Ruby Gemstone Treatments
Are You Getting Value For Your Money?
Ruby gems are one of the hottest selling red gemstones. In recent years, several controversial issues have been raised related to the type of treatments being used for rubies. While this gem stone is mined from the earth, gem manufacturers have devised methods to enhance the beauty of the gem.
Gemstone treatments are nothing new and have existed for many decades. Some gem treatments like heating for rubies and sapphires and oiling for emeralds, are widely accepted by gem experts. The basic criteria for accepting a gem stone treatment is based on few conditions. Firsly, that the treatment does not alter the physical properties of the gem. It is also expected that the treatment will be permanent. So if you heat treated a ruby and this increased the gem clarity and helped saturate the color, the treatment is acceptable.
A ruby gem buyer should be aware of various treatments currently being used for the gem. Unfortunately gem manufacturers and sellers rarely provide full information and explanations. You will notice that every controversial ruby treatment was picked up by professional gem laboratories where the gem was sent for testing. Gem manufacturers are aware that some of the treatments used by them for rubies need to be clearly specified but, they choose not to do so. Let us know talk about the main ruby treatments currently in use. Every effort has been made to keep the language simple, the report is aimed at the buyer who is not expected to be a gem expert.
Conventional Heat Treatment: Heat treated rubies have been around for many decades, gem experts have also accepted this treatment. A ruby gem stone which is heat treated shows better color and clarity, the treatment does not reduce the hardness or durability of the ruby. The color is stable and the gem stone will not fade or change color over time. The important thing is that, the conventional heat treatment of rubies does not involve the adding of any chemicals to the oven during the heating process. Very few rubies that reach the jewelry and gemstone market are not heat treated. We can get you rubies that are freshly mined and untreated in any way but, the clarity and color on these rubies would be quite dull.
Heating With Flux: This form of ruby treating was introduced in the last 5 to 7 years. Ruby gem manufacturers introduced the treatment with much secrecy and gemstone experts, spent many sleepless nights before cracking the process that was applied for this ruby gemstone treatment. The conventional heat treatment for rubies helped to evaporate any gases present in the gem, it also helped to disintegrate some of the inclusions. The fissures and cracks present in the gem stone remained intact even after conventional heat treatment was applied to rubies. The flux heat treatment of rubies went a step further and tried to 'heal' the fissures and fractures present in the ruby. Borax based chemicals are used to function as flux. The addition of these chemicals into the oven helps reduce the melting point of the ruby. The molten ruby then seeps into the cracks and fissures in the gem stone. The cracks become invisible to the naked eye as the stone cools and solidifies. It is not easy to detect this ruby treatment process with a naked eye. Gemological experts use powerful microscopes to help them detect, the solidified 'streams' of ruby that enter the cracks in the stone. Residue of the flux can sometimes show up in or near the healed fractures too. While flux heated rubies are not very cheap, they have a lower value as compared to rubies that have gone through the conventional heat treatment process.
Fissure Filling or Glass Filling: This treatment is in a class of it's own, rubies treated in this process look awesome to the untrained eye but in reality are worth almost nothing. Several discussions and debates have been conducted to decide on how to refer to such glass filled or fissure filled rubies. Rubies in the lowest grade were until recently rejected and thrown away. The condition of these rubies is so very bad that, neither conventional heating nor flux heating can improve their appearance. Gem manufacturers take these junk rubies and wash them in strong acid based solutions. This destroys the gem and makes it quite porous. The post acid wash rubies are also very brittle and can easily break if pressed against hard surfaces. These rubies are then packed into a crucible along with silica based salts, these are basically glass forming glass. When exposed to a high temperature for prolonged time periods, the silica is transformed into glass and seeps through the acid washed rubies, the porous material makes it easy to do so. Once cooled, the rubies are actually filled with glass and therefore referred to as glass filled rubies. The transparency and color of these fissure (glass) filled rubies are highly enhanced. The important thing is that the hardness and durability of the ruby is also drastically reduced. The right technical term for such glass filled rubies is 'a composite ruby', since it is a combination of glass and ruby. It is not very hard to distinguish such rubies from conventional rubies or flux heated rubies. Such stones have surprisingly low lustre for their high transparency and rich color. The value and price of such rubies is also very low as compared to rubies that are put through other forms of treatment.
Pricing of Treated Rubies: This paragraph aims to give you a rough idea of the price behaviour for rubies treated through these processes. As an example, we consider a 9x7mm oval ruby in each of the above treatment categories. Let us presume that the ruby passing through each of the treatments appears (externally) similar to the casual buyer. A good grade ruby with conventional heat treatment could be priced at around 300 U.S$ to 400 U.S$ per carat. A flux heated ruby with a similar appearance and size can be priced at around 100 U.S$ to 175 U.S$ per carat. Finally, a glass filled ruby with similar (or even better) appearance would be priced at just 10 U.S$ to 15 U.S$ per carat. We are talking retail prices for a single piece purchase. It is buyers with this low volume buying that are normally taken for a ride by gem and jewelry providers.
Buying the right ruby: This would imply getting good value for your money and being aware of what you are getting. For example, if a jeweler mentioned that he was using a heated ruby gemstone for your ring, the heat treatment could be conventional or flux based. The above paragraph on pricing of treated rubies shows the wide price difference between the two types of rubies. It does not matter which ruby you buy as long as your gem or jewelry provider discloses all details and charges you for what you are actually getting. It is not easy for a casual buyer to be aware of all technical details related to rubies, the best option would be to choose a reputed gem or jewelry provider. It is very true that, you need to value the jeweler before you value the jewels .
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