Beryllium diffusion treatment in sapphires is a common practice and accepted in the gemstone and jewelry industries as long as it is disclosed. The treat entails the use of high heat as a means of introducing the beryllium into the stones matrix. The heat allows the diffusion of the beryllium to enhance the color of natural sapphires and even change there color.
Solids like sapphire can be induced to act like liquids to accomplish the enhanced treatment of poorly or pale colored stones that may otherwise not be suitable for use in jewelry designs. These low color stones can be placed into a specialized oven in an environment of beryllium gas and the heat more or less opens the pores of the sapphire and allows the beryllium to penetrate and thereby enhancing the color. This type of gem treatment is very common in the jewelry markets these day. Be sure to ask about what types of treatments a stone has been subjected to so you can make full and proper disclosure of the gemstones in your jewelry designs.
Beryllium treated sapphires are sometimes called lattice diffusion sapphires. In the early part of this 21st century a flood of beryllium treated pink sapphires came to market. They turned out to be pink sapphires that had be beryllium treated to enhance color. The color of these stones was very good and only laboratory examination proved them to be enhanced goods.
Beryllium (Be2+) is a very small molecule ion and is capable of penetrating deep into a ruby or sapphire with the diffusion method. It is in such low levels it can be difficult to detect. For this reason it is important to be very careful when buying these type of gemstones.
Afghanistan and Tasmanian sapphires have been shown to contain small amounts beryllium naturally without enhancements. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is looking into using these trace amounts as a means to identify the source of stones from these mining areas.
But in general if a ruby or sapphire has traces of beryllium in it, it is likely a treated stone. Keep in mind that the amount of time a gem is in the heating process the deeper the color diffusion can penetrate, most diffused stones are only a surface color enhancement for cost savings.
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