J-BAR Course Should Be Discontinued

Thank you for your September 2004 issue on J-BAR. In my opinion, the J-BAR course does not need to be rewritten, it needs to be discontinued.

Several of your contributors to this article cite the cost of professional appraisal courses as being a reason to take the J-BAR open-book test and consider yourself to be competent to appraise jewelry. Guess what? You get what you pay for in this profession or any other. Quick and cheap education is not the answer. The standards have already been set, and although the different appraisal organizations do not agree about every little thing, they can agree that a complete and continued education is better than what J-BAR is presenting as a standard for retailers who cannot say “no” to the fees they charge for printed paper.

Time and money are our two most precious commodities, and they must be spent in order to gain the knowledge to keep us out of trouble when we hold ourselves up to the public as an authority in this arena. If JVC had directed the miscreants that wrote reports that were “… causing harm to consumers, and creating a huge black eye for the industry” to get properly educated through one of the nationally recognized appraisal organizations as a condition of staying out of court, there would be no need for this discussion. Instead, JCK chose to fund and support a poorly crafted and incomplete substitute that does mislead the jeweler into thinking that they know what they are doing and causes more harm than good to the organizations that JVC has chosen to mail the “J-BAR Directory” to, in an effort to publicize this effort.

If the courses taught and tested by NAJA, ISA, ASA, etc. are too difficult, then you should not call yourself an appraiser or list “appraisals” as a service in your store. There is not one standard for retailers and another one for professional appraisers. There is only one standard.

Maybe we should all stand back and watch a J-BAR graduate, with no further appraisal education, testify in court. Will Ms. Gardner be there to coach the poor soul? Who is going to pay the legal fees if a jeweler is successfully sued in court for lack of due diligence? J-BAR? JVC? JCK? Anyone? Talk about black eyes!

Karen L. Jensen, NJA, G.G.
Houston, Texas

Diamonds Going Down the Corundum Rabbit Hole

I have really enjoyed reading Gary Roskin’s series on the heat treatments of colored stones and diamonds. (See “If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Gem Business,” JCK, May, June, August, and September 2004, p. 182, 129, 90, and 109, respectively.) Taken as a whole, the piece was very good. It is really sad to see the diamond world rapidly and enthusiastically going down the corundum rabbit hole. You would think that the ever present corundum example would give the diamond community pause. However, it just goes to show that making a buck in the short term is more important than the long term health of the industry.

There are two points or topics in the articles that I feel the need to comment upon. The first is the idea that a flux can “lower the melting point” of corundum. It cannot. A flux is simply a solvent and can dissolve away a part of a corundum crystal, but it cannot cause it to melt at a lower temperature than its melting point (2,045°C). It appears to me that few gemologists make the distinction between melting and dissolving, which are very different things. I have read many articles by gemologists who do not seem to know the difference.

The second issue is one concerning diffusion. Roskin mentions that all heat treatment is diffusion, including Be and Ti lattice diffusion from outside the stone. While that is technically true, it would seem to me to obfuscate the issue. In conventional (dare I say normal?) heat treatment, diffusion can rearrange the naturally occurring trace elements and inclusions within a stone. While hydrogen may diffuse in or out during the process, hydrogen has only a small effect on color. (Hydrogen does seem to enhance the internal diffusion rate of iron and/or titanium.)

In lattice diffusion, beryllium or titanium is diffused into the stone from the outside, adding something that was not originally part of the stone. The difference between these two processes is like the difference between shearing wool and leaving it out in the sun and snow to bleach, or boiling it up in a pot of woad to dye it a deep indigo.

In the final analysis, the question comes down to the value of rarity in determining the value of a gemstone. Corundum of high clarity in attractive colors is a rare commodity, while corundum of high clarity in unattractive colors is not. For each kilogram of the former, 1,000-10,000 kg of the latter can be had for a few hundred dollars per kg. With Be diffusion, 80%-90% of the latter will convert to the former. While I do not spend a lot of money on gemstones, if I did, I would surely want to know if my silk purse was spun by silkworms eating mulberry leaves or was manufactured from a sow’s ear. And I’ll bet that if it were carefully explained to a group of retail customers so they really, fully understood it, they would too.

It is not my role in life to dictate to the market what it should pay for. But I will argue that the only real choice is a fully informed choice. I have not seen much effort on the part of the gem community to do other than blur distinctions.

Again, thanks for the articles. I think that Roskin is making a significant contribution to the discussion. I only wish he wrote for retail customers also.

Dr. John L. Emmett
Crystal Chemistry
Brush Prairie, Wash.

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