16 CFR Part 23, Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries; Project No. G711001
As enhancements and other modifications of naturally occurring gemstones become more sophisticated, there is more than ever a need for clear disclosure. The "Guides for Jewelry..." never anticipated some of the things that have become commonplace. I am a retired retail jeweler, still involved in supporting retailers with consulting services and materials. When I joined the industry in 1972, heating rubies and sapphires was a commonly accepted practice; so when treaters started using flux while heating to "heal" fractures, it was easy to rationalize. Later, when we started seeing very inexpensive corundum made to resemble it's far pricier relatives by the addition of beryllium during heating, many of us cried "foul." A burgundy colored corundum made flaming red by addition of beryllium during heating was selling for 20% of the cost of heated-only Magok ruby, and major importers were invoicing it as "heated" ruby. Pastel pink corundum was made to look like rare padparadscha by the addition of beryllium during heating, and major importers were invoicing it as "heated" padparadscha. Still, some in the industry rationalized this also, thinking they looked like the real thing and performed like the real thing, so what was the big deal? I would counter that any consumer being sold something as a "bargain" without being told what makes it worth less than its comparative is being cheated. Now we are being confronted with a far greater threat to the wellbeing of the consumer, and to the overall trust of consumers in the jewelry industry. Ruby and sapphire, whether natural, heated, or even beryllium diffused are amazingly durable gemstones. Even if a small nick or crevice on a ruby was hidden by flux left over from heating, which we referred to as "glass filled," it still was an amazingly durable gem. Now we are seeing opaque purplish red corundum, which previously might have been carved into a statue, being boiled in acid to remove contaminants, leaving large voids or small pieces. Those voids are filled, or the pieces bonded together with leaded glass. This is not only a very inexpensive product; but it owes a substantial amount of its weight to a man-made substance, and it no longer behaves like corundum. It is easily damaged by contact with a hard surface, heat, or common cleaners - and the damage cannot be repaired. Calling it "glass filled ruby" only furthers the confusion. This product, based on its composition, and more importantly on its behavior, needs to be called "glass-ruby composite," or a similar term that will not lead a reasonable consumer to confuse it with a ruby.