Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Copper Diffusion: Is It Gemology's New Worst Nightmare? Part II

An exceptional emerald crystal:

This month’s feature on the R. W. Wise website is an exceptional Colombian emerald crystal. It was found at the La Pita Mine, part of a complex of mines of the same name that I visited during my last buying trip to Colombia.

Historically gems of this quality were found at the old mines like Muzo and El Chivor. Chivor was appropriated by Spanish conquistadors in 1550; Muzo was conquered some five years later. Chivor is closed but Muzo continues to produce, making it one of the world’s oldest productive gem mines. La Pita, located in the same general area, was discovered in the early 1990s and began production soon after (see GemWise Colombian Emerald.

Colombian emeralds range from a slightly yellowish green to slightly bluish medium dark verdant green. This crystal exhibits the pure verdant slightly bluish secondary hue coupled with a high degree of transparency that characterizes the finest Colombian gems. Crystal specimens of this quality are almost never available in the United States. Generally they are cut into high value faceted gems in Bogotá. (pictured right: One of several possible setting designs, a pendant to show off this fabulous crystal)

This crystal has been polished on all faces but is otherwise just as nature made it. The crystal weighs 6.86 carats and its dimensions are 15.5 x 7.3mm. For more information, visit our website:

Copper Diffusion; Is it Gemology’s Worst Nightmare, Part II

This is my second of two posts on Copper diffusion. My first post focused on andesine. This second post will focus on a recent study by Robert James of The International School of Gemology (ISG) alleging that a method has been found to diffuse copper into tourmaline. First a bit of background:

The process, variously called lattice and deep diffusion is commonly used to “inject” Beryllium ions into sapphire was an accidental discovery. It came to world attention in the mid 1990s when a gem burner in Chanthaburi, Thailand experimented with a flux containing Beryllium to facilitate the high temperature heat treatment of pink sapphire and discovered that the flux altered the color to an attractive pink-orange, a rare color known as padparadscha.

Once discovered, this treatment set off a firestorm of controversy within the gem trade. Unlike simple heat treatment, this new process involved the addition of an outside element namely Beryllium. The process has since been used to alter the color of yellow and blue sapphire. The issue is important because gems that are diffused sell for dramatically less than heat enhanced gems and finer qualities of the newly discovered Mozambique cuprian (copper colored) tourmaline sell for thousands of dollars per carat.

The latest ISG study focuses on the analysis of foreign materials found on the surface of rough and in hollow growth tubes that are a characteristic inclusion in tourmaline, specifically cuprian (copper colored) tourmaline from Mozambique. James ran a series of Raman scans on several samples of Mozambique tourmaline both from inside the tubes and “crusted up” on the exterior of the rough and concludes that the scans prove that the material is copper. “How” Mr. James asks, “did this tourmaline get what appear to be multiple tubes filled with solid copper compound?”

The first question, is it really copper? The stains in James’ image closely resemble the typical iron-stained rough that I have seen all over the world. (Pictured left a tourmaline embedded in iron stained quartz, Alta Ligona mining field, Mozambique. (Photo: Farook Hashimi) Note the color of the staining. It certainly resembles the color of the included material shown in James’ images. Pictured right shows the blue-green color of weathered copper ore.)

In Part I of his study James shows a cuprian stone next to an iron skillet and asks: “What do this cast iron skillet and this Mozambique “ Paraiba ” Tourmaline have in common? Answer: They share an exact match Raman Scan as seen below. Why? The answer may surprise you. Don’t miss the continuation of this report in next week’s edition.”

In Part II he does not provide the promised answer. Like a new penny, polished copper does have a color similar to the material shown in the growth tubes but consider that same penny after it has been left out in the rain, what color is it, blue-green! This raises an obvious question. If this is copper and it has been exposed to air why isn’t it green? Dr. Lore Kieffert, Director of the AGTA lab makes a similar point. She believes that the stains may be iron. In a 2006 study of cuprian tourmaline published in Gems & Gemology, the authors note the same stains and speculate that the material is iron though unfortunately they did not test the material.

Koivula’s Quibbles:

At the Chicago World of Gems Conference I had an opportunity to speak with John Koivula, Chief Gemologist with GIA. I asked Koivula about James’ conclusions. Koivula expressed doubt that copper could be successfully defused into tourmaline. The problem, Koivula pointed out has to do with the host material. Sapphire melts at a very high temperature (2,000C), andesine at over 1400C, however, “ at about 1,000C tourmaline breaks down and turns into a rather ugly crusty material that when tested with x-ray diffraction closely resembled mullite.” It is no longer tourmaline. “I won’t say”, Koivula said with an ironic smile, “that it (copper diffusion in tourmaline) is impossible. I have been proven wrong in the past, I just think it unlikely.”

I had previously received reports that gem alchemists in Thailand had perfected a method to diffuse copper into non-cuprian material and that some of this material had been mis-identified as cuprian by an unnamed Asian lab. I asked Koivula if non-cuprian tourmaline could be misidentified as cuprian by advanced instruments. Surprisingly, Koivula’s answer was “yes”! He too mentioned the growth tubes that are characteristic of Mozambique cuprian tourmaline, he said. “If a stone were polished on a copper lap, which is fairly common, sufficient copper residues could be forced down these tubes to mimic a copper reaction sufficient to fool an EDXRF which is the least sensitive test.” Laser Ablation, SIMS or LIBS are far more sensitive, he noted. Apparently it does not take much to adulterate the samples: “You can rub a copper penny across a tourmaline and produce the same result.” Koivula said. This provides one possible explanation of how non-cuprian tourmaline could be mistaken for cuprian and is one obvious explanation for James’ finding native copper in the hollow tubes of his samples.

More Questions:

Bear Williams a dealer (Bear Essentials) and a certified gemologist raised another issue: According to Williams the diffusion of Beryllium, an element with a relatively small atomic mass (9.012182 amu) is one thing, diffusing copper an element with a relatively large mass (63.546 amu) is quite another. “It would have to be done atom by atom.” Williams said. Koivula concurs describing the time that would be necessary to copper diffuse tourmaline at temperatures below the melting point of copper (1084.62 °C) as “glacial.” I got a similar answer from Christopher Smith, Chief Gemologist at The American Gemological Lab (AGL) who points out that it is not necessary to melt copper but he did characterize the time required to diffuse copper into tourmaline below the point where tourmaline turns into aquarium gravel, as requiring a “geological time frame”?

Another simple and obvious explanation for Mr. James findings suggests itself. Cuprian equals copper, so cuprian tourmaline obviously formed in an environment with copper. Although the area currently being mined in Mozambique is a secondary deposit, the presence of copper on the surface of the rough and inside inclusions should not be surprising. Koivula, who has seen James’ images, is not persuaded by his conclusions. “Copper in growth tubes does not prove diffusion” he said.

James Clarifies:

I put some of these questions to Robert James. In an email he responded that the copper scan in the tourmaline is identical to that of the andesine and that proves copper diffusion. Further, “If that much copper were present as syngenetic inclusions, the entire tourmaline would be bursting with copper, not as a trace element. And you cannot get that much copper to 100% permeate the stone without some kind of artificial diffusion.”

This argument is not persuasive. How much copper? Is James talking about the copper in the inclusions or the percentage of copper present in the crystal? If the former, as discussed, the mere presence of copper outside the crystal structure does not prove diffusion into the crystal structure. His conclusion is, at best, pure speculation and hardly proves his point. If the latter, where has he demonstrated that a tourmaline crystal will absorb elements relative to the concentration of those elements in the growth environment? This too is quite a speculative leap.

Tourmaline has a complex chemical structure and cuprian tourmaline regardless of source (Brazil, Nigeria and Mozambique) contains barely more than trace amounts of copper. In a previous report James states that Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline is 4% copper. This fact, he says, is very important. Where does this figure come from? In a comprehensive study of cuprian tourmaline from known sources published (Spring 2006) in Gems & Gemology, the authors tested samples from all sources and report a widely variable percentage of copper in Brazilian Paraiba cuprian tourmaline (0.21-2.01wt%) and similar variations in the Mozambique material: (0.26-1.19w%). In no case does it approach 4%. Were tourmaline to absorb high levels of copper it would no longer be tourmaline. Crystals take from the environment they need to form.

Rush to Judgment:

James has promised another installment soon once more “advanced” Laser Ablation and SEM scans on the material is completed. Both Koivula and Emmett concur that these tests are necessary. The question is why didn’t he have these “advanced” tests performed before he made his charges public? In the words of Richard Hughes; “Before you break somebody’s rice bowl you better make sure you have the facts.”

Some applaud James’ work and point out that he was right about andesine. However, tourmaline is a separate issue and after interviewing a number of prominent researchers, I can find a couple who admire James’ luck, but not one who will endorse his science. Chris Smith of American Gemological Labs puts it succinctly: “James raises interesting points, but the way in which he reaches his conclusions don’t add up.”

Initially I congratulated James on his research. I am, like many professionals, frustrated that the time taken to research these issues tends to work to the benefit of the scam artists. By the time science proves what’s been done, honest dealers are left with the unenviable task of explaining the whole mess to their clients. Unfortunately, good research does take time. I have had conversations with some of the world’s leading research gemologists. Most have read the latest ISG report and some applaud James’ willingness to take on the issue, but I could not find one who supports his methodology or the quality of his research. After examining his arguments and speaking to a number of experts, it seems to me that James’ conclusions simply do not follow from his premises. He may be right, as he was, at least in part, on andesine, but his claim to have proved copper diffusion in tourmaline from the evidence he presents is overblown and making his charges before he completes his own advanced testing is irresponsible.

This is not, as one of James supporter has suggested; simply a “squabble over research methods.” Poor methods produce incorrect results. I have distilled out all I have learned and raised some basic questions and presented an alternate scenario that explains some of James’ findings. I have not disproved James’ claims; only questioned them and pointed out that the evidence he has thus far is a beginning, but it is a long way from proof. James has promised Part III as soon as advanced tests on his samples are completed. Perhaps he will provide all the answers at that time.

Some see James’ lack of support from the gemological community as evidence of a deep, dark conspiracy, of the gemology trade closing ranks. There is no question that James is out there all alone. None of the established gem labs seem to be taking these allegations seriously. He has offered to work with at least one established laboratory and his offer was ignored. Still, I do not believe that there is any sort of conspiracy. Most of these researchers work for separate competing organizations. As Dr. Emmett pointed out in the last post, no one is paying for basic research.

It does trouble me that anyone with the temerity to question (and some who agree) with James claims is required to run a gauntlet of personal attacks, initiated either by James or by one of his chorus of surrogates.

“…criticism is a mode of autobiography.” Oscar Wilde

In response to my first post on this topic Mr. James made the following statement:

“Dr. John L. Emmett is doing nothing but riding the ISG coat tails. We had the truth on this andesine issue back in April. And suddenly Dr. Emmett has an epiphany on andesine in September? Please!”

I find James’ unprovoked attack on Dr. Emmett inexplicable. A distinguished scientist agrees with his findings (though not necessarily his research) and James attacks him. I suggest that Dr. Emmett’s conclusions are not an epiphany; rather they are the result of months of careful and tedious research. James further states:

“Dr. Emmett is simply trying to cash in on our work.”

Cash in”? Is Robert James talking about research or publicity? Dr Emmett is retired. He is unpaid. He works in his basement. He has no business to “cash in” on. Others have since added to the din.

I understand that some of the members of the chorus are former true believers who bought the overblown claims of TV pitchmen. The lesson that should have been learned from that experience is to cast a critical eye over everything you are told, not blindly exchange one set of beliefs for another. There are good people and bad people in the gem business. Don’t judge us all by a single standard. None of us are heroes; we all have feet of clay. Stay tuned.

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Richard W. Wise said...

Re: Synthetic Tourmaline

Bear Williams posted the following to the Polygon business talk forum.

It is not with pleasure that I write this post, but a sense
of duty to make a correction where and when one is needed.
As many of you are aware, Robert James and I have been at
odds over his publishing of the synthetic tourmaline

Yesterday, I decided to run Raman tests on our tourmaline
stock of about 200 stones. When I reached #59, I hit on an
exact Raman match to the one Mr. James had posted showing
his proof of the existence of 28 synthetic tourmalines. See
photo of our Raman scan below. Curiously, this stone
happened to be a 16.72-carat Nigerian stone. Subsequently,
we found another lot with four more stones. These stones
also are natural green tourmalines from Nigeria.

In checking with various gemologists around the world, we
discovered that indeed there had been some tourmaline
synthetic growth that was done on an experimental basis, but
that the product was quite ugly, quite expensive, and was
only a fraction of a millimeter in size. So a 16+ carat
seems an unlikely candidate – (just because it has a
different Raman signature).

Interestingly, a Raman test was also performed using a 514nm
laser on these same stones and, oddly enough, the stones in
question all showed normal Raman readings. It is most
probable then, that since both Robert and I are using units
with 785nm lasers, that the readings are a function of the
laser wavelength and are either anomalous or are a type of
photoluminescent reaction.

Additionally, Mr. Thomas Hainschwang of Gemlab-EU in
Liechtenstein stated: “I tried to acquire synthetic
tourmalines and synthetic topaz a few years ago for a small
project, directly from Prof. Balitsky, but received the
answer that there were only a few small ugly research
crystals that have been produced and they were all gone, no
new ones produced for the extremely high cost of

One other important point of interest is that small crystals
and fluid inclusions were seen in these tourmalines with the
anomalous readings. A very good indicator of natural
material. In Robert’s case I could understand his concern
in the fact that his stones were very clean.

Alain van Acker said...

Hi Richard,

Nice summary and well worded.
I look forward to the responses.

David Fortier, GG said...

I am very fond of the tone of this article. I think it's wonderful to see Robert James' work discussed and criticized in a public forum with input from experts in the field. I don't understand the almost visceral reaction that people have to his work and it seems that a responsible adult dialogue is precisely what will help us move forward.

There are some difficult personalities in this fight and perhaps that is the root of the problem. But you aren't helping your cause, whichever side you take. Show respect for the kind of dignified, impartial writing that Mr. Wise has done in this post and follow his example. This is science- since when are we not allowed to ask questions? If you question the methods, say so in a decent, civil tone and back up your arguments with logic. If you think the criticism of Mr. James' work is unfair, say precisely why it is unfair and do so in a civil manner.

There is blind allegiance to the established gem trade on one side, and blind allegiance to Robert James on the other. This doesn't do either side any good and it has a negative impact on the science. We are fighting for our trade and for gemology, we are fighting to win the confidence of customers. Use your ammunition more wisely because you can't carry it in unlimited amounts.

leftright said...

Quote:Some see James’ lack of support from the gemological community as evidence of a deep, dark conspiracy, of the gemology trade closing ranks. There is no question that James is out there all alone. None of the established gem labs seem to be taking these allegations seriously. He has offered to work with at least one established laboratory and his offer was ignored. Still, I do not believe that there is any sort of conspiracy. Most of these researchers work for separate competing organizations. As Dr. Emmett pointed out in the last post, no one is paying for basic research.End Quote

Are you telling me, as a simple consumer, that when a new gem or treatment comes on the market, there is no source for me to turn to to verify the gem is authentic, questionable, etc.? before purchasing? I find it amazing that gemologist aren't all over a new gem or treatment just from professional curiosity. Most people love to get involved in new or out of the ordinary aspects of their field. And while there may not be a conspiracy going on, I can't help but wonder if there isn't a 'protection' of sorts in the works if DSN can still sell the Official Olympic andesine. I don't hold gemologists responsible for consumer protection, but do feel they should be in the chain of command somewhere, not sitting in a conference discussing treatment methods as if there were no consequences to their studies. I just find it puzzling that the gemological community isn't more INTERESTED, whether or not they are paid or unpaid; retired; working in their basements; or foremost in their fields. Exactly to whom does an end consumer go to say, "What would you charge me to do some basic research on my gem, please?" I'm way out of my league here, so I'll step aside with these final words. Right or wrong, Robert James stirred up his students and part of the rest of the industry to at least LOOK, even if it was to try to prove him wrong. I would trust an ISG graduate to look out for my interests ahead of anyone I have heard from at the Big Labs. I, too, was uncomfortable with the personal attacks that I witnessed during this ordeal, but truthfully, would some of the people involved bothered to answer if they had not had to defend themselves? I actually like you all a lot better now. So, I'm going to put on my organic mother-of-pearls made from genuine South Sea material by Old World Artisans and walk off into the sunset.

Wolf Kuehn said...

Mr. Wise, I appreciate your journalistic effort by discussing other gemologists' opinions. I hope you do not conclude and claim your excellent treatise to be science. Let the experts come forward so we can judge for ourselves.

As an educator I encourage my students to go beyond the text-books amd learn from blogs such as yours and the various forums. I do not know Mr. James personally but I must admit that I have respect for his work despite all its shortcomings.

Today's gemologist must use an investigative approach incorporating sound gemological tests supported by technology. If this method leads to an error further studies and help is needed. I am glad this help is finally forthcoming.

Mr James may be "out there all alone" but I have a feeeling that without him the gemological community would be worse off.

Richard W. Wise said...


Yup, that is pretty much how it is. The gem world is changing rapidly. Five years ago we did not have a colossus like JTV with sales into the hundreds of millions that could actually make a market.

I have called andesine a "boutique gem" by that I mean JTV locked up supply and made it happen. Don't know their actual sales, but 50M or more seems like a reasonable estimate.

So most of the gem dealer community couldn't buy it, had nothing to do with it. That is one of the reasons why the labs made no efforts, their clients, the gem dealers, were out of the loop. Never liked the smell of it so I don't own a single piece.

I agree with you, Robert certainly stirred up the pot. As Wolf points out, we are better off with him than without him.

The real tragedy here, an industry that sells arguable, ounce for ounce, the most expensive things one earth is so defficient that a single guy in Texas has to hold fund raisers to buy a piece of advanced equipment to do testing while "The World's Foremost Authority on Gemology" builds sand castles in Carlsbad and offers advanced degrees in business.

Richard W. Wise said...


No, my treatise, as you call it, is journalism, a critique. I asked a lot of questions then did a bit of deductive reasoning.

True science is about inductive reasoning, observation and testing. It just seemed to me that Robert James was making some pretty wild accusations that his science didn't warrant and no one was responding.

A lot of the lab gemologists just dismissed him, but his charges are all over the internet and ignoring that is a bit mistake.

All in all, I think that Robert James has done gemology and the gem trade a service--seems like he might have gotten AGTA off its butt.

The real tragedy, as I suggested to left right is that GIA is not doing the basic research that is so critical given the pace of technology. I was shocked when Dr. Emmett told met that the institute did not have any sort of basic research group. Reading G&G you get the opinion that they are doing a great deal.

Emmett told me that he and his partner paid their own way for most of the ground breaking research on Beryllium diffusion in sapphire that he (and others) published in G&G. This is GIA's charter, its raison d'etre.

I'd value your opinion but it seems to me what is needed is a curriculum for a BS level degree in gemology, as a start. When I started 30 years ago my little gem lab was adequate for most identification. Today I can't even pronounce the names of some of the equipment necessary for a well equipped lab, much less use it. A G.G. is a babe in the woods! The labs are looking to hire Phds in Chemistry and Physics.

Anonymous said...

Just a minor quibble: JTV may have claimed to have locked up the supply (as did and some other notable sellers). However, anyone who wanted the copper-diffused labradorite posing as "red andesine," "labrasine," "Congo Sunstone," etc. could buy as much as they wanted from Chinese and Thai cutters, or simply by visiting the shows in Tucson, Quartzite, etc. As I recall, the buzz (including in print) about that "new discovery" started long before JTV started hawking it. And this stuff is still being sold by various other online and B-and-M outlets.

But I agree the jury is still out on the tourmaline. Some of it does look suspicious, at least in its rough state, so I'm hoping investigation will continue, and more people will take another look.

The people/ producing and misrepresenting treated, and even synthetics, have had no oversight and a wide-open field for misrepresentation with no consequences. This needs to be more rigorously monitored and stopped - even to the point of stricter guidelines for "disclosure" (info which gets downplayed, and then immediately gets lost the first time the gem changes hands) and what is allowed to be called "natural."

Thanks for writing on the subject and keeping these issues from slipping back into the shadows.

Anonymous said...

david fortier,

you claim you want to have an adult conversation about his claims , well this would require that the person who wrote it actually answer questions and not start attacking the person personally .
You obviosly have not read the things he writes on his forum or you would see the person attacks he has on others , he does not like to be questioned , hes RIGHT and everyone else dont know what they are doing . He controls his forum that anytime he is questioned you get banned , try it !!!
As for his 'andesine' descovery , well if others are riding his coat tails well then hes riding the japan-german lab who first wrote about it ..

You obviously cant have an adult conversation with him because if you question and/or disagree with him , you disappear , look at his forum Richards link is now gone !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Richard W. Wise said...


Consigned to the outer darkness.

I haven't been called "two-faced" since my junior prom.



Anonymous said...

Yeah, there seems to be no shortage of bruised egos and thin skins to go around. That's too bad. Enough of the name calling on all sides - it is a red herring that distracts from examination of the issues at hand, and certainly doesn't help anyone's "professional" image.

Mary said...

RW says - I haven't been called "two-faced" since my junior prom. If the shoe fits, wear it. I believe that old saying applies here.

I don't blame Mr. James for removing people that disagree with him just for the sake of causing disruptions on his site. There is another site that Mr. Wise is totally welcomed on that removes people for simply asking a question that the moderators don't think is worth answering. Anything concerning scamdesine is forbidden. Why is this? I don't know but before people start pointing fingers and jumping on the bandwagon against Robert James, they better check their information. Maybe these folks like pie in the face, but I prefer to keep on open mind and listen to all information that is forthcoming.

Anon said "As for his 'andesine' descovery , well if others are riding his coat tails well then hes riding the japan-german lab who first wrote about it .."

When did this japan-german lab write about this? Last I heard, they just contacted the ISG with their findings. If they ever published anything before the ISG, I never found it.

The Andesine issue has been bandied about for several years on different websites and diffusion has been suspected for a long time. Why did the major labs not take notice and answer questions when they have been bombarded by consumers for answers? Because as long as no one with any knowledge pushed the issue, they could turn a blind eye to the people that give them a job - the consumer. I am angry that everytime a consumer asks questions they are talked down to and made to feel like they don't have a voice. Maybe the JTV lawsuit will make the industry open their eyes and realize that they are biting the hands that feed them. We the consumers do have a voice and will be heard loud and clear before this is over with. Just ask JTV what happens when they ignore consumers questions about their products. They did not admit guilt, but since they decided to settle the class action, a guilty dog barks and guilty they are. Please try to refrain from talking to consumers as if they are totally ignorant. Keep an open mind that we are what keeps this industry in business. We go away, so does the industry. Think about it. We might not be so bad after all.

Richard W. Wise said...


The same day as I published this post I had a conversation with Bear Williams who told me that he and Robert James had been involved in a heated debate on Polygon's business discussion channel. The topic; synthetic tourmaline and diffusion.

Polygon is a restricted site (trade only) and though I have been a member for years I had never accessed the business discussion. This morning I drilled down into it. After wading through reams of James' usual combination of breast beating coupled with character assassination, I was rewarded with a couple of "gems".

In response to a question as to the composition of the yellowish red material in the hollow tubes sited in his tourmaline study, On 10/16 James finally answered his own question comparing cuprian tourmaline with an iron skillet:

"Some show tin oxide or chrome oxide, which we expected as these are used to polish gemstones...and yes the needles test out as something other than any of the polishing compounds...But, right now the results on the needles are something between a cast iron skillet and native copper which is why we are doing laser ablation and EDX-FR on the specimens."

Polishing compound + Iron + Copper = polishing compound mixed with copper from the polishing wheel stuffed into iron stained growth tubes. No wonder he didn't follow up on his question in his report. James own findings pretty much explains the presence of copper, fortifies my argument, proves Koivula's conclusions and demolishes James' main argument for copper diffusion in tourmaline.

Wait there is more! On 10/21 After negotiating a deal with Bear Williams, James made a surprising announcement, cutting through some preliminary breast beating, here is the essence:

"The ISG is hereby ending our unilateral efforts regarding diffused/synthetic tourmaline and other issues in order to establish a cooperative research effort with other labs to help bring a better balance to the industry. We will make our resources available to other labs in order to make this work."

This is, precisely what it sounds like, James' backing away from his own conclusions (read the first comment quoting Bear Williams on synthetic tourmaline). The rest is just a face saving device.

Fact is most of James' findings, both those on copper diffusion and synthetic tourmaline were based on bad Raman laser scans coupled with poor logic. Williams discovered it, Christopher Smith confirmes it and JAMES KNOWS IT!

Like a dying fish flopping around i the bottom of the boat, in the latest ISG Attackatorial James continues his personal attacks. the latest one on me. Thanks for the support, but given James' MO I knew what to expect when I posted my conclusions and I'm a big boy.


Anonymous said...


OK , first off , reread your comments , yes he is riding on the coat tails of another , you see Mr Masaki Furuya from the Japan Germany Gemological Lab (JGGL) had revealed he found some treatment in the so called andesine and was working on this long before Mr James jumped on the coat tails , it wasnt until he spoke with the other US OREGON mine owners had this been reveaved to him , so someone other then him had already stated he found something suspicious , but could not SCREAM until he had dont all the proper research .

As per the other forum , three lengthy topics isnt discussing a situation , WOW i guess your right people have been answered on all that could be answered .

Go back and reread an oregan mine owners website , you shall finds your facts there!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alain van Acker said...

Hi Richard,

It's a sad sad story.
But cheer up, your defamation of character was anticipated and you are in good company.

Michelle said...

I can agree with most here that the labels need to be removed. As it has been stated many times from people in the industry - you are educated on a continual basis, so there are no “all knowing” authorities.

Any conversation should be based on what you can offer in the way of good research with accompanying proof. My response and question to Mr. William’s post went unanswered as you can see in Part I. I was clear and concise in asking him what evidence he had regarding Andesine - I received nothing of substance. I was given an oratory of what is not being done in regards to Tourmaline, and Mr. Williams did manage to show his contempt for the ISG by insinuating that I “must” be a student of Mr. James - otherwise I wouldn’t question Mr. William’s?

Let me state I am talking about Andesine now. The consumers did do research. There was no blind belief in a television sales pitch. There were professionals in the industry selling the same gemstones at significantly higher prices with certificates from respected labs. One seller in particular had all the right associations, and belonged to all the right groups. So, between the professionals selling Andesine, publications, and the informational websites - the consumers had a good reason to rely on the information to make purchases.

Every laboratory was contacted in the early part of February about Andesine. They were all given the same information. There were videos, and masses of conflicting statements provided by the sellers of Andesine. It was overwhelming at best - it did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that something was awry with Andesine. The FTC was contacted and the Attorney Generals - both of which said “file your complaints and we’ll look into it”. The Jewelers Vigilance Committee was also contact, and there response after the third attempt was “given the posture of the situation we cannot address it”. What on earth does that mean?

There is one exception to the above lack of interest, and that would be Robert James. The ISG was the only institution that listened.

So, after six years on the market, and so many rumors of treatment WHY did this go unnoticed. The answer I heard most frequently was “we don’t have the money to invest in research on such an inexpensive stone”……but, one very valuable thing was being missed - it was the quantity being sold that made up for the price per carat.

Now, Mr. James talks about similar treatments being done to Tourmaline. The industry professionals come out in full force. And, I can’t help but think “It’s so much more expensive than Andesine and all of their names are on the certificates”…..could this be the real reason why there is such a sudden interest? I for one can’t wait to see the outcome.

Alain van Acker said...

Dear Michelle,

Again your complaints never were unnoticed, not here, not at the labs nor at the GO forum. What we had troubles with was with the kitchen table science done by James and you took his words as it were a gospel. The latter gave the consumers, and James, a tool to discredit everyone not believing the word.

The sorry part is that we could never react in a civil manner as all our comments were deleted, not authorized or be remarked as being blasphemous on his forum.

If you really want to know the truth, ask for openness. Please do and we will be there to discuss and go bare bottom. We have nothing to hide.

Mary said...


Long before we ever knew Robert James existed, we talked with miners about Andesine Labradorite and knew that there were rumors in the industry of some type of treatment. We heard the rumors of yellow labradorite being used as the gemstone that was being treated. We also heard rumors of the japanese lab that was testing the gemstones to try to figure out how the gemstones were treated. We were told by JTV that they sent gemstones to 9 different labs to have them tested and they all came back as "treatment not detected". The JTV Junkies wrote to every one of the labs asking about this fake and not one person ever responded back to any of us. When we finally found Robert James, he was gracious enough to offer his help and test our gemstones. Every one that we sent him was treated. Now we finally hear from the Japanese lab that they have reached the same conclusion as Robert about Andy Labs. If you wonder why we are gun shy of others in the industry, we have been lied to, belittled, laughed at, banned from forums for asking questions and pretty much looked down on by all the industry professionals outside of the ISG. If we all can have a discussion without sarcasm, I'm all for it. I will forever be thankful for the help that Robert James and Lisa Brooks-Pike have given to us at the risk of hurting their own reputations. How many other people do you know that would have done so? No one else was willing to open this can of worms but them. I will stand by them and by their reports of the diffusion of andesine labradorite. No one else has given us any other report that says otherwise. Everyone wants to point the finger at them for their work but no one wants to step forward with proof that it's natural. I'm not an ISG student or GG - just a consumer that loves gemstones and until there is proof that they are working on detecting these treatments, I will not purchase another stone. Hopefully something good will come from this andesine debacle. If not, the industry is doomed to die from their own greed.

Richard W. Wise said...


I have read the comments and cruised the forums. Lots of comments but almost no one talks about the issues raised in the post.

Its all about questioning motives, personal invective and character assination.

I am confused. Robert James has published an email I sent congratulating him on taking on a tough issue. He published a similar letter from Bear Williams. How does that preclude me or Bear or anyone else from raising legitimate questions regarding his findings? If he is interested in the truth he should welcome such questions.

Initially I defended Robert. Frankly, most of the experts I spoke with consider his study as little more than a publicity stunt and dismiss his “science” as amateurish, misguided and just plain wrong.

I paid him the compliment of taking his work seriously and spent a great deal of my time studying his findings and then put some hard questions to several of the most eminent researchers in the field. This post is the result of that effort.

Robert has gone public with some very serious allegations about copper diffusion and just lately on synthetic tourmaline and legitimate, important questions have been raised. Where is his response? Does he have answers? Will he address the issues or continue to hide behind a barrage of irrelevant personal invective?


Anonymous said...

I have a question about the gemstone industry policy regarding new treatments being discovered, such as copper diffusion of andesine. Are there any ethical guidelines for the industry when something like this comes up? For instance, when it was discovered that certain people in the GIA labs were accepting bribes for better diamond grading, how were customers who bought those falsely graded stones notified? When BE treatment of sapphires was discovered, was there any discussion about notifying anyone that the sapphire they bought wasn't what it was sold as? Now that copper diffusion treatment seems fairly clear for "andesine labradorite", what is the gemstone industry policy for notifying customers who have purchased this material? Is there anything? Does the GIA or any other professional organization have a set of guidelines for notification and/or recall? And what are the rules for those who may have wantonly misrepresented any of this? Are the actual crooks ever stripped of their credentials? What's the downside of being a crook?

I think the real gemological worst nightmare with copper diffusion is that BECAUSE of andesine labradorite, consumers were forced into a position of having to research into the industry to a far greater extent than they might have otherwise, and what we found doesn't give us a very good feeling that anyone is watching out for us. There is a lot of talking and fighting and reporting that goes on inside the industry, but I don't think most of that ever gets out into the wider world, it's just a dirty little secret.

And with the internet that dirty little secret isn't so secret anymore. So if the industry wants to stop what it might consider "bad science" (and I'll wait to make my decision about whether it was or not) from getting out there then the industry needs to make consumer protection against fraud a priority. It needs to make scientific investigation of new treatments & gemstones a priority, and it needs to be done in a timely manner so that gems aren't on the market for a decade before you realize it's not natural.

Things should never have gotten to the point where a bunch of consumers had to basically train themselves as gemstone investigators and hunt for months or years to find someone who would actually do something about their concerns. And if this isn't the job of the "big labs", then what exactly is their function? What good does it do me, as a consumer, to search out a seller with a G.G. after his or her name and a fist-full of lab reports about how great their stones are if 2 or 5 or 10 years down the line it can be proven that all of that was just a fairytale and no one is required to tell me about it?

Alain van Acker said...

Hi anon,

Fund me and I'll set up such a consumer protection organization. Or would you rather I bankrupt myself because you demand me to?

All research done in the past is available to the public, you just didn't read the various comments.

Trust me it has always been an issue, long before you started with your name calling and will be long after. Dragging us through your mud will probably not help your case.

What I have learned from all this is that consumers only hear what they want to hear. In this case it was the word of a scam artist that was believed. Good luck with that.


We have said all there needs to be said. RJ will never respond in public to our concerns and I would find him very courageous if he were to show up in Tucson (sudden car troubles are a pain).

You and Williams (as well as Matlins and Roskin) came of easy in this. Others, like me, were given the honour of our e-mail addresses be published with the request to "tell him how you feel". That resulted in some fun hate mail which I will publish one day.

There is a good reason why he changed his mind on the JTV law suite; he would have to appear in court as an expert witness and he would be exposed.

The JTV settlement has offered nothing to the consumers that they not already had. Only person coming out good is James himself, he got some publicity indeed and more importantly .. he sold a few extra courses. That is what it was all about.

Richard W. Wise said...

Anonymous #15,

First off there is no gemology establishment and therefore no ethical guidelines for the industry as a whole. That seems to be a wishful construct that was invented by someone during the andesine controversy.

There are a number of professional organizations some of which have professional ethics, but the industry is far from monolithic

Now that JTV has, as it should, taken responsibility for its actions I wonder if anyone has noted the irony in questions of the kind you are asking?

The major thrust of JTV's and other TV sellers pitch is they sell direct. They bypass the establishment, those nasty wholesalers and greedy mainstream retailers who, they say, wring unconscionable markups from poor consumers.

Talk about a fairy tale, when something goes wrong, when it turns out that a deal that sounded too good to be true, was too good to be true, Katie bar the door! These same folks who bypassed the established industry start demanding that the that same industry" come up with answers and they are outraged when we don't just jump too it. One of those who commented on my last post insisted that AGTA, an organization of wholesalers, had an obligation answer her charges.

I am one of those wholesalers and a retailer as well. If my client's have a question, they know where to find me. Pardon me if I digress.

If I go to the doctor and he tells me I need a triple bypass I have two choices: I can accept his word or seek other opinions, but unless I become a heart surgeon, sooner or later I have to trust someone. We make those choices everyday and how well we make them is often the difference between success or failure in the game of life.

Sure you should do your homework. Be vigilant! Question authority!
Does the industry need to clean up its act, absolutely! Does the internet provide a place to uncover dirty little secrets, oh yes!

Unfortunately in some sense, it damned if you do and damned if you don't. Read the comments and the forums. Case in point, I have just spent a great deal of time researching and writing two posts on the diffusion issue. In the first post I published strong confirmation of copper diffusion in andesine. The eminent gemologist who I quoted was promptly attacked by the same people who are demanding answers. As for this post, read the comments, cruise the forums!

As for the "Big Labs" their job is to provide a degree of surety to their clients. They are for profit businesses! They don't do basic research unless there is a demand for certification in that particular area and they are far from all knowing. They make mistakes! Because of variable levels of expertise, some do a better job at one thing, others at another.

If I am obtaining an important stone for a client I make sure that the stone goes to a lab or labs that have the expertise to make the needed call and also make sure that they understand everything about what they are buying but then you have to pay me for that. If you buy from some talking head on tv you can buy direct and avoid all of that.

Roberta Wingo said...

OK, I will ask a stupid question regarding:
"Polishing compound + Iron + Copper = polishing compound mixed with copper from the polishing wheel stuffed into iron stained growth tubes."

Would this be enough copper to cause the stones to test out as "cuprian"?

Anonymous said...

Van Acker said - Fund me and I'll set up such a consumer protection organization. Or would you rather I bankrupt myself because you demand me to?

All research done in the past is available to the public, you just didn't read the various comments.

Strange that when we looked for research information on Andesine Labradorite, there was none to be found on the GIA and AGTA websites. So I assume no research on Andesine was ever done by them if what Alain is saying is true. Interesting. But I did find some certificates on another site that were signed by Lore Kiefert that said andesine had "no treatments detected" and there is nothing on the AGTA website that shows these certs were ever issued. Maybe they just missed posting these certs.

Consumer Protection Organization? Now thats a thought. Maybe that is something we need to work on. Thanks for the idea. Looks like a nerve has been struck. I would be careful about calling the kettle black as far as "scam artist" goes. That one might come back to bite you in the behind.

Anonymous said...

First off, I was not calling anyone who posted in this discussion names. There are crooks in every business, and certainly with all of these issues you can't deny there are some in THIS business. Does that mean you all are? Of course not.

But without any formal rules or policies it's difficult even for the honest sellers and labs to do a good job. Gemfrance has reports for every one of his "Congo" andesine labradorite stones. He's not a talking head on TV, and went through every effort to get the right answers, and yet it's his reputation on the line when it all goes bad. Not to mention any people he sold those stones to who may not even be aware that it HAS gone bad.

Do you not see that by protecting consumers you also protect yourselves? It wasn't just greedy customers who were taken in by these scams. And people buy gemstones and jewelry for many reasons, not just for greed.

My questions weren't about attacking anyone, or demanding that the labs bow to my will, but rather: if even the professionals are getting scammed, what hope does a consumer have? If there is no downside to committing frauds like these, then how will it be stopped?

Not everyone who bought andesine labradorite was a greedy, uneducated boob. Not everyone who sold andesine was a scheming criminal. Not every professional gemologist, scientist or laboratory is a rubber stamp for some vast, faceless conspiracy. But there's got to be a better way than this, surely? Otherwise, why bother?

Richard W. Wise said...

Hi Roberta,

Great to respond to someone with a name.

That is exactly what John Koivula said and he said it before he read James' study and long before I found his post on polygon.

Diffusion happens ion by ion and the result is not visible. growth tubes full of whatever substance is no sort of evidence of diffusion.

N.B. The gem alchemists in Thailand certainly are stuffing anything they can think of into those crucibles and hoping to get just far enough ahead of detection to make their pile and quietly steal off into the night.

I have sources telling me that its happening now. Problem is, James' evidence doesn't prove it and therefore is not useful in detection.

In a real sense the JTV settlement is unfortunate because a trial would have forced a scientific debate. JTV is one of the few organizations with the resources to fund a comprehensive study and the other side would have had to respond as well.

Alain van Acker said...

Hi anon,

Could very well be that it bites me in the butt, however I got bitten a lot lately so my pain threshold has shifted.

The research was not published online, but in the magazines. I would love it when all was published for free online, till then I need to subscribe and pay .. like the rest of us. Nobody is stopping you from subscribing as well.
I pointed to the relevant documentation over half a year ago.
James took advantage of this and he was getting of the hook of misquoting various sources as you do not have access to it.

Most serious gemmologists invest a lot in continued education and I find it very pleasing to hear that no matter how hard we try, we still get butchered. Remind me to thank you for that one day.

Good luck, I end my involvement here (unless you - under your own name - have something interesting to report).

Richard W. Wise said...




My name and picture are here. You know who I am and where I stand.

Henceforth no more anonymi (thats plural) Getting so you can't tell one from the other anyway.

Folks if you want me to answer I would appreciate the courtesy of your name (image optional) otherwise don't expect an answer.


Richard W. Wise said...

P.S. Mary, et al,

When I said your name, I meant your full name and btw I am sick of all these irrelevant unseemly personal attacks.

Your post is pure invective. It has no place in this discussion and it won't be posted here.


cara williams said...

There are many good points here. Some of which I would like to summarize and others I would like to add. I have been in this industry all my life, so I have some perspective at this point. I have been involved in gems at the retail, dealer, laboratory and teaching levels. I believe we must always keep the consumer’s best interest in mind in order to stay in business and be successful in the long term. I read this “between the lines” in others’ posts here, and I believe that is Richard’s intention with this blog. Most of my comments I will direct to the consumers, but they will apply to all.

Please know that we are not a cohesive industry. We are many individuals all acting independently in different parts of the world and under different business codes of ethics. Of necessity, it is a buyer beware situation, but for the most part it works. The AGTA and any other organization can only take enforcement of their codes of ethics so far. They cannot control sellers operating a website in another part of the world. There is no government regulation other than broad disclosure rules by the FTC.

All gemologists are not the same. Gemology courses are not all the same. Graduates receive knowledge about equipment and means of identification that are non-destructive. The key word is non-destructive. Mineralogists tend to grind material into a powder in order to perform quantitative, scientific, and definitive tests on them. Gemologists are restricted from damaging material in most cases. This can leave holes in some identifications and allows for a small window of potential inaccuracy. Most gemologists are trained to identify the most commonly traded gems and jewelry materials with the “traditional” gemological equipment. While most are qualified to identify rarer materials, lack of experience with these materials can cause inaccuracies. A good gemologist knows their limitations. This is when a material should be submitted to an advanced lab. Due to limited demand and funding, there are a limited number of advanced labs. These are generally staffed by gemologists with advanced degrees beyond just gemology. The bigger labs have PhD’s in physics, geology, and other related subjects. Their knowledge and experience go beyond basic gemological training by miles. The staff will have serious experience and exposure to many materials and be well versed in scientific procedure. They will have more advanced scientific equipment, not available (or affordable) to most gemologists. Advanced equipment requires training and experience in order to interpret results accurately and consistently. Lab gemology is serious science – and sometimes involves detective work as well. Most lab work involves comparing results to those of known materials. New materials pose many challenges. You do not test for something you do not know is there.

Andesine has been discussed by many professional in the industry for some time. There was worry and speculation, including that it might be synthetic. Most were too responsible to create fear tactics and harm a material and those selling it without adequate evidence of treatments. If any competent gemologist receives a stone they are not familiar with, they can perform tests to identify its chemical and crystalline composition, thereby identifying the material. This will require a lab in some cases. They will not always be able to identify if any treatment has been applied. Certain treatments yes, others not without before and after samples and a series of in-depth analyses to build a database of comparisons. Once it is determined that there is a treatment or enhancement, it does not necessarily reveal the means. This requires other specialization – those that have the equipment to treat stones and can replicate the treatment. This is different equipment than that found in a testing laboratory. It can take much time even if the clues are known.

In the case of Andesine, this was a stone little known and little studied in the industry, even though feldspar is one of the most common minerals in the earth’s crust. Of necessity, most research is done on materials that can support the cost of research. This does not include the most plentiful and least expensive gems – even rarer varieties of such. I received one in our lab early on in the marketing of this material. It was the first one I had seen. All I could do was identify the material and tell the client what I knew -and what I didn’t know. Not all stones have color zoning and therefore immersion was not diagnostic. Further, color zoning means different things in different materials. Some materials, like tourmaline, often have color zoning – sometimes in very bizarre patterns. Other materials have signature color zoning, such as corundum, where the type of zoning can separate natural from synthetic – in some cases. Gemmology is a complex science. Everything needs to be confirmed and independently verified.

The AGTA lab was offered $1500 to research andesine, when such research would have actually cost tens of thousands of dollars. The AGTA lab is not a research lab. It has a talented staff that works long hours as it is. Further, some mention needs to be made of the cost of a gem. It simply is not realistic for AGTA to pursue research on materials which cannot independently support the price of a report. New materials are constantly being offered on television and the internet - and it is not feasible or realistic to research them all. In hindsight, the volume of andesine sold merited a closer look. But we must realize that the definitive study has not yet been seen. While a Japanese lab has posted some good findings, we do not know the scope or source of their samples. They mention there is supposedly natural material from Tibet, but only in seemingly small sizes. They have done good work, but have left as many questions unanswered as they have answered. No lab has reported on the natural state and treatment for every known source of the material. While there is compelling evidence that there is diffused material out there and that there is heated material, it has not yet been proven that all is treated – and how. Most treatments are aimed at imitating rarer, natural material.

To me, it is amazing that a company that offered a full refund to its customers is settling a lawsuit, when others were selling the same material with similar claims - and the science is not complete. I do not hear of other stones they have accidentally or intentionally disclosed improperly. I think their record is pretty darn good, considering the volume of material JTV sells.

So I think we should take some lessons from this:
We should look at science and method – not get caught up in personal attacks, especially when certain forums filter out any dissenting voices or members.

We should look at everything and everyone with a critical eye and get second opinions – from those with well-qualified credentials. What may appear as accurate to someone without industry experience may look quite different to those with experience. Merely being a GG or FGA or PhD is not sufficient.

There is risk in every product we buy – even at the grocery store. As adults, we should weigh these risks in order to make the best decision. And the law protects consumers – refunds will be made when mistakes are discovered. Anyone is capable of a mistake – the important thing is to admit it and make things right. No one in this industry is big enough to be beyond the law. There is no conspiracy, merely limited resources and a complex issue.

I know not everyone in the industry has appreciated the input we have seen from consumers. While we do respect your position and concern, we would prefer you wait for the correct procedures and conclusions, rather than cloud a scientific issue with emotions. The truth will out. Definitive studies that will withstand the test of time require time. Hasty conclusions, while seemingly gratifying, can lead to messy reversals and false rumors. This has been a situation without precedent and we are all learning means to prevent another such issue. New materials from unknown sources will often carry some risk. The price usually reflects this. The higher the value of a stone, the more knowledge and research there is likely to be – but the more incentive there is for fraud among the unethical. There is potential for fraud at all levels and all qualities of the market. Most industry members are extremely ethical – or the industry would collapse. Due to the fact that gem materials are found all over the planet and dealers as well, there simply is not an effective means to regulate all trades. Just as there is no means of regulating what is said on forums.

I believe lessons have been learned here and I applaud all who have risked stray bullets to set the record straight. The laboratories need more input and help from all areas of the industry in order to learn about and alert us of new treatments and synthetics. This needs to be done in a timely and professional manner.

Cara Williams, FGA

Marliese Weed said...

Mr. Wise,

The first word of your famous book title (which I own), expresses exactly what we consumers have railed about.
It is fine for those of means to come to you to acquire a stone and receive diligent assurance of its quality.
Where does a grandma go to purchase a modest ring for her granddaughter, and be assured that she is not receiving a fake?
In these days of the democratization of peoples, where they own cars, televisions, cell phones, etc, are they doomed to be denied things of beauty, such as gems?
Surely there must be a place for the little guy to go with his hard earned money!

Marliese Weed

Vonniebooboo said...

~Great post Cara Williams and I think you have made the point that the consumers have been making for the past year.

New materials are constantly being offered on television and the Internet -
****and it is not feasible or realistic to research them all****.

In hindsight, the volume of andesine sold merited a closer look.
***WHY ISN'T IT feasible or realistic to research them all??***
That one quote should wake everyone as that's the attitude of most everyone in this industry. ~~****and it is not feasible or realistic to research them all****~~Yet when consumer's came to each business asking about andesine what did they get? They got booted from forums, called stupid and told to sit down and shut up and wait. We ARE YOUR BREAD & BUTTER! WE ASK YOU FOR HELP! Then were insulted for something even you could not afford to research according to you all. Yes some people have a bad approach but the questions where the same and all they ask for was help. It was not about hanging a TV station. It was so we could know what we were buying, when in essence you didn't even know what we were buying. That's the real shame. If we wanted to kill an industry the JTV suit would have gone on. All of the 2,000 employed would have lost jobs. That wasn't the goal. Disclosure was the goal. No one was willing to step up and help except for Chris Rose, Robert at ISG, Lisa Pike and a few others. Some were angry that Robert raised the money for a RAMAN and did the studies. From what I've read here no one can seem to afford a lab to check stones for treatment nor do they have been enough degrees so they pass the buck. Perhaps we should help Robert with a lab and other things needed to set up the kind of lab that you speak of. Perhaps we'll set up our own consumer site and police everyone of you for the rest of your days. This is not what we long to do, BUT it seems that the restraints that are in place are worthless. So now the work is cut out for us. We won't sit down and shut up and wait. Our work continues.

It seems to me that the real reason consumers were treated the way they were is because they bypassed some of the local business's to buy stones costing less from a TV station & the Internet. Not because they weren't as educated as some of you are, but because they bypassed you. Because it has been admitted here that even with the education of everyone in the industry andesine got past it. So who's the worst here, the educated? Or, the uneducated that tried to save a dollar and believed they were buying from the educated?

Yvonne Hess

Kevin Swisher said...

There is far too much name calling and belittling from both sides! Especially from Mr. Van Acker, and his cohorts, with his usual snide remarks and offensive comments and hidden read between the lines bs. Until people can grow up, on both sides, things will go nowhere, sadly. And everything will be doomed to fail.

Furthermore, I have never seen Robert remove anyone from his forums as long as they were engaging in a mature and adult like discussion. He only removes those acting like children trying to stir the pot. Many he removed had hidden agendas and took every chance to move them forward. That can even be seen by their constant attacks on GO and right here. Even a blind person can see that. Nothing wrong with that, sorry. I used to moderate many large traffic forums as well as moderate/admin live chat rooms on IRC and the like, so I do know how it is.

The big picture here is that, like the G.I.A., labs are getting lazy and not policing their own. It is not just a single episode, like the Ande-Lab, but numerous situations... Be Sapphires, Diamond scandals, allowing GGs to go unchecked running scams even after being notified of such actions this all adds up. It also all bases itself upon greed!

This Industry is full of inner circles and good old boys who do each other solids and turn heads when needed. No different then any other big industry really. The consumer makes more out of it then what is truly there but then those in the trade try to make out like it doesn't exist. Everyone needs to meet in the middle. Not keep clinging to conspiracy theories around every corner and not dismissing the conspiracies that do actually exist and that can be fairly easily seen!

As for the ande-lab, Robert jumped no gun imho. He acquired stones from every source... JTV, DSN, Gemfrance, Sett, Thaigem, from numerous Ebay vendors, etc. to run these tests. He got conclusive and near identical results from all stones from all sources he had. He even had samples from the beginning from years ago which he tested. He brought out much needed information. There was and is no excuse for the big boys to have taken 6yrs+ and still not said nor done anything. Everyone I know in this trade knew something was fishy with the material!! It started with the cutters as there was NO rough to be had, not even cutting house scraps... I wonder why!!?? But many chose to just turn their head the other way. The others warned who they could but had no way to go further as the labs and big boys would do nor offer any help or info! It wasn't until Lisa pestered Robert enough that something got done about it. Anyone with any real experience in this trade knew something wasn't right with ande-lab!

On the tourmaline issue. I will be the first to say that I do think Robert may have jumped the gun a little bit caught up in all the previous and current excitement. I know I too would have! But I do have to agree that something is not right and unnatural about a lot of the tourmaline rough on the market right now from Mozambique!!! Much of it even has a weird/strange/odd coating on it. It is even circulating around many cutting forums/groups and has been long before Robert ever brought it up. Just like the metal diffused garnets, been around the cutting arena for a while now. The cutters often know problems long before the Gemologists, because the cutters are hands on working with the material layer by layer on a daily basis. But no one really pays them any heed as they don't have any fancy initials behind, or in front of, their names!

This Industry is more about egos then anything else and about getting those egos stroked. Reminds me a lot of the art trade and photography trades. Folks need to put their egos aside and work together, otherwise, this Industry will crash & burn! The consumers have lost faith, and justifiably so!! I know, as well as the rest of you darn well know, without the consumers there will be NO Industry!!

Those in the trade need to start treating consumers, as well as their own, with far more respect and start showing far greater integrity to fix things!! The issue is, currently, far too many egos are in the way! That can be seen by almost every non-consumer post here!!

The consumers also need to police their own though as well. Some of them are power hungry after the ande-lab and are blowing things way out of proportion. All this does is create resentment which in turn causes more closed doors and more ego touting as well.

There is work that needs to be done on both sides. The consumers are willing, for the most part aside from the troublemakers, to work on things and help even. Even some in the trade are willing to work on things as well. Now, the majority in the trade just need to come down off their high horses and be willing to work with them and fix what needs fixed for the betterment of this Industry.

That goes for the journalists as well Mr. Wise!! Write articles, but check the pot stirring and controversial BS at the door. There are other ways to get and keep readers instead of doing typical media hype tactics to get them. I held much more respect for you when you didn't use these tactics. If I want to read/hear that kind of doodoo I will turn on CNN or Fox news, lol.

Scott Gordon said...

Thank you, Cara, for your post. It touches on many of the most important points in this debate. I think neither side necessarily has a perfect patent on the truth, that is to say, has represented the whole picture. This is because it is quite complex; perhaps we've all been blind victims of those who know the alchemy of these treatments. One thing I do know for absolute sure: rushes to judgment, including judgments of personal character, are horrible distractions to what should be our common goal -- to understand what happened and take steps towards constructive change. Ascribing bad motive is worthless; reporting bad impact is just fine...Scott

Richard W. Wise said...

Some many comments, so little time

Yvonne writes:

"It seems to me that the real reason consumers were treated the way they were is because they bypassed some of the local business's to buy stones costing less from a TV station & the Internet."

I think I made this point but, I am confused, who is the "you" here? Do you expect me, as a local jeweler to provide surety to someone purchasing a stone I had never heard of from somewhere else?

JTV MADE andesine in the marketing sense of that word. Prior to the marketing no one had ever heard of the stuff, there was no market! There really was no reason to treat the stuff! Yes, we had Oregon sunstone but hardly anyone (relatively speaking) knew about it. Most retailers have barely gotten passed diamonds, as I am sure you know. The speed and power that marketing engines such as JTV possess is totally unprecedented in the gem industry.

That said, it is certainly no excuse. The industry must respond! Andesine must be a wakeup call and the organization that needs to wake up is GIA.

Marliese wrote:

The first word of your famous book title (which I own), expresses exactly what we consumers have railed about.
It is fine for those of means to come to you to acquire a stone and receive diligent assurance of its quality.
Where does a grandma go to purchase a modest ring for her granddaughter, and be assured that she is not receiving a fake?

Thanks for your comment and for the courtesy of posting your name.

I wrote my book with the objective of giving both professionals and consumers SOME of the tools useful in making an educated choice in the purchase of a gemstone.

I purposefully did not write about treatments other than to warn about them and suggest independent lab reports on expensive purchases. If I had, much of what I wrote in 2001 would have been obsolete and of no help with andesine.

Grandma has a problem! Ignorance pervades this industry from top to bottom. Pick a local or mall jeweler, go in and raise some of the issues that we are discussing here and you will get my point.

If this controversy provides the impetus to move the industry forward it will have served a very positive purpose.

Kevin Swisher said

"On the tourmaline issue. I will be the first to say that I do think Robert may have jumped the gun a little bit caught up in all the previous and current excitement."

Ya think? In the rush for publicity I believe. Bad science, poor methodology and false conclusions don't move the agenda ahead! Mr. James has not responded to the questions raised in the post, he has managed to call me a few names.


"Now, the majority in the trade just need to come down off their high horses and be willing to work with them and fix what needs fixed for the betterment of this Industry."

"That goes for the journalists as well Mr. Wise!! Write articles, but check the pot stirring and controversial BS at the door. There are other ways to get and keep readers instead of doing typical media hype tactics to get them. I held much more respect for you when you didn't use these tactics. If I want to read/hear that kind of doodoo I will turn on CNN or Fox news, lol."

Ok, Kevin explain yourself? Where in the post do I "stir the pot" or use "media hype tactics"? What sort of "doodoo?" I think I did a pretty fair job of reporting.


P.S. You may have noticed that the post you are responding to is on "Copper Diffusion in Tourmaline" I have published a number of marginally relevant comments because, it seems people still need to vent on andesine.

Ms Mary Maxwell's rejected post is on Myspace. You may read it there. It was the only post I have rejected (so far) and I think, after reading it, most will understand why.

Michelle Gauto said...

The issue for the consumer was a simple one to it treated, or is it untreated?

The consumer didn't need 100 pages on the precise treatment method. You as scientists need that, so you can catalog the treatments, but the FTC doesn't care about the process...the law cares about disclosure.

JTV sold a gem with absolute certainty that is was untreated. They were incorrect. It doesn't matter if it was merely heat treatment - it was still treated, and JTV announced this as if they were proud.

So, maybe the laboratories can answer the simple questions first, and then proceed to the mechanics of the treatments second.

Richard W. Wise said...


Exactly right!


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Richard - can't we just talk about that exquisite emerald crystal instead?

As Alain points out, information is available, it is just not for free except when kindly shared or interpreted for laymen by people such as he and others who work to educate and who have paid and are paying a high price themselves to be in a position to be able to do so.

But still that knowledge itself originates with research performed in very sophisticated laboratory settings by people with a great deal of experience and often limited time and funding. The portals for that knowledge come in several forms, all open to the public, but one must pay for it:

There are two peer-reviewed gemological journals which are accepted by the ISI - an internationally recognized listing of scientific publications. Anyone is free to subscribe to these - and please do, they are very expensive to produce and the gemological community is rather small and of very modest income; more subscribers will bring the subscription fees down. There are also peer-reviewed mineralogy, geology, chemistry and physics journals which have a wealth of information, also not free.

In addition, there are conferences - scientific venues where anyone is welcome and where the very top gemologists and scientists in the gemological world congregate to give and hear presentations and are themselves available to talk with (but again it is not free - the money goes towards the cost of putting on the conference in the first place).

Case in point: as a paying delegate to the Gemmological Association of Great Britain's Centenary Conference and European Gemmological Symposium this past weekend in London, I had a discussion with John Koivula in which he elaborated further on what we were discussing with him back at the WOG conference (also not free) regarding the contamination of tourmaline with copper (not only from copper laps). He pointed out that tourmaline has sub-microscopic as well as gross growth tubes. When the tourmaline is heated, the gas in these tubes is rarified, upon cooling solution such as copper sulfate draws into the tubes. The GIA lab routinely cleans the tourmaline thoroughly before testing - his question is: how much tested "cuprian" tourmaline out there is just "contaminated" tourmaline... and in need of a bit of cleaning? I believe he will write something on this in the Gems & Gemology Journal Winter issue (not free).

There was much discussion at the conference about testing equipment and sophistication of technique using any high tech equipment. One of the most exciting presentations was regarding development of portable equipment which will make labs more mobile, such as portable Raman and FTIR; not anything which the average gemologist can either afford or is trained to use outside of those gemologists working in laboratories with either years of experience themselves or colleagues at hand with the greater experience needed to collaborate on tough problems (as Cara eloquently pointed out).

Michelle, your comments are well taken, until the last - nothing is simple, even the question "is it treated?" It would be unethical to make such a pronouncement without a complete investigation and no one would try to publish that way; they would likely never publish again if they tried.... it is what keeps science alive and honest...and those journals ISI listed.

Back to that emerald crystal, are you going to let Mike have a go at it?

Elise, J.L.G. (jet-lagged gemologist)

Wolf Kuehn said...

Is gem identification a science? The answer is: NO. Listening to gemologists talking about "bad" and "good" or "honest" science is
unproductive; words like "not possible" are unhelpful. Everything is possible in today's complex world of gemstones; whether it is feasible is another question.

Unfortunately we cannot wait until a peer-reviewed scientific study is being published when new gem materials appear in the
markets on almost a daily basis. Research done on empirical data may lead to an incomplete conclusion but is usually in the
best interest of the general public.

This is frequently being done outside the "scientific establishment" whether their members like it or not. The conflicts generated, however, contribute to the advancement of life like Galileo demonstrated in his "experimental scientific method" proofing the heliocentric theory of Copernicus.

In the case of Andesine Mr. James' conclusion will remain valid until someone can produce the rough and proof that it is natural.

Regarding tourmaline more studies are necessary but do not expect a scientific treatise very soon. Even Mr. Koivula is moving more cautiously by questioning tested "cuprian" tourmaline.

Let's continue this discussion without personal attacks.

Richard W. Wise said...

Mr. Kuehn,

Much of what you say is true, particularly with regard to the time frame. We have to stop being simply reactive. What is lacking and desperately needed is an industry wide commitment to basic research.

That said, the making of blanket statements based on shaky methodology and preliminary conclusions is irresponsible.

Will Mr. James conclusions on Andesine stand up? First, lets be clear, a number of gemologists reached similar conclusions. I think, the Japanese lab, JGGL was the first. Mr. James has simply garnered most of the publicity. As any good PR man will tell you, The more incendiary the statement you make, the more press coverage you get.

Once a truly unbiased scientific study has establishes the facts on Andesine, will Mr. James' identification methodology stand the test of time? Now, that is an interesting question.


Anonymous said...

Is gem identification a science? The answer is: NO.

As a gemologist, science educator and writer, I respectively disagree with you, though I leave room for any misinterpretation of that statement I might be making.

At the recent symposium in London, Dr. Emmanuel Fritsch - one of the most respected scientists involved in gemological research in the world - addressed the very nature of gemology and gem identification as a science in his presentation "Gemmology, a New Science Anchored in Fundamentals." John Koivula, Dr. Krzemnicki, Dr. Henn, Prof. Hanni, Dr. Ogden ("700 Years of Gemmology"), Alan Hodgkinson and Duncan Parker all spoke on similar themes - bringing out the details of just what makes gemology and gem identification a science in all senses of the word. These are just some of the great minds working on what this discussion is about. Some work for private laboratories or universities, but I don't think anyone can impinge on their credentials or on their commitment to sharing and enlightening the public while keeping to the highest possible standards of ethics, responsibility and devotion to the science of gemology. Some are personal friends and others are acquaintances whom I regard very highly, so my opinion is prejudiced - but, I don't think anyone could argue with it.

My elaboration on the availability of information and the expense of attaining it was only an effort to try to let the public know that the very role of a trained gemologist and a gemological scientist is to be continually educated to the fullest extent possible in his/her area of expertise and in that capacity, to serve the public through research, consulting, laboratory work, appraisal services, education and so on. Mr. James is hardly alone in his stated commitment to that goal.

A point in one of the above comments about the consumer sidestepping the more expensive route of making a purchase without the guidance of a retailer who has a professional gemologist on staff and/or access to higher level laboratory services is one which is often missed in this whole story. It is what we are here for. If the technology/knowledge is not yet available to make a definitive conclusion about a treatment or synthetic; it is not anyone's fault - there is no conspiracy afoot; not at any level starting from the gem buyers/dealers, retailers, laboratories or universities -- it comes down only to time and money for the research; there simply is no way around that fact.

A governing body or a "basic research group" would be nice, but even the larger more famous gemological institutions, despite outward appearances, could not afford this - does anyone who is so very vocal on this point make any significant monetary contribution to these facilities? That "sandcastle" as it was inexplicably referred to above, was built on donations quite a while ago when a larger space was needed - it houses the world's greatest gemological library, one of the finest and most well-equipped laboratories and one of the best in-residence introductory gemology programs in existence - the student facilities and resources are unparalleled anywhere, including those of many major universities! I am not sure why there are any doubts about this or any other recognized institution's attempts to meet stated goals or charters. I know many of the researchers; I have been inside many of these institutions and inside many of these laboratories and have first-hand experience with that side of the equation. I simply can not agree with accusations of malfeasance or ineptness.

Consider who is treating the stones in the first place.

Perhaps one of Dick Hughes' famous lines is more apt: "So the next time you find yourself in some dusty Third-World backwater, about to take that poor native for a ride, remember one thing - the native has the same low opinion of your sophistication as you have of his."

It is not the same as other fields of research; the money has to come from somewhere and the bottom-line at the end of the month is not softened by government support as is, for example, medical research. It is met by the big ticket stones which come into labs in high volumes: Ruby, Sapphire, Diamond and Emerald and perhaps a few others. At what level in the industry anywhere in the world will the money come from to support that kind of body? There are a few government affiliated institutions supported by public money, but it would take pages and pages to talk about the complexities of that. The outward appearance of the gem industry is that of opulent wealth; but the vast majority of those involved have that outward illusion while trying to pay a mortgage and buy groceries, believe it or not and the majority operate in good faith, though maybe not all are as informed as others and it is left to the consumer to choose wisely based on credentials, reputation, experience and organization affiliations. The end product goes to the consumer who is the one with a bit of discretionary income for a luxury item.

Richard, as per our telephone conversation I would pass on just this one example of advanced training available to gemologists wishing to go beyond introductory level training:
It is not possible for institutions such as GIA or Gem-A to offer such training without this kind of affiliation with an academic institution, though as I said, SSEF, GIT and others offer short courses to bring gemologists up to speed on using advanced laboratory equipment; these are reasonably priced and are usually only a week or two of intensive training in preparation for work in laboratories or for more in-depth understanding to be applied in other pursuits.

I am breaking all my own rules here jumping in on this comment list. I wish you would get back to the emerald, sing its praises, show a few more of Jeff's portraits and share with us more of your experiences South of the equator. The latest Lithographi Garnet book deserves some high praise and attention on your blog as well.

Warmest regards,

Yvonne Hess said...

I'll keep this short and to the point:
This is who people purchased from on JTV:

Our hosts are the face of Jewelry Television. They are knowledgeable in the fields of jewelry
and gemstones; in fact, many of them are Accredited Jewelry Professionals, on their way to
becoming Graduate Gemologists through the Gemological Institute of America. Learn more
about their experience and backgrounds, as well as their favorite gemstones, hobbies, and
fashion tips.

Who wouldn't think them trustworthy and knowledgable?

Cara Williams said...

I felt a need to write in defense of science. Gemology has always been considered a discipline under the umbrella of geology. There are different styles of the practice of gemology, depending on the purpose. Certainly the best known and most common gemology is that practiced widely within the retail and appraisal industry. While this comprises some hard science in the form of refractometer results, spectroscopy, and the exact measure of weight and mass; it comprises much of the softer sciences as well such as grading, pricing, and observation – all subjective to varying degrees. So in this sense, gemology is not all science. But, if we were to look at gemology as it is practiced within a lab – one that identifies rather than evaluates, there is not much that is not hard science. It would be difficult to call what these physicists, geologists and mineralogists do something other than science.

The differing gemological practices need to respect each other's areas of specialization. Each has a special set of skills.

I simply do not understand Wolf’s statement that gemology is not science, but would welcome further clarification. I agree that all things are possible today, and most are feasible as well. It is the time expectations that are not – and the expectation that a fragmented, unregulated, international industry is responsible for such a wide range of goods and their disclosure, when this range of goods is constantly changing. Regulation, while desirable in some regards, would limit the number of new materials allowed in the market and would greatly increase (artificially) the price of these goods. The gem business would become like the pharmaceutical industry – which has a far from perfect system.

I recommend education for all – it is a never-ending process. The more heads we have the better. There is certainly no industry body I am aware of that wants to prevent others from studying and researching new materials on the market. There is concern that premature or incorrect conclusions may do as much harm as no disclosure at all. Further, those that do so are in danger of exposing themselves to potential law suits should they be proven wrong and damages resulted.

There will always be a certain risk in new, unproven materials. Gems are not a commodity anyone needs in order to live – nobody is buying these as a form of food or shelter. They are beautiful works of nature and fun to learn about and collect – but only those who can afford them (as well as any associated risk) should purchase new, unproven materials. Honest sellers will continue to strive to disclose properly with the best information they have– it is only in their best, long-term interest to do so. If they make a mistake, they will offer a refund.

Cara Williams, FGA

neutral said...

Ms. Elise I am writing here as an alert consumer. After reading your comments I start to worry.

Mr. Koivula in London "The GIA lab routinely cleans the tourmaline thoroughly before testing - his question is: how much tested "cuprian" tourmaline out there is just "contaminated" tourmaline".

In other words some scrupulous treaters may have laced regular tourmaline with copper in order to fool the ED-XRF, LIBS and LA-ICMPMS machines used in some of the major labs?

Regular tourmaline + polishing compound mixed with copper = cuprian elbaite tourmaline (Paraiba)?

I the labs did not follow Mr. Koivula's advise - and I am concerned that this may have been the case - shouldn't the careless labs "go to the cleaners" themselves with their high-tech gear in tow? Who are they and how can we find out?

Ms. Elise I am very disappointed with your answer. As we all know in the Andesine case there were labs signing blindly documents without further testing of a new gemstone where the source of the rough has not been disclosed to this day. Who is irresponsible here?

Luckily as mentioned in earlier posts as a consumer I can speak with my wallet.

Africanuck said...

On the subject of cuprian tourmaline: It takes very little time on somewhere like ebay to see that the vast majority of the cuprian tourmaline on sale there is ugly, pale, offcolour etc.

I, for one, do not believe that copper can be diffused into tourmaline in such a way to create the conditions for the breathtaking neon colours that are available in the most beautiful examples of this material. I think if it were really possible to do that, they would have discovered a "new mine" in Brazil too.

Personally, I also think that anyone buying an ugly stone only on the basis of the presence of copper or growth/rutile tubes "that prove the Mozambique origin" should probably spend their money on Richard's book instead.

Virgilio Elcullada Luib Jr. said...

Mr. Richard W. Wise,

What color is the finest Muzo Colombian emerald? Can we call it bluish-green?

I always prefer emeralds with a slght bluish tint on them. I remember watching National Geographic Channel featuring the treasure finds from a sunken Spanish vessel and the bluish-green emeralds set in pure yellow gold mesmerizes and fascinates me. I coudn't stop thinking about it. I thought it is probably the most beautiful color of green but Imperial Jade is close second and I think I like them both.

Which green do you like the most?

Richard W. Wise said...


The finest hue in emerald contains both blue and yellow in perfect balance.

Most Muzo stones have a slightly bluish key color. A little to the blue is preferable over a bit to the yellow.


Boyd Garth said...

i love this!!! so cool, but sometimes i get really hungry, so portable raman is the best thing for food for me :D

Alvin Davis said...

Nice article. This is so much more than I needed! But will all come in use thanks!

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