Lab Update Says Beryllium Sapphires No Accident

Adolf Peretti of Bangkok’s GRS gem identification laboratory says his lab has tested several blue sapphires that showed traces of beryllium. GRS is one of several laboratories worldwide that have found undisclosed beryllium in blue sapphires and rubies.

For those who believe beryllium treatment is found only in pink-orange and yellow sapphires, it’s time to question every piece of corundum you own. According to a recent lab update reported by the American Gem Trade Association’s Gem Testing Center, gem trade labs will now be looking at all corundum—blue sapphires, rubies, and all other colors—for possible beryllium treatment.

GIA’s gem identification laboratory has said that beryllium can enter blue sapphire only by deliberate effort (probably to lighten the color of overly dark blue sapphires) or through accidental contamination from treatment in furnaces previously used for beryllium treatment. Corundum expert John Emmett of Crystal Chemistry, Brush Prairie, Wash., reported to JCK and the trade on these possibilities two years ago. (See “If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Gem Business,” JCK, August 2004, p. 90.)

According to GTC, the high concentration of beryllium found in blue sapphires tested by GIA and two other laboratories indicates deliberate effort. There is concern that extensive beryllium treatment, as reportedly takes place in Thailand, will have a negative impact on the worldwide sapphire market.

Many sapphire dealers remain unconcerned. “I like it in its place: disclosed and at the right price,” says Bear Williams, Bear Essentials, a colored-stone supplier with AGTA. One example of this would be Nafco Gems’ popular new line of beryllium-enhanced sapphire jewelry.

“Sophisticated treatments are a fact of life,” reads 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 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 testing for beryllium treatment is quite expensive and won’t 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.”