Thai Firm Sues Gem Lab for Identifying Lattice Diffusion

A Thailand heat-treating firm, the Orange Sapphire Company, claims that the Gem and Jewellery Institute of Thailand (GIT) Laboratory has “damaged the value of the company’s products and caused confusion among consumers as to whether its orange sapphires are natural or synthetic.” According to an article in the May 15 edition of the Bangkok Post the firm is suing the lab for 50 million baht, roughly the equivalent of $1.2 million.

The Orange Sapphire Company told the Post that it “uses heat treatment to turn pink rubies into highly sought-after orange-pink or orange sapphires.” The GIT lab report says that the sapphires have been beryllium treated, using standard identification nomenclature set forth by the international Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC), which includes AGTA, GIA, SSEF, GAAJ, CISGEM, and the Gübelin Gem Lab as well as GIT. The laboratory report states that the stones show “indications of heating and color induced by lattice diffusion of a chemical element from an external source.”

According to the 2004 Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC), standardized gemological report wording implemented in February 2004 states that beryllium-diffused sapphire should be described as “corundum with color induced by lattice diffusion.”

If any sapphire shows indications of having undergone only heat treatment, then the report should read: “Natural corundum, [variety], indications of heating.”

“Any corundum that shows indications of having undergone heating accompanied by the introduction/diffusion of a chemical element(s) (facilitating the modification or creation of colour) from an external source, shall be described as « species » ‘natural corundum,’« variety » ‘sapphire’ / ‘ruby’« comments » ‘indications of heating, (shallow) color induced by, (lattice) diffusion of a chemical element(s) from an external source,’ or ‘…the introduction of a chemical element(s) from an external source.'”

This is exactly how the lab identified the material.

According to the Post, the Orange Sapphire Company is asking for 2 million baht for damages, and another 48 million for lost opportunity to sell its sapphires. The court date was set for sometime in August, and at press time, there were no further developments in the case.