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Gemstone Alert: Clarity Enhanced Garnets On The Market Part I

January 6th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

First off let me start by showing the image that started the online flaming and arguments towards myself for posting it. I do need to add that technically my initial description of the image was actually not totally correct!! Instead of calling it a picture showing the fracture filling of a hessonite garnet, I technically should have called it an image showing the partially filled fracture of a hessonite garnet.

partially filled fracture

Partially filled fracture

That was the image that started it all! But now I have finally gotten all the rest of the research done and validated all my conclusions with picture evidence to silence the naysayers who say it wouldn’t and most likely couldn’t be done! I have not only proven it has been done, but that it IS currently being done to the stones on the market, that the treatment method is sooooo cheap that it costs less the one US penny to do per stone, that anyone with access to a heat source can do the treatments, and so on. I went so far as to actually soak the stone in question in a solvent called Attack which will dissolve just about ANY adhesive, CA, glue, Epoxy(including two-part ones), etc. I even went so far as to take the same type garnet and treat it myself using the same method I am almost positive the treaters are using! This article will shed the light on all of this and even more!

Let me start out with some background on the stone(s) in question for those who may not already know. The stones were sent in to me by a consumer wishing me to check them out for her due to some funny things she was seeing under her loupe and cheaper low magnification microscope. She described them as looking like flux or some kind of filling. I immediately thought she had some of the hessonite garnets coming out of certain regions in Africa that have fluid like inclusions in them, same can be seen in some other garnet species from these areas. I did NOT even remotely think that they really were clarity enhanced. I will admit it was in the back of my mind as a possibility of course, it had to be, after all, I can not rule out a possibility without having the material in hand first. The stones arrived and I examined them with my 10x loupe and immediately noticed some odd surface fissures/relief zones/areas resembling those of fracture filling as well as some odd deposits of foreign material on the facets and junctions of some of the stones. My first impression was that the faceter used CA to dop the stones(common practice over wax with many cutters now) or CA + Wax and that some of the CA seeped into the fractures, could easily happen. So out came the microscope.

Once under my scope I started seeing some nasty signs I was not expecting to actually find! I found relief areas on the surfaces of the table, pavilion facets, flash effects inside the stone(although super hard to get as they are mainly orange and the stone is orange), I could actually see the filling material inside the fissures, and the surface deposits looked more like baked on type stuff. I observed the stone under darkfield and brightfield lighting from 7.5x-90x magnifications. I also did the normal tests for RI, SG, Spectroscope, Spectrometer, Reflectivity, etc. Judging from the results and the internal characteristics and inclusions the garnets are definitely hessonite variety and appear to be from the Tanzania Africa locality, which was later confirmed by the consumer as well as where the seller told her they were from. They are included and semi-included like much of this hessonite material from there, but have that beautiful fiery orange color that is quite marketable right now with the scarcity of the orange spessartite garnets. The only test(s) that really have any odd findings were the reflectivity meter would be super low(apparently when reading the filler), and the SG was off(but that can be a little off anyways).  Below you will see some of the relief zones, filled fractures, etc. in images taken through my scope. Sorry for the quality being not so good, but I was using a crappy camera. So now my curiosity was peaked!!

Filling in fracture

Filling in Fracture

Filling In Fracture

Filling in Fracture

Relief areas

Relief areas

Relief area + Surface Stuff

Relief area + Surface Stuff

So, next I decided for further proof and testing I would go ahead and toss the garnet in question into a jar of Attack Solvent for a week. It was originally meant only to be a few days, but during the move I lost track of the time, lol. After removing the stone from the Solvent I cleaned it and reexamined the stone under the microscope and, again, took some new pictures as well. What I found was pretty much the “smoking gun”!! The main fracture I got the original image of, and the follow up images showing the filling in the fracture as well as relief areas and surface gunk, partially dissolved in the Attack!! Beyond a doubt now whether it was fracture filled/clarity enhanced now! My guess on the filler is a well known stabilizing/filling material commercially known as Opticon, but I am not positive 100% since I did not have it actually tested and I don’t have the equipment to test it currently, yet!! ;).  Anyways, to the “smoking gun” images!

Partially dissolved filler

Partially Dissolved Filler

Partially dissolved filler on pavilion

Partially dissolved filler on pavilion

So, now, it is pretty much an open and shut case of whether or not it was/is clarity enhanced/fracture filled, it is definitely been treated via this method! I did some further research and also found this same garnet material being sold in rough and faceted forms all over Ebay by Thai sellers as well as two USA sellers, one of which was MingJ. So, it is definitely out there and making its rounds. GIA also made note a few years back, actually in a few issues, in Gems & Gemology about being on the lookout for clarity enhanced/fracture filled hessonite garnets, aquamarine, amethyst, and a few other stones. I have personally come across amethyst, citrine, topaz, tourmaline, beryls of all types(mainly emerald and aquamarine and morganite), garnets(mainly hessonite but also some spessartites and quite a few tsavorites as well), sapphires, rubies, and even spinels from Ebay sellers selling out of Thailand and one or two USA sellers(tsavorites, hessonites, spessartites, sapphires, rubies, and apatite). I will admit that there is nothing wrong with this treatment if properly disclosed. It really did turn not so valuable material into beautiful gemstones that are definitely marketable with proper disclosure. Could this treatment be being done by unscrupulous cutting houses? Shady miners? I don’t have a clue! But it is definitely being done!

Anyways, above is all the final information and tests of Proof Positive that everyone wanted and many dreaded! But please stay tuned for Part II of this article! Part II is where all the good stuff comes into play and you get to read all about, and even see some of it, the treatment method(s), how it is done(with enough missing so others can not easily just go out and do it), the results, and just how cheap/affordable/inexpensive it is to perform! Anyone with $20 and a heat source can do the treatment to tens of thousands of carats of rough or finished gemstones!

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