March 1999

For Your Staff:Selling Treated Gemstones

Treated Blue Topaz

Blue topaz rarely exists in nature. But a few decades ago human ingenuity turned colorless topaz into desirable shades of blue

This is the eighth in a series of articles in Professional Jeweler showing how to explain gemstone enhancements honestly and positively. The series began with emerald in June 1998 and continues with treated blue topaz

Below: Irradiated and heated topazes exhibit a range of color. Gems courtesy of A.F. Greenwood Co., New York, NY.

Blue topaz is one of the most popular colored gemstones in jewelry today, especially fashion-forward pieces and production lines.

What most sales associates don't know but should is that blue topaz's colors almost always are induced by humans, not nature. Blue topaz found in nature is very rare and tends to be very pale.

The vibrant shades are created through irradiation and are uniformly repeatable in the manufacturing process. This makes them ideal for use in large jewelry lines or in individual pieces of jewelry that call for several matched gemstones.

Irradiation in blue topaz is permanent. But it's in everyone's best interest that you explain the source of the color to customers so they understand it's induced, not natural.

Introducing Enhancements
Introduce your customers to topaz color enhancement as a factual, straightforward part of your sales presentation. You might show them a topaz with no color, if you have any in stock, and appeal to their sense of wonder about the degree of color achieved in a formerly transparent crystal.

Some customers want to buy topaz as a birthstone, so you might also show them other varieties of topaz. These include the pinkish-orange "imperial" topaz or yellow or pink topaz. Though sometimes heat-treated, these varieties are not irradiated.

For customers who love blue, however, point out the change from colorless to brownish to blue is initiated with safe, high-tech irradiation systems and then completed with heating. To quell any concern about radiation, explain that all blue topaz sold commercially in the United States is treated this way. The federal government has strict regulations and guidelines for the irradiation of gemstones to ensure they are safe for use in jewelry. Also remind customers irradiation has become a common practice for any number of consumer products, including food.

Also consider the following selling point: colorless topaz is very receptive to color enhancement because it tends to be exceptionally clean and free of inclusions.

Special Care Warnings
Blue topaz is quite a resilient gemstone, and irradiation and heat enhancements do not affect its durability. The combination of irradiation and annealing is considered stable. Topaz has a hardness of 8 on the Mohs hardness scale and is considered tough and durable.

Advice for Sales Associates
Learn your store's disclosure and return policies regarding blue topaz.

Your store may want to adopt a written policy for gemstones of this kind that a customer can read, understand and sign. Check with your store manager and/or gem buyer and ascertain they understand the importance of buying topaz that complies with U.S. regulations on irradiation.

Recommended Reading

Gemstone Enhancementby Dr. Kurt Nassau, Butterworths, London, England.

Gem Identification Made Easy by Antoinette Matlins, Gemstone Press, Woodstock, VT.

AGTA Source Directory 1997/1998[contains the Gem Enhancement Manual] American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.

AGTA Gemstone Enhancements, What You Should Know,American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.

The Guide,Reference Manual, Gemworld International Inc., Northbrook, IL.

Legal Considerations

Even though the trade considers topaz enhancement to be permanent, it's still wise for you to disclose any treatment or enhancement process that alters the original color of the gemstone.

Remember all blue topaz sold commercially in the United States has been treated. Disclosure in topaz's case, therefore, becomes important because state consumer laws allow customers to sue if they feel you did not disclose properly or advise them about the gem, its proper care and protection. Letting them know how the gemstone was treated before they buy it can help to avert unpleasant surprises including lawsuits later.

Disclosure need not be a painful process if you weave it into your sales presentation with candor and honesty. Here is what the FTC Guides say (please note that heating and irradiating of blue topaz is considered permanent, thus, the FTC would not require disclosure, even though the following statement suggests that it would):

"It is unfair or deceptive to fail to disclose that a gemstone has been treated in any manner that is not permanent or that creates special care requirements, and to fail to disclose that the treatment is not permanent, if such is the case. The following are examples of treatments that should be disclosed because they usually are not permanent or create special care requirements: coating, impregnation, irradiating, heating, use of nuclear bombardment, application of colored or colorless oil or epoxy-like resins, wax, plastic, or glass, surface diffusion, or dyeing. This disclosure may be made at the point of sale, except that disclosure should be made in any solicitation where the product can be purchased without viewing (e.g., direct mail catalogs, on-line services), and in the case of televised shopping programs, on the air. If special care requirements for a gemstone arise because the gemstone has been treated, it is recommended that the seller disclose the special care requirements to the purchaser."

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


" Home " Ask the Expert " Brainstorm " Stats " Site of the Week " Consumer Press Scan
" Your Business On-Line " Calendar " Magazine & Site Archives " Staff " Site Map
" Professional Jeweler Events " Guide to Electronic Services
" Classified On-Line " JA Certification Study Session
Home Ask the Expert Brainstorm Stats Site of the Week Consumer Press Scan Your Business On-Line Calendar Staff Site Map