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There are two common processes used to alter the characteristics of a stone that are very similar, yet drastically different–enhancement and treatment. We will cover the types of enhancements and treatments to diamonds and gemstones, their underlying affects and the importance of disclosure awareness by the consumer.

Enhancement and treatment is a process undertaken to improve or enhance a diamond or gemstone in an attempt to make it more saleable, valuable or durable. This is achieved by changing the appearance, clarity, and color either permanently or temporarily. Some of the most common forms for improving clarity are: (1) Fissure filling– the filling of small gaps, pits or fractures using glass, plastic, wax or oils as fillers; (2) Laser Drilling-boring of microscopic holes within a stone. After the hole is made the gem is soaked in sulfuric acid to remove carbon inclusions, turning them clear or translucent white. The holes are then sealed with the fissure filling process as described before. Some of the most common practices for improving color are: (1)Thermal–the use of high heat/high pressure; (2) Irradiation-the use of radiation such as electrons, gamma rays or neutrons; (3) Diffusion-adding natural elements such as chromium, iron or titanium to the surface of a stone for a shallow layer of penetration and (4) Dying-physical liquid added to the entire surface of a stone.

Enhancement or treatment processes to diamonds or gemstones, in most cases, are not permanent. They can be damaged when cleaned or exposed to heat or chemicals. In other cases there are durability, recut and value issues as they are not natural. In some cases, the end user doesn’t forewarn the jeweler of their stone having enhancements or treatments when brought in for repair.

With disclosure being such a hot topic in today’s diamond and gemstone industries, disclosure should be to all purchasers, at all levels of commerce; from miners to cutter, wholesaler, jewelry manufacturer, retailer, and –ultimately- the consumer! Knowledgeable, reputable jewelers always disclose that enhancements and treatments were made to the diamonds and gemstones they offer for sale, but let’s face it, not everyone is knowledgeable and/or reputable. The solution is to arm yourself with as much information as you can before you shop for diamonds or gemstones. You won’t become an expert overnight, but you will have a better understanding of what you’re looking at and you’ll know which questions you should ask before you make an important purchase.

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