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 Post subject: Survey Results
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:23 am 
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Many of you (203 to be precise) have participated in our survey on gemstone treatments. Thanks for your in-put.

All details are now online. We welcome everybody to dig for details or special interest topics.

Here are a few high-lights and extracts:
Two out of three professionals were optimistic about the future of the trade. Consumer spending habits were seen as biggest thread.

Regarding treatments, only spinel has maintained a somewhat pure image, but no variety is above suspicion anymore.

While all consumers thought that testing for gemstone treatment is the sole responsibility of the seller, most professionals said that buyers are, or at least sometimes ought to be, willing to pay between 5-10% of the sales price for a certificate.

On average, participants estimated that a treated gem is 50-60% less valuable than an, outwardly equal, all-natural gem. This number, however, deserves differentiation. The following list shows the loss-of-value which consumers and pros thought a treatment "inflicts" on a gemstone.

Type of Treatment:
a) Value-loss for Consumers
b) for Professional

Heat
a) 35 %
b) 30 %

Radiation
62 %
54 %

Filling / Diffusion
71 % / 69 %
77 % / 75 %

Oiling
35 %
31 %

Unknown
67 %
45 %

Reading Example: Compared to an all-natural gem, consumers would expect to pay 35% less for a heated gemstone. Professionals estimated the value reduction from heating at only 30% (all else equal).

Remarks:
• For consumers, an "unknown gemstone treatment" is as bad as a real one; pros are less sensitive about undisclosed treatments
• Though assessments vary in detail, the main directions are clear
• Psychologically (though not scientifically) surprising, radiation was thought to be less value damaging than filling or diffusion

All-in-all, the time of innocence, or ignorance depending on where you stand, are over!

Consumers have made their homework and know what they buy, or won't buy, or if at what price. Professionals will have to keep up-dated and offer full disclosure.

We will improve and repeat this survey next year and compare the results.

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Edward Bristol
http://www.WildFishGems.com & http://www.EdwardBristol.com
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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:45 am 
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Very interesting Ed. I find it odd that irradiation was thought to be less of a problem than some other types of treatment. Any suggestions as to why this might be so?

Jason

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:00 am 
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What I find slightly hypocritical about the results of the heat treatment responses is that aquamarine for example is routinely heated(almost without exception for the pure blues) and I'm sure if you had to ask those same respondents whether they prefer blue or green aqua most would say blue.Aqua is just the first one that comes to mind,there are many others.
Also as dealers we can ask the rough supplier about any heat treatments,many times they have no clue or if they do they wont say,in some cases it's obvious in others we can do testing to try to find out, exhaustive in some cases,which takes time and costs money.In some cases it's just impossible to know for sure.
In my opinion the consumer is king and I try to accommodate them with full disclosure but in some cases it's just not possible or practical. When someone expects to pay $100/carat or less for a 3 ct stone that took three hours to cut I don't think they will be getting a GIA cert with it.

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Last edited by selous on Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:17 am 
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selous wrote:
What I find slightly hypocritical about the results of the heat treatment responses is that aquamarine for example is routinely heated(almost without exception for the pure blues) and I'm sure if you had to ask those same respondents whether they prefer blue or green aqua most would say blue.Aqua is just the first one that comes to mind,there are many others.
Also as dealers we can ask the rough supplier about any heat treatments,many times they have no clue or if they do they wont say,we can do testing to try to find out, exhaustive in some cases,which takes time and costs money.In some cases it's just impossible to know for sure.


While I agree, this is true, remember that surveys by nature deal with averages, not particulars.

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:22 am 
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Quote:
While I agree, this is true, remember that surveys by nature deal with averages, not particulars.


I agree in general on average!

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:48 am 
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Edward Bristol wrote:
Consumers have made their homework and know what they buy, or won't buy, or if at what price. Professionals will have to keep up-dated and offer full disclosure.


From the comments that I receive from many consumers as well as the stones that are sent to me to be set, I would disagree that consumers have "done their homework" or even have a very good idea about the prices that are reasonable for many gems. For some strange reason many consumers online seem to think that E-Bay provides an accurate price standard.

From my experience their ideas about quality have become tied to their ideas about various treatments. I think that this all came about from the heat treating of sapphire and has extended into every other gem out there. While everyone seems to want completely untreated gems, they seem to forget that without treatments many gem colors and types wouldn't exist outside of museums and that they probably could not afford the others. The fact that many gems have undetectable treatments which are considered routine in the trade goes right by many "educated" consumers, who insist that all of their gems are untreated, as if it were some badge of honor or superior taste.

Nope, most of the "education" that many consumers receive comes in the form of sales hype. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for full disclosure. Because of that I think that for most gems there should be an underlying assumption that they have been treated, even if their cert claims, "no evidence of treatment". Many, if not most, aqua, precious topaz, zircon, emerald, sapphire and on and on, have been treated in one way or another. Particularly with heat treatments, it's the only way to allow many people to have access to the high clarities and fine colors that can be had and at reasonable price levels. When the price level drops to a certain point on any of these, an "educated" person really should understand that the chances of that stone having NOT been treated is almost nil.

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:22 pm 
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Selous.

While I see your point about heat treatment of aquamarine for instance, I am not sure that it is hypocritical.
Some may see a difference between a very low heat treatment and the higher heat used even in traditional heat treatment of corundum for instance. I am not even mentioning the very high heat (often with additives) of modern treatments used on most corundums today that might be partially responsible for the horrible image of heat treatment in general.

That being said, given the choice I would still go for the unheated aqua. I am slightly more forgiving on color if the stone is unheated.


Lyric


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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:57 am 
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Quote:
That being said, given the choice I would still go for the unheated aqua. I am slightly more forgiving on color if the stone is unheated.


Lyric I do see your point but I must say on the above statement you are probably in the minority.As a buyer of rough material to cut it would be nice to be able to purchase less expensive "green" unheated quality aqua,unfortunately the majority of buyers want pure blue in medium or darker saturation.Just take a look at the websites of cutters who are cutting very pale blue to green Aqua and you'll see many stones languishing unsold on their websites.
As I said before I just mentioned Aqua as one of the most obvious cases in point but there are many others.Ever heard of anyone paying good money for brown Tanzanite and not heating it?

I agree with everything Michael_E said in his post

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:55 pm 
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I as a consumer I will always prefer untreated, warts and all, to treated. Aqua in particular, as if it is treated color, I could purchase a blue topaz for the color at a much lower price. I have a pale green aqua, that is beautiful and I wouldn't want it any other way. There is something magical about looking at a stone and knowing that other than cutting and polishing, that that is how it came out of the ground.


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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:05 pm 
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I have a pale green aqua, that is beautiful and I wouldn't want it any other way. There is something magical about looking at a stone and knowing that other than cutting and polishing, that that is how it came out of the ground.


I don't think anyone could disagree with that because that is your preference.I would like to have a list of "consumers" like you because I have a drawer full of material left over from parcels exactly as you describe.Also bear in mind that I am talking from a custom cutters point of view..for example if I could get a good price for pale green or blue material then it would be worth the 3 or 4 hours of my time to cut and polish it to a high standard. Unfortunately the fact remains that the majority of the market in general prefers medium to dark blue when it comes to Aquamarine and most of the time that is not the way it comes out of the ground.Many of those same people with the heated blue aqua on the ring or pendant do not have a clue that heating is routinely done and would tell you how they only wear natural gems!
I guess the whole point is that.. "to each his own".I just don't agree with the stigma that some people are trying to attach to heated material just because they don't like it and feel the whole industry should follow suit.The whole gemstone industry would collapse in that case.
This discussion could go on forever
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if that's what you prefer that's great.

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:57 pm 
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RAW rocks,
We are all consumers and most of us would always prefer untreated material. In some cases though the "warts" of untreated material overcome their attractive properties and without treatment you would be removing those materials from the category of "gemstone" and moving them over to the category of "leaverite", (as in leave 'er right where you found 'er). In other cases it is just not possible to tell whether a gem has been treated or not. Aqua is a good example since it isn't possible to tell whether an aqua has been heated or whether it come out of the ground blue. Your stone, for instance, may have been treated, but the effect on it's color was minor and so was cut and sold as green beryl, there's just no way of knowing. (I've got a large green beryl that I know was treated since it has all of the hallmarks of heating, yet it's still distinctly green). If you can't know how a stone was treated, then caring about it doesn't do anything for you and you should just accept the fact that something was probably treated if a treatment exists for it.

This survey and the whole attitude towards treatment in gems stems from one species of gemstone, (sapphire), which has developed a huge price spread between untreated and treated material and so has also developed a huge range of treatments which are designed to allow what was poor quality material, to mimic top quality material. This has also spawned a number of gemological tests which can give a person indications about what was done to that material. This is great and as it should be.

My problem with this is that the reaction against treatments in sapphire, (or ruby...all of corundum), has spilled over into other gems whose treatments are either much more benign, are undetectable or have been accepted for a very long time. Everyone wants "full disclosure", but how do you provide full disclosure when you have no idea what's been done to a particular gem? From my point of view that's easy, you just tell people that if they can be treated then they probably have been.

Heat, for instance, is pretty much standard treatment with most zircons, (probably all blue zircons), most "paraiba" tourmalines, aquamarine, and many tourmalines. If someone tries selling me an "unheated" bright blue paraiba tourmaline or a pure blue aqua AND wants a premium price for it based on it's being untreated, my first response is that they are most likely not being completely honest. My second response is to tell them to forget the premium since they really have no way of proving their contention that a stone like this is untreated, (and it doesn't matter who they got their cert from. A line on a cert stating, "no evidence of treatment", really doesn't mean much when a treatment doesn't produce any evidence).

Selous mentioned something about the customer being "king". Well yes and no. Yes, they are holding the money and so it would be nice to give them what they want and make them happy for what they are spending. On the other hand, they may be lacking in education and have expectations which are not realistic. This is where they are opening themselves up to being deceived. It's a constant that people will always strive to buy what is considered the "best", for the least, (free is even better). This and a little bit of knowledge makes you into what is called a "target", a "mark" in con man lingo.

My concern is not about people's preferences, but that they will be putting themselves into a position where they will be buying gems, (other than sapphire), as "untreated" and paying subsequently higher prices for them when there is no way to prove their lack of treatment.

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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:00 pm 
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I guess that I am not the typical consumer, but then I have always been a bit on the odd side. :roll: I just wish the marketing would change to reflect the value and rarity of the untreated gem versus the beauty of the baked, pickled, oiled and fried gems. :cry:
I guess I am just tired of hearing how wonderful it is to be able to make beautiful gems out of road gravel.


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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:39 pm 
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RAW rocks wrote:
I guess that I am not the typical consumer, but then I have always been a bit on the odd side. :roll: I just wish the marketing would change to reflect the value and rarity of the untreated gem versus the beauty of the baked, pickled, oiled and fried gems. :cry:
I guess I am just tired of hearing how wonderful it is to be able to make beautiful gems out of road gravel.


If only untreated stones were marketed and I believe it should be so , many will have to close shop for lack of demand for the cookies. Rarity alone places unheated ruby way above a heated one , cannot comment on the durability issue though , placing heated ruby at 60% value of real is a feat accomplished by business establishment which must have something to sell.

Blue vs green aqua is a reasonable way of thinking heat is ok but the preference for blue even if heated basically stems from the color's superiority over green , former in its purer form is beautiful while green must have a hint of blue to be so


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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:27 pm 
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Selous,

There are actually some unheated blue aquamarines.
Madagascar is one of the sources that has produced some pretty nice material which does not need heat treatment to be beautiful.
The caveat is that the color has a very very slightly brownish /greyish undertone (that vanishes in the heated material) but still saturated enough to be quite beautiful.

I mounted a rather attractive untreated sugarloaf cab from this source. My client could not afford the faceted stones from the same locality especially in the size that she wanted.
I will try to post her ring next Monday in "jeweler's bench" topic "your latest creations".
I thought that the stone was not a "dog", it also was not dirt cheap but reasonable for the quality.


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 Post subject: Re: Survey Results
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:29 am 
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Uh, I just realized I somehow put this thread into the lapidary corner, but perhaps could a Moderator move it to treatments?

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