Print full article

Missed opportunity: Gemmology stories from the frontlines

Honest mistake, lost sale

Available since the mid-1970s, diffusion is commonly used to treat blue sapphires. The treatment requires applying a blue colouring agent through heat onto the stone’s surface, which greatly improves its apparent colour. Despite the treatment being readily available and well-known to those in the jewellery trade, sales associates may require a refresher on its application and how it improves a sapphire’s appearance.

The first instance happened a few years ago when I walked into a store featuring a wide collection of Mystic topaz. After my initial “Ohhs” and “Ahhhs,” I asked the salesperson a question any curious customer would ask, “Is Mystic topaz naturally occurring?” She replied, “Yes.” I was floored. I then rephrased my question just in case I might have been misunderstood. “Wow, you mean this stone comes out of the ground with this colour?” The salesperson answered once more in the affirmative. At that point, I knew I was going to have a field day. So I moved over to the part of the showcase featuring blue sapphire. The flyers on the counter stated the coloured stones on display may have been treated in various ways, including colour diffusion, which is a process where a blue sapphire’s colour is not natural, but rather imparted through a treatment that only colours the stone’s outside surface. During my discussion with the sales associate, I was told the stones were all of natural colour. I’m sure many of you reading this article will probably laugh or scoff at the incident I’ve just described. However, I would urge you to consider your staff and how they would fare in comparison.

This next instance made me chuckle out loud. It occurred during a visit to a store with a nice display of earrings and a pendant set with mother-of-pearl. The salesperson described how these pieces were manufactured in the United States by trained staff with a minimum of 10 years’ experience working with mother-of-pearl. Interesting fact, but hard to believe since these items were likely made in Asia where workers at most jewellery manufacturing factories can be as young as 17 to 20 years old. I recall being offered to buy similar items on a trip a few years earlier. In addition, the salesperson offered the following tidbit. “Each mother-of-pearl is soldered into place and then polished,” she said. “Wait, you mean mother-of-pearl can take the heat of solder? And it wouldn’t just burn since it is organic?” I tried hard not to fall over as I asked this question. “Yes,” she replied. Suffice to say, I didn’t think highly of the staff or any of the products they had to offer.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *