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 Post subject: B-treated VS natural sapphire
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:43 am 
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Location: Shandong, China
Through the years we've mined and cut a limited amount of yellow sapphires here in the Shandong sapphire mine. The yellows are usually found in parti color rough stones with clear edge with the blues or greens. The yellow part are cut and faceted into yellow sapphires. We dare not heat the yellow sapphires as we are afraid we might turn the nice yellow colors into less desirable colors. These yellow colors range from a greenish tone(lemon) to very strong golden or orange yellow. And the prices have been high until...

From last year, I've seen some pretty big size yellow sapphires usually 10ct plus being sold in the sapphire mine here at moderate prices. I was very surprised and trying to find out where are they from as I can tell at first sight they are not from our mine. The colors is of a brownish golden yellow with very good clarity. But the colors show a dark tone like that of the black tea. Our yellow sapphire prices went down.

Then I got to know that these are berylium treated sapphires. How they treat these sapphires? The question pushed me to read more and study more. We have electric furnaces that can heat up to 1700 celsius. Will there be any possibility of heating them by ourselves? As this can be commercially meaningful. But I am not sure whether the B-treated sapphires are accepted in the trade but apparently the sellers have to disclose the information if so.

And until recently, I saw a great price increase on the type of 5 gram plus clean parti color rough stone in light or medium dark green-yellow. Thailand buyers are buying a lot from our mine which leads to the shortage or such rough and price rocketing. It dawned on me that they are heating these greenish yellow with berylium to yield the pure yellow color.

So here is the question: Does the heating process still be kept as a top secret or can I have access to it somewhere?

And if they are using berylium on the yellows, is there anyway to use berylium to lighten up the dark blue colors which are common on the Shandong sapphires?

The shandong blue sapphire crystal is very good and colors are good but just they have a too much dark tone(95% - 100%). The excessive iron(Fe 3+) element in the rough causes the over darkness. We have been heating the dark blues and did lighten them up but not light enough. Maybe the heating environment should be deoxidization instead of oxidization?

If anyone have any ideas on the heat treatment and B-treatment, please join for further discussion.


Alex Yu
Neptune Gem
www.china-sapphire.com
info@china-sapphire.com
on line photo album: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/gembestbuy/album


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 11:38 am 
From the pictures I see in your album, the Shan Dong sapphires seem to suffer from the same colour problem as the Kanchanaburi and Chantaburi sapphires. Very dark.

I was just wondering how do you guys sell those bluish-black sapphires that accumulate with the selling away of the lighter blues?

Do you mind uploading pictures showing us the heat treatment process? Before and after pictures would be nice, together with the various furnace conditions.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:31 pm 
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Alex -

You probably already have this, but if you don't, immediately go out and get a copy of the Summer 2003 Gems & Gemology 50-page article, "Beryllium Diffusion of Ruby and Sapphire."

Figure 30 in the article shows a wafer of Shandong blue sapphire, in its initial deep blue untreated state, then with a greenish yellow center after beryllium diffusion, then with reduction heat treatment to remove the yellow and slightly increase the blue saturation.

Mining the extensive bibliography for this article might provide you with technical info on heating and diffusion methods - for instance, the publications from Ted Themelis: The Heat Treatment of Ruby and Sapphire, and Beryllium-Treated Rubies & Sapphires.

Best regards,
Chris


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 4:34 pm 
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Location: Australia
Hi Alex,
Great to see you hear and good to talk again.
We had a leading Thai cooker who was very early into BE , buy some of our Inverell ( Kings Plain) sapphire late last year. It seems very simalar to the make up of your Medium colour with the same green cross, although not quite as dark I dont think. He has tried very hard to get sucess with BE on this but hasnt had great sucess. I believe this is why the Thai buyers have left Australia in favour of deposits that cook well with the new treatments.
I am lead to believe our Reddestone Creek sapphire treats extra well but as we are the only producers from this source left we have chosen at this stage to stay as close to natural as we can and try and make the best of the demand for Natural stone.

Have a look at the Chat logs for one that Vincent did the other day, very interesting.

Cheers Andrew
www.aussiesapphire.com.au

_________________
Andrew Lane
(Aussie Sapphire)
www.aussiesapphire.com.au


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 Post subject: business strategy
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 9:01 pm 
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Alex,

I have specialized in untreated sapphires and thus do not know much about the technicals of the B-treatment process itself.

But, from a business point of view, I doubt that starting to treat your stones these days is a step in the right direction. Even if there is a shortterm financial oppourtunity for you, in the long term one might consider starting new treatments in general to be a step backwards in time.

How about of investing into ecological friendly mining technology instead of buying a berylliumburner?

Forgive my preaching :)

_________________
Edward Bristol
www.WildFishGems.com & www.NaturalUnheatedRuby.com &
www.EdwardBristol.com
Exclusively Untreated Gemstones


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 Post subject: To be or not to be? that is the question
PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 7:55 am 
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Location: Shandong, China
Great to have met you all at this forum. You know the situation is hard for me now. I have to support the mining actitivties and cutting factory so if I don't sell, I will have to close them. But for me, I am a firm believer of adore the beauty of sapphire as nature created them. But in the commercial sense, the customer will always complain the stones are of lower quality as they are either too dark or the colors are not perfect. And sapphires are not created equal as I can feel ceylon sapphires are much more brilliant and vivid than ours. this is a unanimous feeling not withstanding the nations or races people belong too. Most people will like those lively colors like the ceylons or recent Madagascars.

I am in a delimma don't know how to proceed to the next step.
:oops:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 6:02 pm 
Amassing a huge bulk of darker and unsellable sapphire is surely worrying. I believe treatment is the only viable method of proceeding?

Well, it seems to me that it's either you stock up 100s of kg of rough, or sell them all to the Thai burners, or burn them yourself. Either you treat them and have a better chance at sales by marketting them as treated, or they go to the fish tank.

With so much rough, it doesn't hurt to try burning some stones :) I'd like to see the results though.

All that talk about keeping the stones in their natural untreated state does not really make economic sense when you consider the fact that most of the chinese sapphires are very dark blue to blackish; at least of those that are left behind after sorting. The better ones are already sent to cut or to Thailand. If you don't treat them, they are not fit for jewellery and are better off dressing the cutting wheel as corundum powder.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 3:57 am 
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A simple solution to a complex issue I feel hehheh. We have stayed clear of the new treatments out of a matter of principle more then economic but I still have a fundamental problem in the cookers being the only members of the gem game that have truly benefited from their experiments in unexplained burning techinques.

Sure some customers gain with attractive gems but more are kept away by the uncertainty it has caused.The cooker buys rough very cheap, sell gems that mix in with the known treatment gems and these end up at the retail level where the jewellery shop owner cant really explain what's what. While the cookers are making the profit and hurting others in the supply chain, I wish they would realise that if marketed properly with details being disclosed to all they would actually have a stronger coloured gemstone industry for the future.

I have been working with a great partner who is trying some exciting new cutting techniques to enhance some stone the natural way - just with a new approach to faceting. This holds great promise and will benefit the whole industry, not just one part of the production chain chasing short term profit.

cheers

_________________
Andrew Lane
(Aussie Sapphire)
www.aussiesapphire.com.au


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 5:00 am 
Now, that's not a problem with the science, art and gamble of burning and heat treatment.

It is an issue of honesty and disclosure. Naturally, I don't condone unethical business practises, neither should the trade. Yet again, we have to realise that sometimes the lure of (much) higher profits overrides concience with the resellers and distributors. Ultmately it boils down to the vigilance and honesty of traders(some are snooked themselves, and don't know what they are dealing with). This is made all the more difficult with the advent of Be-treatment as detection is a very difficult and costly process if the stones are completely diffused through. LA-ICP-MS and LIBS are diagnostic techniques that are not commonly available to smaller labs and gemmologists if inclusion(possibly with immersion) study fails to confirm or exclude Beryllium diffusion.

By the way, Be treatment has dealt a very heavy blow to natural stones as end consumers lose confidence with the trade. Natural yellow sapphires for example, hit rock bottom prices for fear of the said treatment. So did the elusive Padparadscha, orange and the popular pink sapphires. Only the absolute natural, untreated in any way other than facetting, are left unscathed.

It is admirable that you choose to enhance your sapphires by age old techniques like facetting and traditional heating. I'd just like to add that heat treatment and other numerous enhancement techniques make the uneconomically viable into viable stocks.
Consider the following:
What do you do with those that are simply much to dark for cutting into gems? Return them to the ground, or try to heat them and pray for a miracle, or since you don't like chemical additives, sell them to the thais with a smile? If special heating techniques are successful, I think the thais smile more because they've essentially turned what you valued as gravel into gems.

I'd like to have some pictures of unheated australian sapphires and heated(before and after of successful burns, as well as unsucessful burns) for my website, care if you could spare some, Aussie Sapphires?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:43 pm 
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hehheh wrote:
All that talk about keeping the stones in their natural untreated state does not really make economic sense


I disagree.

Especially from an economic point of view one can not simply brush aside the fact that the prices of treated stones are falling while their supply increases. (not to mention the loss of trust into our industrie, now polling just behind weapon- and drugdealers)

To the economics: Falling prices combined with increasing supply usually end bad, as seen e.g. in oil, diamonds, garment or transport.

While the garment and transport industry has gone into epidemic bankruptcy for decades, oil and diamond prices have been rescued politically and are kept artificially high (with very high cost for society, especially in the case of oil).

In fact, the “dilemma” that Alex sees himself in, is one of the classical questions of business named after the economist Ansoff:

Here a supplier facing falling prices has two basic choices:
1. reduce cost (e.g. use cheaper material) or
2. increase quality (add value e.g. new cuts or ecological mining).

Worst case, (the “ansoff-dilemma”), is not to be able to decide for one direction and get wasted between cost and falling prices. (as Alex rightly fears)

Thus, in the micro-economical frog-view of people like me or Alex it can make perfect sense not to meet falling prices by trying to cut cost and then increase supply. In any case this strategy can only be maintained until prices fall below cost or with margins going so slim that even volume doesn’t help.

Does that make sense?

_________________
Edward Bristol
www.WildFishGems.com & www.NaturalUnheatedRuby.com &
www.EdwardBristol.com
Exclusively Untreated Gemstones


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 10:04 pm 
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Location: Australia
Hi all,
I still dont agree with the blanket statements by heh heh but I appreciate your opinion and thats what the forum should be an outlet of ideas.
The way the whole BE thing has happened has hurt the whole industry more probably then the actual process. Secret treatments make some wealthy but hurt for longer then the gain. Its true that we are stuck with them in the market so we must continue on in the best dirrection for ourselves and our costumers.

While my costumers demand the old fashioned way, thats what I will gladly keep supplying.

cheers Andrew

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Andrew Lane
(Aussie Sapphire)
www.aussiesapphire.com.au


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 3:52 am 
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Hi all
I had to race off to the mine to rob the jigs so didnt finish my last thoughts.

I dont like the use of chemicals. I know there is an argument that without the treatment process we wouldnt have an industry and to some degree I agree but when the basic heat treatment process was introduced in quantity in the late 60's/early 70's it was for one real purpose to ENHANCE the colour and beauty of the gem by basically finishing the natural heating process in those stones that nature spat out too fast. This simple heating removed the silk to improve brightness and sometimes lightened or deepened the colour slightly. Certainly for our stone, the heat treatment did not drastically change the actual colour - just improved it enough to make more saleable.

What has happened that in the hast to get rich the cookers have bought vast volume of cheap (because it looks terrible) stone and produced masses of yellows, oranges etc and flooded the market with cut material. This has dragged the whole market down in a competition driven fight. Remember the rough they can use is cheaper than our good quality product that will only need low heat.

I had a case just a few weeks ago with a customer who purchased a volume of small bright basic heated blues. This was a trade buy in large quantity - I will use figures that indicate the difference.

We sell this basic heated blue for $70 AU per ct. A day later I had a call from the customer that they had bought a parcel of BE treated yellows for $ 45 AU per carat of the same size. A week later another call and they had bought more BE cut for just $10 AU per ct. I saw all the parcels in the process of explaining why I was so dear and although the cheapest parcel was very rough, it was still difficult to explain to a customer with little prior experience why there is such a variation in price. This is an example of how the cheap product can affect the whole game - the $10 per carat was too cheap and that particular seller probably lost money on the deal but it set a definite benchmark in the market for this particular customer.

If there was actually a shortage of good gems that can supply the entire market at reasonable prices then I would say let's make some new coloured gems by altering drastically some unuseable unatractive rough to supply the demand. This is not the case so why make some new gems we dont really need. However, the horse has bolted and the new treatments are out there so we need to work out how to differentiate these different sorts of treatment processes.

The BE issue to me is a bit like a woman who decides she needs to be what she isnt, although she may be quite beautiful in her own natural state. To become beautiful, she may feel she needs a boob job, nose job, liposuction, a nip here and a tuck there plus a weekly visit for her botox injection. This woman, although now very beautiful in a commercial sense has changed herself so much that she doesnt resemble her real original self. It is a choice but one that should be made with full consideration of all the facts - just like a gem that is not quite finished, a little bit of treatment may help a lot. Too much is not necessarily a good idea though.

A rambling post with no answers - I dont know how to address this tricky issue. We are doing our best to differentiate our product but it is a hard road and I sympathise with other miners like Alex who are in our position.

Look forward to other thoughts on this issue

_________________
Andrew Lane
(Aussie Sapphire)
www.aussiesapphire.com.au


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:31 pm 
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Hi Alex,

Personally, I think that Be-treatment of your own rough would ultimately be counterproductive because it would erode your market for untreated or lightly-treated stones. The incredibly low prices paid for Be-treated stones start to become the norm, and soon it becomes impossible to sell the untreated or lightly-treated stones at anything resembling a decent price. I very much support the views of Andrew and Edward, who are selling untreated stones (or at least, lightly-treated) and pursuing environmentally-sound mining methods - GOOD JOB, GUYS!

I would comment, though, that it is much easier [in my view] to make a distinction between untreated and treated stones, than it is between basic heat-treatment and diffusion. It is my understanding that considerable diffussion occurs during the process of normal heat treatment, both from within the stone (from rutile "silk"), and from the atmosphere (i.e. oxygen and hydrogen). Consider the following from Richard Hughes ("The Skin Game"):

"During the heat treatment of corundum, elements and subatomic particles shift both state and position, including atoms moving into the gem from outside. Alteration of the valence states of impurity atoms is particularly important. The latter is done via diffusion (movement) of hydrogen (H) or aluminum (Al) vacancies in or out of a stone. Even though it might seem like nothing, hydrogen is a chemical. You find it on the periodic table of the elements, just like titanium (Ti), chromium (Cr), nickel (Ni) and vanadium (V)."

Really, all heat treatment involves drastic changes in valences, color centers, and, as far as I can tell, the introduction of foreign atoms, be it oxygen or hydrogen from the furnace, or light elements such as beryllium. When I consider the incredible changes in color produced by even simple heat treatment in the case of some Sri Lankan sapphire or even the fancy colored stones from Montana, here in the US, its hard for me to be blase about even simple heat treatment - just a personal opinion, of course.

Cheers!
Greg M


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 4:06 pm 
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Good post Greg

I also respect what Richard has written. I can see the argument
and it is easy to accept the logic that we need to lump all treatments
together. I guess in our own position the Basic heat only makes subtle changes, most can only be seen under Mag, certainly nothing like the transformation that occours in likes of sri lankin rough.
My argument is a bit thing perhaps but isnt oxygen and hydrogen all around us in our natural atmosphere, Berillium isnt it is a chemical ( with serious health effects in certain forms) that is added in . Has anyone considered the level of risk these burners may do to themselves and others without proper saftey controls. Reports of plastic bags of Berillium powder been sold at markets on the street are a worry.

_________________
Andrew Lane
(Aussie Sapphire)
www.aussiesapphire.com.au


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 Post subject: Go as nature created
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:19 am 
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Location: Shandong, China
Hi All,

I appreciate all the comments and ideas on the berylium treated sapphire issue. Edward's analysis in the economics shed light. Greg's detailed description explains the element changes at the atomic level during heating process which I don't know yet. I agree with Andrew's opinion of staying being natural and exploring innovative cutting techniques to reveal the hidden beauty not well displayed in Aussie sapphires.

In fact, the discussion here reveals more in the ethics that can be slightly different in different cultures and business practice. I don't mean to say that one culture is better or superior to another but being honest is the least. But sadly not all the gem dealers are honest enough.

Maybe I need to find out more on the innovative cutting.

Thanks.

Alex
Neptune Gem
www.china-sapphire.com


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