Enhancement or Scam?
Gem treatments are a staple in the jewelry industry. The treatments are called enhancements because they make lesser quality stones look better. If a gem looks better but costs less, that must be a good thing, mustn't it?
Gem treatments have been around for decades. Some treatments are so commonplace that certain stones almost always receive them. Such treatments improve the appearance of the gem and do not negatively affect the stone in any way. They are considered the normal way of handling that particular gem.
Other treatments are more limited and may not be stable. All traditional treatments, their purposes, and their effects, are listed in The Gemstone Enhancement Manual, a de facto standard endorsed by major jewelers' organizations.
In recent years a number of treatments have been developed that are much more controversial, even within the jewelry industry. One of these is the Yehuda clarity treatment, which involves injecting a colorless resin into a diamond to greatly improve its appearance. The treatment is not readily detectable and makes a diamond of lesser value appear to be of much higher quality.
One TV expose called Yehuda clarity treatment "a gem of a scam" because the stones were being sold without disclosure that they had been treated. The show's investigative team took a treated stone to four retailers for appraisal. Three of them did not identify the Yehuda treatment and appraised the diamond for much more that it was worth. If the treatment is not disclosed at the time of sale, not only does the customer pay more for the purchase, but the insurer pays more if the stone needs to be replaced.
The deception can also cause other problems. The Yehuda treatment has camouflaged a basic weakness in the stone. If the jewelry is subsequently cleaned or remounted, the heat involved in the procedure could destroy the Yehuda treatment. The stone would then appear to have become damaged (though it was actually just being returned to its original state) and the insurer could be responsible for replacing it.
FOR AGENTS & UNDERWRITING
The problem is not with the Yehuda treatment, which after all improves the appearance of the diamond, but with disclosure. Customers should be informed of the treatment and the treatment should be disclosed on the insurance appraisal.
Information about treatments can come only after inspection in a gem lab by a trained professional, such as a Certified Insurance Appraiser™. A jeweler without the proper equipment or training may leave out treatments because he has not detected them.
The ACORD 78/79 Appraisal form warrants that gem treatments are explicitly stated, unless the treatments are usually or always performed on a particular gem (according to the standards listed in the Gemstone Enhancement Manual). A gemstone that has been treated usually has a significantly lower valuation than an untreated stone of similar appearance. (By the same token, if a gem that usually undergoes a certain treatment has not had that treatment, then that lack of treatment should be on the appraisal. Such a stone would have a far higher valuation than one that had been treated to achieve the same appearance.)
Gem treatments expressly stated in the appraisal may significantly affect the value of a gemstone. This is part of the basic information necessary in pricing a replacement.
If a claim is made for damage, have the stone inspected by a CIA™ in a gem lab. Such inspection may reveal that the stone was originally flawed, and that the flaw was concealed with some temporary treatment. If a gem treatment breaks down — for example, under heat or impact — this is not damage. The flaw originally in the stone has merely become visible again.
From Mary Frost, CIA™:
Working on diamonds with undisclosed treatments is a jeweler's nightmare. One customer brought in a ring to have the mounting repaired. We left the stone in place during the repair, which involves high heat. When we finished, the diamond looked like it had been through a war, all brown and nasty. Obviously a clarity treatment had broken down. We asked the customer why she hadn't told us it was a treated diamond, and she said she didn't know — the jeweler who sold it to her had not disclosed the treatment.
A treatment that involves laser-drilled holes that are filled is difficult to detect even under magnification. In the setting, the stone looks good. But when it is heated, the epoxy filler bubbles out. In this case, our store wound up having to pay to replace the diamond. This could have been avoided if the treatment had been disclosed — by the customer to us, by the jeweler who sold her the ring, by the vendor who sold the stone to the jeweler, and so on up the selling chain.
Mr. T's Fine Jewelry
634 S. China Lake Blvd., Suite E
Sierra Lanes Plaza
Ridgecrest CA 93555
Mr. T's Fine Jewelry sends mailings to its customers from time to time, educating them about jewelry and jewelry treatments. Mary Frost also says, "If you don't know jewelry, know your jeweler."
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