It is incredibly difficult to find high quality natural gemstones in large quantities. As a result, many commercially sold gemstones are average natural gemstones which have been enhanced by various treatments to improve the appearance (color and clarity). A natural gemstone has substantially different value if untreated vs. enhanced (various treatments).
Note: gemstone market also sells synthetic gemstones (these have the same properties as the natural, but are man-made, e.g. synthetic ruby) and imitations (these are “look alikes” of the natural version. E.g. red spinel has been used in place a ruby for centuries).
Some globally typical treatments on natural gemstones to watch out for when comparing gemstones from Myanmar to other locations:
- Heat treatment is one of the most prevalent treatments – used on rubies, sapphires, aquamarine, amethyst, topaz and zircon to improve color and clarity. Heat treatment can be detected by gemologists.
- Irradiation or exposure to radiation to change the color of gemstone is used commonly on topaz. Strong blue colors can be created when used with heat treatment. These colors do not exist naturally, hence, recognition of irradiation is easy for gemologists.
- Surface coating by metal oxides are often used on clear topaz to create variety of colors, e.g. blues. Colored coating is easy to detect by gemologists.
- Filling fractures and cavities is used to hide the fractures and to enhance the appearance, strength or even weight of less than desirable gems. Glass is often used on rubies; while resin and glass is used on aquamarine, topaz and other transparent gems occasionally.
- Dying is used on rubies. Can be detected in most cases by gemologist.
There are many other treatments and new are developed as you read this to enhance the appearance of gemstones. This is fine, as longs as you as a customer are aware of any treatments. Often such treatments are not discussed, if not asked. Always ask. It is also advisable to have expensive gemstones tested by a qualified gem laboratories.
Myanmar gem industry is still in its developing phase and country has good quality gem deposits. As a result it is still possible to obtain natural, untreated gemstones locally.