consider identification of beryllium-treated corundum as their top concern. In separate presentations on Friday, both Shane McClure, GIA’s West Coast director of gem identification services, and Dr. Lore Kiefert, GTC’s lab director, reviewed the latest treatment method. With that method, dark blue sapphires are lightened by cooking for long periods of time—two or three weeks or more—resulting in sapphires with Ceylon blue color and with the most bizarre and wonderful inclusions ever seen in corundum.

McClure showed image after image of swirling, spiraling, milky, ribbon-like inclusions; oddly shaped circles surrounding once whole and now divided included crystals; and “spider webs surrounding supernovas.”

McClure noted that, because detection of beryllium requires very challenging and expensive testing methods, detecting this method of enhancement is not a 100 percent sure bet. In gathering data about the detection of this enhancement technique, GIA has discovered that there are natural unheated sapphires that, when tested, have very small amounts of beryllium present.

McClure finished his presentation by showing an unusual blue crystal inclusion in a diamond that was identified as blue sapphire.

Kiefert discussed the latest approval by the AGTA lab for the use of the term Paraíba with any copper-bearing tourmaline, regardless of country of origin.