Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Grain Boundary Diffusion in Tourmaline; The Epochal Crisis, Part II; A Tempest in a Tabloid:

An Open Letter to David Federman, Editor-in-chief, Colored Stone.

By Richard W. Wise, G.G.


David Federman, I just finished reading Joel Arem’s article Ending Diffusion Confusion in the current issue of Colored Stone together with your editorial titled Some Badly Needed Science. You have written so many open letters to the gemstone industry I thought I would try my hand at writing one to you. Given your reception of my January letter to the editor, I decided that the wisest course was to publish my opinion here.

First question; who is confused? For over a year you have repeatedly published your claims that tourmaline, topaz and tsavorite are being diffusion treated with little backup up of those claims other than your “long simmering suspicions” and the unsupported evidence of one man while many experts in the gemological community have been saying that the evidence presented to support those claims is just plain wrong. You state:

“Was there a better way to test James’ conjecture? I think so…It’s called experimental gemology.”

I find it ironic that you are suddenly calling for “experimental gemology.” I agree with your call, but let’s, just for a change, accurately define our terms. Gemology is a science so when you say experimental gemology you are really talking about experimental science. Well David, experimental science proceeds inductively from a series of hypotheses to a conclusion based upon the testing of those hypotheses. Are you the the same David Federman who has published no less than three previous editorials in this same magazine announcing not the possibility, but the actual use of diffusion treatment in tourmaline, topaz and garnet? Were you mistaken? In your 1/27/09 edition of CS Gem Mail you state:

“James has spent months conclusively proving that variations of the chemical process once known as “bulk diffusion” used to turn plentiful Madagascar corundum into so-called “padparadscha” sapphire are now being used on numerous other gems.”

“Conclusively proving”? Is that a hypothesis or simply a conjecture? Now I certainly agree that you are neither a scientist nor a gemologist so I suppose you are not bound by your own call. Since your January article you appear to have done some homework---you have learned the three basic types of diffusion: lattice, grain boundary and pipe. First you called it lattice (bulk) diffusion, then it was grain boundary; pity you didn’t do a bit more research before you wrote those unfortunate editorials. Are you now admitting that your statement quoted above or your statement to me in an email response to my first letter to the editor, was a mistake or was that declaration merely experimental, to wit: “Cross-species diffusion is now an established reality.”

Do I detect a bit of waffling? Has absolute certainty given way to doubt? Conjecture is defined by to The American College Dictionary; as “an opinion without sufficient evidence for proof.” Has Mr. James’ conclusive proof been demoted to mere conjecture? Has your self-declared “epochal crisis” been reduced to what you are now pleased call “documented but still unclassified observations of gemologists like James”? If these observations are unclassified, what is it that they document? Do you mean that something is happening here but you don’t know what it is? That didn’t prevent you from characterizing those unclassified observations as gemology’s darkest hour (1/27/09). The fact is that experimentation has been ongoing and no conclusions had been reached and you knew it. I guess you just couldn’t wait and Mr. James proved to be a much more reliable source of fodder for the screaming headlines and hackneyed hyperbole that that has become your trademark.

You point out that “some gemologists took to calling single-crystal diffusion by a name reserved for polycrystalline diffusion---‘grain boundary diffusion’:” Have you forgotten who named that dog? Let me remind you, it was Robert James. That was indeed, as you say “unfortunate”, because it means that when he spoke about the grain diffusion of mono-crystalline gems like tourmaline, topaz and garnet, the afore-mentioned Mr. James was not only confused, he was talking nonsense.

I read Dr. Joel Arem’s article aimed at Ending Diffusion Confusion with interest. He does an excellent job of explaining basic science. Unfortunately when he gets into the meat of the matter he begins to stumble. Arem states, incorrectly, that the dialogue within the industry has focused on terminology rather than substance. He forgets his own call for “real science” and assumes proof not in evidence, namely that the phenomena described by James at his Tucson seminar is some mysterious form of treatment. I, along with several of the scientists present, have consistently maintained that James so-called evidence proved nothing at all, and that basic disagreement, not terminology, was and is the focus of the debate within the gemological community.

“Thus, James' advanced testing proves, as Dr. Piretti and Dr. Kiefert have pointed out, exactly the opposite of James' contention. Concentrations of manganese and iron in tourmaline prove that the color is natural.” (GemWise: Drama in The Desert…)

Dr. Arem further states:

“Robert James also offered photographic evidence of a new treatment process being employed to enhance the color or tourmaline, precious topaz and tsavorite garnet.”

I attended the Tucson presentation and although James did offer photo-micrographs depicting what he called grain boundary diffusion in tourmaline, he offered absolutely no images showing any sort of treatment in tsavorite. James did make the claim that they were being treated, but he offered nothing beyond the logically contorted argument that there mere presence of larger tsavorite in the market suggests that it must be treated. When I queried him on that point, he told me he had a report from a German lab, back in his hotel room.

Dr. Arem goes on to consider visible halos around some of the growth tubes in the tourmalines photographed by James. He failed read either John Koivula’s article in G&G or Dr. Mary Johnson’s article posted on the AGTA website that pointed out that those halos were the result of naturally occurring radiation. Was this due to an overly zealous concern with terminology or is he confused? He goes on, echoing James, to offer the quaint but untested hypothesis that irradiation “might” somehow expand the size of tubes creating a passageway for enhancing coloration.

And finally what according to Dr. Arem is the real culprit here. Is it one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or one of the three types of diffusion. Well, turns out it is neither. Arem dismisses, one by one, each of the three types of diffusion as the cause of the still unproven treatment and reaches the final startling conclusion.

“In all these cases, the mechanism of coloration appears to be a simple variation of dyeing.”

Dyeing, not diffusion? What a revelation! That certainly justifies all those blistering headlines and all the talk of “gemological end times”. A simple variation of dyeing! Still, Dr. Arem didn’t quite get it right. While reaching for this conclusion, he never asks one simple, obvious and very important question. No one has denied that the delightful crud is colored red and brown. Cuprian tourmaline is normally heat treated. Heat up naturally occurring reddish brown lateritic clay that is caught in surface breaking growth tubes and you get, you guessed it, dry encrusted crud. Why, then, would anyone want to artificially widen those growth tubes then pack that ole crud into those tubes and make inclusions more visible in a gemstone like cuprian tourmaline and in the process, dramatically reduce the gem’s value. Dr. Adolph Piretti did however pose the question: “Why would anyone want to turn a green tourmaline brown?” What sort of enhancement is that?

Yes, David Federman, your premature, irresponsible, overheated statements were, in the end, little more than a tempest in a tabloid. What was badly needed in this case was restrained, responsible journalism but we got you instead. “Long simmering suspicions” are no substitute for facts. The science is now rolling in like a series of waves breaking against the shore and with each new verified conclusion, the hyperbolic sand castles you built are being slowly washed away leaving nothing behind but sand.

Robert James has some excuse for his conduct. He is just a good ole boy from Texas trying to grab the brass ring of fame along with a little barbecue and sign up a few students, but people expect more from Colored Stone, that is, they used to. You, on the other hand, have been around long enough to know better. You studiously avoided asking the hard questions and you knew where to go and who to ask. Serious objections were raised, you knew about them, you choose to ignore them? Even your hand-picked expert couldn’t completely avoid the facts. Your “new order of mutant minerals” was it just old fashioned dyeing or just a byproduct of heat treatment? Thanks David, for ending the confusion.

Those hollow self-righteous feder-rants you so gleefully doled out hurt a lot of innocent people, miners and dealers whose only sin is trying to make an honest living. To those miners and dealers together with the gemologists and research scientists you so blithely dismissed as part of a cover up, you owe a sincere apology. Not that they will ever get one. No, the self-righteous are always the first to find fault with others but last to recognize their own. You will, no doubt, continue to sit up upon your high-horse and preach down to the industry. The only thing that has changed is that your credibility is shot and David, no one will be listening.


Diamond World, GIA Reports on Pink Tubes in Tourmaline:

Johnson, M. L. The Complicated History of Mozambique Cuprian “Paraiba-like” Tourmalines

Saeseaw, S. The Potential for diffusing Copper into Tourmaline, Preparation for initial experimentation:

Wise, R. W. Copper Diffusion, Is It Gemology’s New Worst Nightmare, Part II:

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Anonymous said...

Thank You Mr WISE ,

This is exactly what everyone has been says about his theories about treatments , it does however make alot of sense now why Mr James was so angry that the AGTA did a report on dyeing of tourmaline beads and gave him no credit on this matter , and hats off to the poster who wrote Congrads RJ you are given the award for the most expensive report on dyeing of tourmaline award even though it has been known they dye them before you reported this ..
And i would love to see the report from the german lab that he told you about ? or is he a lier .

Anonymous said...

All together now "I didn't say that"

No doubt this is exactly what we'll read in an inflamitory newsletter by James. Expect enclosures of private email communications from Arem too. James will say he never said that he "proved" a thing, and what exactly did Arem attempt to accomplish here? Was it revival of his 15 minutes? I certainly don't see where this article helped James in anyway, shape, or form.

The industry is being tortured by the likes of James and Federman - no wonder they're being sued.

Tenney Naumer said...

OK, I don't know anything about the article published in CS, but I do know something about chemical research methodology. (There are several old hats in my closet.)

In the interest of science (and truth, justice, and the American way), let me just say this:

Ideally, the samples analyzed would be taken directly from their in situ location with their accompanying matrix directly from the mine. As this is an unlikely possibility, the next best is to obtain rough, coated or not coated with the encrusted material mentioned.

Since the outer surface of any sample can be contaminated, it would be necessary to first analyze the surface.

Next, the surface should be washed and dried with some type of nonreactive material.

The surface should be analyzed again.

Next, the surface and any visible encrusted material should be sliced away, and the remaining sample carefully cleaned.

Only at this point do you really have a good sample to test.

Any growth tubes that had reached the surface and had been filled in by alluvial material may indeed have their ends cut off, but if any material remains in the tubes, it can be extracted and tested on its own.

The investigation of Koivula et al. (G&G, 2009) is thus seriously flawed from the outset, since for their sample they used only stones that had already been cut and polished. (This is the only information that can be gleaned from the free content of G&G.) The surface of these stones might have been contaminated during cutting and polishing, and since we are discussing growth tubes that are quite large (very easy to see with the naked eye), then anything could have entered them during the polishing process.

Further, since they had already been cut, it is not possible to state that radioactive materials could have entered from their pre-cut surroundings as that surface is no longer available for testing.

Truly, I would be very interested in seeing some good science being done by professional analytical chemists who are aware that their sample preparation must be performed rigorously and described exactly in order for their research to be accepted for publication in a top peer-reviewed analytical chemistry journal.

Until now, I have not seen a paper on this subject that has been written to the standards required for submission to a peer-reviewed analytical chemistry journal, much less accepted for publication in one.

In hope,

Tenney Naumer, based in Brazil; former technical editor for Elsevier Science Publishers, B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Richard W. Wise said...


As you say, you haven't read the relevant material.

Many if not all of the concerns you raise were addressed by the research scientists who performed the studies.

These guys didn't just fall off the turnip truck.


Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Mr. Wise,

I would like to read the paper in G&G before I comment much further. Of course I don't think the people involved are neophytes, but since so many words are being slung around, in so many different locations on the net, it would have been nice to see a definitive study done and put the matter to bed at last. This unfortunately has not occurred.

Dr. Edwin Fong said...

Mr. Naumer,

Would you say that pictures taken of stones immersed in baby oil in a dixie cup should be acceptable proof to everyone of never before seen treatments?

Do you think it is acceptable that these alleged treated samples have never been shown to any other gem labs to examine?

If you want to talk about scientific rigour then you should have a look at what happened at the other end before you step in the middle of this business.

Dr. Fong

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Wise.

And a posthumous thank you to Alain van Acker.


Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Dr. Wong,

I have never heard of a research study where the samples tested were subsequently passed out to the public. Please let me know of a peer-reviewed study where this has occurred, and I will stand corrected.

Further, visual inspections are simply that -- highly subjective, but not highly technical.

I live in Brazil, where the funding for laboratories at the state universities can be quite limited. The husband of a friend of mine, Prof. Dr. Ivanor de Oliveira, originally of Governador Valadares, received his advanced degree in physics from the University of Moscow.

He then went to Mozambique, where funds are also limited for laboratories.

When he came to this city and headed up the physics department, he set up four different types of physics research labs, all on a shoestring budget. They do all that is required and cost very little. Some professors here wanted to use the departmental budget to buy expensive equipment at the expense of putting these 4 labs together.

My point is that if a dixie cup works, why criticize it? I myself have had to resort to cheaper ways of doing things due to financial constraints.

I have to admit that I am psychologically attracted to very well-constructed pieces of equipment -- I love good workmanship that will last for years, and recently I saw on ebay a beautiful piece of GIA equipment for viewing stones, and my finger itched to hit the buy now button, but if baby oil and a dixie cup work, why do we need to buy gold-plated cups?

The photos are good. They work for me.


Tenney Naumer, M.Acc., M.B.A.

Lab Rat said...

The sensationalized "the sky is falling" coverage of diffusion treatment of tourmaline/tsavorite has done an incredible disservice to the industry. It would have been prudent to simply report that there is some suspicion about the emergence of new treatments - which is always a concern. The present case for tourmaline would have been an excellent chance to popularly document the way that qualified researchers approach such claims, rather than "crying wolf" and damaging the industry.

Notice my allusions to fables of old? There are good reasons not to make unsubstantiated claims. First, it is a disservice to your colleagues. Second, it diminishes your own reputation.

Thanks to Richard for commenting so candidly and specifically about the yellow journalism we've seen on this issue.

Gadfly said...

As someone who works in this field (and thus must remain anonymous, sorry), I find Mr. Naumer's comments quite tiresome. It is far too common to see specialists from other fields wander into gemology, glance around in disdain like Victorian ladies at a brothel, and then blithely dismiss the work being done as something that would never be tolerated in their field. Of course, when you press them, you typically find, as with Mr. Naumer, that they're not really familiar with the current research.

Personally, I find the editorial standards of the leading gemological journals to be at least as high as anything in analytical chemistry or related fields, and considerably higher than many--including many Elsevier publications. Too often, it seems that the "editors" (using that term very loosely) of such journals publish whatever their reviewers tell them to without making any attempt to make it understandable. I often wonder how on earth the science can be vetted properly when the English is so bad that it's all but impossible to understand what the authors are trying to say.

The research being conducted at the major gemological labs is certainly at a level that would merit publication in analytical chemistry journals, a reality one can confirm easily from the fact that many of their scientists (including some of the authors of the Koivula et al. article) publish regularly in leading peer-reviewed journals outside gemology.

Tenney Naumer said...

In the interests of fairness, Mr. Wise, I feel that this comment, at least, should go through. I do work in the field of gemology and see no problem with doing so under my real name, as I am a strong believer in transparency.

I worked for Elsevier in 1979-1986 and will be the first to say that nowadays Elsevier does not appear to be allocating funds for English correctors. In my day, the articles were published in top-notch English.

I do not presume to know much about the background of anyone commenting here, but I began learning about gems at my mother's knee, a good 50 years ago.

Gadfly's (no misnomer there) comment lacks substance, thus there is nothing further to add until I have read the complete articles from both "sides" of this issue, i.e., the complete Arem article once it is up on CS's site and the complete G&G article once I obtain a copy.

Richard W. Wise said...

Tenney, Gadfly,

I seriously doubt that any insult was meant here.

FYI the problem with some of the preliminary reports by Robert James is precisely the lack of any sort of scientific rigor. Peer review, James was asked several times point blank, once in my presence to share his samples. He agreed then backed away. That is why we are at this point. Charges were made and then tests done, which, since the time of Francis Bacon is just exactly backwards.

Neither logic nor inductive reasoning aka the scientific method works backwards from conclusion to premise.

The other problem was, of course, the sort of sensationalism that Mr. Federman indulges in.

Bad science coupled with tabloid journalism, a nasty mix indeed.


Anonymous said...


I don't know Mr James but i have read a lot of things about him and that he has written , and one thing he is good at is twisting things .

One example is in his new newletter about Andesine , yes the man is stuck there because he believes in his mind he discover the truth , but we all know who was doing the scientific research needed , it was not him .

But the newest newsletter basically accused this lab that since one report they wrote was found to be not truthful( which on their behalf they wrote what they were told ,) but that since one accusation was wrong then another they made must be too.

Well if he can do it so can i , Newsletter 1 it was Indian sunstone , then went on to say immersion was the way to tell , but then he claimed it was from Mexico .

Lets not forget his big announcement that synthetic tourmaline was out there too.

So if we use the logic of him , we can not no longer believe anything he writes because he wrote something that was later found to be false.

But the best thing he likes to do is , their research don't match mine because they didn't test my specimens , so as long as no one gets to test his specimens no one can prove him wrong.

Anonymous said...

In regards to thorough details, wouldn't this information from Peretti "http://www.gemresearch.ch/journal/No9/page46.htm" meet Mr. Naumer's requirements? Not on Andesine granted, but definately on the much debated cuprian tourmaline issue.

Richard W. Wise said...

Last Anomymous,

Dr. Peretti's research is certainly comprehensive and as with Hughes' comments on Gemblusters, Johnson, Kiovula and so forth, drive yet another nail into the coffin of Mr. James' so-called studies.

I recall Mr. James questioned Dr. Peretti's research samples when, during the unfortunate ISG Tucson sideshow, Peretti suggested that James conclusions were simply incorrect. Later he told me that James' slides proved the exact opposite of his own thesis.


Stone Group Labs said...

Colored Stone magazines article “Ending Diffusion Confusion” by Joel Arem, started out with some informative and basic information on crystal chemistry. We can appreciate his magnanimous condescension for the lay reader here, but his final conclusions only gave cause to make things even more confusing.

It did not escape everyone’s notice that there were a lot of pictures of both tourmalines and treated andesine next to each other throughout the article, as if the treatments all equated to the same thing. Yet other than subheadings, no reference was made to them in the article. This is very poor journalism and a rather deceptive and tricky practice.

Yet not one of the ISG’s tourmalines (that have this alleged treatment), have ever been seen by any reputable laboratories for confirmation of these aberrant treatments even though they have been promised to nearly half a dozen of us.

At the end of the article Arem then makes a final pitch to explain what might possibly be happening: "...radiation damage might create a large network of micro-fissures and cracks that would be a conduit for a coloring agent far into the body of the stone."

Good Heavens Joel, did you examine those tourmalines to draw the conclusion for the rest of us that this MIGHT be happening or even remotely feasible? And then you scold us all for lack of rigor?

Of more worry, I find the deficiency of attention rendered by the publisher of Colored Stone in these kinds of affairs to be surprisingly indifferent to the overall health and credibility of their magazine, as well as the responsibility to their readers.

Bear Williams

Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for this link:


The lab report speaks for itself.

I suggest you all read it with a critical eye.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the credentials of Joel Arem, PhD, FGA, FCGmA:

Earned a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Brooklyn College
Earned a Masters Degree in Geology from Harvard University
Earned his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University

Is a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain

Published: “Rocks and Minerals” (1972 Ridge/Bantam; 1992 Geoscience Press)

Published: “Man-Made Crystals ” (1972 Smithsonian Institution Press)

Published: “Gems and Jewelry” (1973 Ridge/Bantam; 1993 Geoscience Press, 2nd ed.)

Published: “Discovering Rocks and Minerals” (1991 Publications International)

Published: “Color Encyclopedia of Gemstones” (1977 Van Nostrand-Reinhold; 1987 Chapman & Hall, 2nd ed)

Teaching Fellow: Geology Department, Harvard University

Crystallographer, Department of Mineral Sciences, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Founder and Curator: National Synthetics Collection: Smithsonian Institution, Washington , D.C.

Currently Science Editor for Colored Stone magazine

…..and a long list of articles, professional memberships, and more accolades than we have room to list.

Are you actuallly saying that you are more qualified to make an informed decision than he?
sounds like you are blowing alot of smoke to get attention.
We have yet to see your research? Still waiting>>>>>
P.S. your book is being sold at a discount by JTV.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I see a lot of Robert James bashing but how much research has Mr. Wise done. I would like to see his conclusions not just commentary on others articles. I do believe that Mr. Wise is a gemologist where is his proof that it is incorrect. still waiting and there has been a lot of comments...if he would spend more itme researching than bashing. The gemology world would respect him even more! Use your time more Wise..ly

Richard W. Wise said...


Impressive resume! Much more impressive than mine, my academic degrees are in Philosophy.

My Question is, why did Federman bypass a number of research gemologists with even more impressive credentials, who, unlike Dr. Arem, are currently involved in specific research in exactly this area?

Why haven't Emmett, Rossman, Koivula, Hughes, Johnson, Smith and Peretti been interviewed by Colored Stone?

Why this fallacious appeal to authority after so much talk about old geezers?

I think we both know why.


Tenney Naumer said...

The term "scientific rigour" has been bandied about a good deal, and I would point out that unless research is carried out with the intent to submit its results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, nothing very definitive will be available on which a consumer might rely.

For example, we are seeing almost nothing in the way of "Materials and Methods" sections in the various pronouncements. It is imperative that any results be reproducible, and for this the methodologies used would need to be followed as described.

In these lab pronouncements, there are also various statements which on their face could never be found in a peer-reviewed article as they are in the realm of: "It looks like this, therefore it must be this."

For example, in one lab report, the following statement was made:

"This 'halo' is interpreted as induced by radiation. It is therefore most likely that the inclusion is radioactive."

"Interpreted"? Based on what analytical test?

In another example, in a recent pronouncement on plagioclase feldspars, those authors stated:

"In the samples we examined, there has been no indication that feldspar treatment affects the sodium and calcium major element chemistry..."

1. What were the samples?
2. How did the authors examine them?
3. To which feldspar treatments are the authors referring?

And this is par for the course.

But, I am an optimist in this matter. I still hope for better research and better reports for concerned consumers.

AliceG said...

Dear Mr. Wise,
I actually enjoy your commentary on gemstones and articles of interest in the gemology world. What I dislike is the constant bashing of anyone that believes there is some truth to the theory of unethical and undisclosed treatments on the gemstones you listed in your article..

I have been reading your web site for many years. I actually remember when you praised Robert James on his teaching. From what I have heard, you were friends as well as colleagues for many years.
For many reasons the gemology public won't touch this issue with a TEN FOOT POLE. There seems to be a series of bashing on anyone that tries to touch this subject. I was at the Tucson show this year as a wholesale buyer and one of the industry gemstone distributors told me personally that he was told by an unnamed AGTA member that if they aligned themselves with the theory or even Robert James that their business would suffer. (HIS WORDS WERE BLACK BALLED) He must have believed the person telling him this and I believe that many others believe this as well. This is not hearsay this was told to me personally. Everyone sees what Robert James has endured and who wants to be slandered like him or anyone else that does any type of article, research or even discuss it publicly. Why do you think that there is so many unnamed people responding. They do not want to be stoned in the street. This economy is really hurting right now and gemstone dealers, researchers and companies can not afford to be thrown to the wolves. As for the Labratories that signed the andesine certificates as being natural and untreated, they just wish this would all go away, so they don't have pie in their face. Who knows what is going to happen if the scientific theory of other gemstones being treated the same way Andesine/Labradorite are in fact true. Especially if the consumer paid a hefty price for the gemstone and have the certification in hand. There may be such a backlash that the gemstone industry may not recover. There is a lot at stake here and I understand why there is so much debate on this subject. It has taken the major gemology laboratories a tremendously long time to give any answers.( some are the ones that assumed the andesine was natural) Lets believe them!!! They can make certification of authenticity pretty quickly. It makes one ponder why they are hem-hauling on this one. I have seen the JTV cert's on the Andesine/Labratorite and these guys are the ones everyone is believing...They are the ones that wrote that they were genuine natural and untreated without even knowing an origin. They are the best in the field of geology and gemology what is taking so long to make any definite response on the issue. And by the way from what I have read on the research on Robert James, the research wasn't done by someone that just fell off the punkin wagon. It was many major laboratories with scientific equipment used by all of the labratories.

I hope to read more interesting articles on gemstones instead of slashing others. So much more interesting and informative.
thank you,
Alice G

Richard W. Wise said...


Thank you for the kind words, but I really don't know how to respond to your post.

Thus far, I have written four GemWise posts on this and related matters.

I first began writing because no one else seemed willing to. I read Mr. James original charges concerning copper diffusion in tourmaline, topaz and tsavorite together with his assertions that quantities of synthetic tourmaline had entered the market with some alarm.

I decided that this was a serious issue and decided to research and write about it.

In an attempt to bet at the truth of the matter, I reviewed the evidence and arguments James presented and interviewed several prominent research gemologists. I asked hard questions. That to me is proper journalistic method. You don't talk to one side and ignore the other as I believe the record shows, Federman has done.
I reached conclusions and wrote my articles.

I agree that there has been much trashing of the opposition throughout this debate. We have all endured our share. Just read the comments here.

Prior to writing this latest post I personally raised my concerns about Colored Stone's one sided approach with David Federman by phone and by letter. I even offered to debate it with Federman on the pages of his own magazine. For my trouble, I was insulted and threatened, my letter to the editor was not published but it was forwarded, without my permission, to James and several of his acolytes.

Now the science is rolling in. Have you read the reports and comments by Hughes, Johnson, Kioivula and Peretti? There is not much doubt that James accusations were simply false.

Alice, does it really make sense that one gemologist, with no research credentials, working out of a gimcrack lab in Texas, is going to make these amazing discoveries that the most experienced research gemologists, people with years of lab experience and the most advanced equipment are unable to confirm? Hell, it took months to prove him wrong.

He made his charges then sent out his samples for testing! Then, guess what, the "evidence" that he got back confirmed his initial assertions. Doesn't that approach have familiar smell?

This latest "tempest in a tabloid" was a pure and simple whitewash of Federman and his absurd, hackneyed and irresponsible approach to journalism. Crud as a "delightful" new gemological term? Please! And, in the end, what was Dr. Arem's conclusion? I need not repeat it.



Anonymous said...

I really have to ask , are people reading the same things ? Mr Wise comments were NOT addressed to Mr Arem or even questioning his credentials , it was to David Federman !! It was his way of saying what he knew would not get printed unless he put it up on his own blog !! Do you get that.

There's a BIG difference between being a gemologist and a research scientist , RIGHT
Research scientist are NOT going to respond to anything until the PROPER RESEARCH is done and done right.
I ask you Alice what qualifies Mr James to do scientific research ?
This is a man who is just a gemologist , who use to work for ??
insurance , and not for consumers for insurance companies to protect them from fraud !

UHHH!!!! OK , i was told by some that someone was told ,and its not hearsay ?
stated by Alice:
"I was at the Tucson show this year as a wholesale buyer and one of the industry gemstone distributors told me personally that he was told by an unnamed AGTA member that if they aligned themselves with the theory or even Robert James that their business would suffer. (HIS WORDS WERE BLACK BALLED) He must have believed the person telling him this and I believe that many others believe this as well. This is not hearsay this was told to me personally."
Well i have one question , has your business been affected ??

You say you want to see mr wise research , he never claimed and never has to be a research scientist , HAS HE ?
Gemologist know or should know their limitations and the smarts to know when to leave it to the appropriate people to do the science , but even when those people who are qualified and who have done the proper research state their finding you find fault with them too.

THE BIG QUESTION IS WHY IF MR JAMES CLAIMS ARE RIGHT , HAS HE NOT SHARED HIS SAMPLES WITH OTHER LABS , Don't bother answering we all know the reason why he doesn't , because as long as people don't test his samples he can NEVER be proven wrong .

Bill Johnson said...

Alice G,

SAW YOUR FOUR POSTS LOUD AND CLEAR.....you poor misguided child.

Are you like the only remaining fan in RJ's peanut gallery?

Bill J

Tenney Naumer said...

This entire discussion just amazes me.

It is in everyone's interest to determine if gemstones are treated, how, and to disclose this information to the consumer.

The gem business is based in large part on trust. Right now it is on the verge of becoming a crap shoot.

I have seen bizarre stones before (tantalite crystals come to mind), but some of the Frankenstones that have shown up recently on eBay are beyond unnatural.

What is the big problem here?

The cookers in Thailand are becoming very creative, and who can blame them? It's what they do.

Playing catch up isn't easy, but it should be what we strive for, instead of all this other stuff going on.

Our customers want to enjoy the intrinsic beauty of an object produced by the forces of nature. There is something profound in the fact that many of the things we find most attractive are also the most rare.

Sapphires have become debased, rubies are a commonplace, clients are begging for mystic topaz, and even though treated "andesine" was a cover-up, at least it was pretty, but these tourmalines are abhorrent.

It appears more and more that the cookers are controlling the market and not the other way around.

AliceG said...

Was the Andesine/labradorite proven to be treated? The answer is yes.. At the time when Mr James was reporting his findings no one believed him. As I remember, he was considered the mad scientist of gemology. Now there is definitive proof that the Andesine/labradorite is in fact Diffused and was sold without disclosure. People still want to break him down. I am not a crazed fan of Robert James anymore than you are some kind of crazed fan of Mr. Wise

We don't know what is going to happen with the subject on Diffusion treatment on other gemstones. No one wanted to believe that Andesine from Tibet, Mongolia and whatever location they could think up. That facts are in on that subject.

Let's hope you haven't sold any undisclosed treated gemstones when this has come to a head. I will be laughing at you then.
Alice G.

Alice G. said...

Dear Mr. Wise

Thank you for your informative knowledge on gemology. I will not be posting on comments on Robert James or the Diffusion discussion any longer. I will only be reading your articles on interesting gemology articles written with integrity and insight.
Thank you for the years of knowledgable and interesting adventures.
Thank you,
Alice Grim

Anonymous said...

Alice is an obvious cool-aid drinker. James proved nothing. The PHD's at the major research schools are the ones who duplicated the diffusion of Andesine in the lab aqnd proverd that it could be done. If you call the Dixie cup test any kind of science, you know nothing about research.

Lab Rat said...

Because both good scientific reasoning and journalism rely on logic, Richard Wise, with his background in philosophy, is actually quite qualified to critique both the writing of Federman and the science of James and Arem.

Good scientific research should be able to withstand such a critique. It is clear that James's research does not meet the standards required for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. This conclusion is not based on James's qualifications, rather it is based on the absence of logical and scientifically supported arguments for diffusion in tourmaline.

It should be noted, that one does not need to have a PhD to be a good researcher. One can use Dixie cups as immersion cells - there's nothing fundamentally wrong with that. However, for some complicated questions (like tourmaline diffusion) simple analytical techniques are not enough. James failed to realize the point at which he reached his and his lab's limits - when he should have partnered with researchers who could reproduce his results in another gem lab and apply more advanced analytical techniques to the same samples. He also failed to realize that his knowledge of mineralogy was not sufficient for making the logical arguments required to support his hypothesis that tourmaline was being diffusion treated. Regardless of whether he is right or not, he has failed to convince other scientists that his hypothesis is supportable.

Well-written popular articles should also withstand such a critique. A popular article that fails to address the different angles of a story in a logical and balanced way do a great disservice to the readers. In the case of Federman's sensationalist writings, he fails to bring a balanced treatment to what is clearly an important issue. Federman abused his responsibility as a journalist to produce articles that reflected the WHOLE story. Indeed, Federman is perhaps a worse offender than James! Federman should have asked harder questions; he should have asked other researchers for their opinions. Federman fell for James's story hook, line and sinker. As a result, the industry was damaged by a non-critical journalist trumpeting the "sky is falling" message of a gemologist, who was at best naive and at worst narcissistic.

It is irresponsible to reach a verdict on a treatment based on an unsupported hypothesis. The reputation of tourmaline is permanently damaged, when it should be innocent until proven guilty through careful scientific research. It's true that it may turn out that some tourmaline is diffusion treated, but we must rely on the slow and steady process of good scientific research to provide the answers to this question. Yes, there will always be a lag between the invention of a new treatment and it's discovery by gem labs, but this is just a natural law of the trade. This is why there are disclaimers and why we can never be 100% sure that a gem is untreated.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Dr. Arem's assertions in the Colored Stone article is that they are as unproven as James' original assertions were, and they do not cover all of the facts seen. A variety of dyeing? Based on what? Would not dyeing be obvious at the surface, and wouldn't you normally want to dye fractures/growth tubes the same color as the rest of the stone (rather than making them more pronounced by making them a different color than the stone)?

The argument that James was "right about andesine and no one else would listen to consumers" is a specious one at best. Because he was right about SOME observations on andesine does not automatically make him right about everything that pops out of his mouth (or his PC, as the case may be). His allegations about tourmaline do not explain all of the features observed. James cries, "but what about the LA-ICP-MS data??", but I would ask who it was that interpreted that data? One of the newsletters stated that while Evans Analytic performed the work, they did not interpret the data. Who did? The pink halos in tourmaline were in one newsletter called out as evidence that "Thai cookers" were diffusing manganese into tourmaline to make it pink. So what do these very same halos indicate in all of the other colors of Mozambique tourmaline? Anyone? Bueller?

The current "What about THIS!!??" from members of James' research team is to post links to articles and patents in completely unrelated fields and applications to prove that "diffusion has been going on for a long time". Yes? Does that prove that Mozambique tourmaline is being diffused, or that the methods discussed in those papers are applicable to tourmaline?

Don't even get me started on the COMPLETE lack of any proof whatsoever regarding diffusion of Tsavorite (other than James saying it is, trust him he's seen it!).


Richard W. Wise said...

Alice G,

For the record, I met Robert James at Tucson right outside and just before his presentation. I never heard him teach so never either praised or criticized.

At one time I posted to his forum. He wrote a very positive review of my book. That is the extent of our relationship.

Tenney Naumer said...

Anonymous writes:

"The reputation of tourmaline is permanently damaged, when it should be innocent until proven guilty through careful scientific research."

Oh, I beg to differ strenuously!

As a buyer and seller of gems, I must rely on my innate sense of pattern recognition developed over the years. I can't wait for something to be proven guilty and assume its innocence until such time.

Errors in judgment in this business are extremely expensive.

I will continue to rely on my own judgment (which tells me beyond a shadow of doubt that tourmalines are being treated in some new and strange manner) because if I relied on Anonymous's, I'd be a fool, and a much poorer one at that.

Tenney Naumer said...

Excuse me, I meant to address my preceding comment to Lab Rat.

Anonymous said...


So you must buy your Tourmalines from Ebay? Didn't James also state that all of the Tourmalines that show "signs" of diffusion come from Ebay vendors located in Thailand, and the rest of his samples came from trusted vendors, which were fine?

Sorry, but if anyone is buying gems from Ebay you'll get the short end of the stick sooner rather than later.

Let me say this - a reputable jeweler/gem dealer is not, nor have they ever sold Andesine! Most don't even know what it is. They're not buying substandard materials from Ebay i.e. Tourmaline either. So, those being effected are the people looking to buy their gems cheap, and you'll never stop that.

The entire gemological industry cannot continue to waste its time on those that watch TV shopping channels and bid pennies for gems on Ebay. Simply stated - one gets what one pays for.

Anonymous said...

We know never question Mr James on his theories , but his theories are ?
What are they really based on ??

Well i did a little research and it seems to be that he has found patents that describe heavy metal diffusion , it was from these that have created his theory into tourmaline , garnet and topaz being diffused . He is going by patents , no real science other then someone got a patent for an idea !!!!

What completely astonished me is if you go back to his first newsletter about paraiba tourmaline he came up with raman scan stating that the "crud " was pure native copper , REMEMBER THIS

Yes consumer , that we all are at one time or another , needs to watch out for treatments and rip off artists but it is everywhere and not only in gemstones , come on people .

Just because others ask questions means we are out to get him .
How could i believe that he is right if i have unanswered questions . His student take these questions as finding fault , yes , but if he was so very confident that he was right , why does everything have to be that we are attacking him .
I have many unanswered questions :

What training does RJ have as a research scientist ?

What training does he have to interpret Raman scans ?
How long has he been doing them and interpreting the results ?

Why have we not heard from his scientific team ? these are the people who backing him right .

Who did the interpreting of the origins reports of the tourmaline ?

What advance training has he had since he got his FGA ?

If we are to NEVER interpret what a gem is by photograph , how are we suppose to interpret inclusions of some new treatment if no one ever seeing the same samples that show this treatment ?

Has Dr Arem , seen these treated stones and done tests on them ?

Why weren't other well known scientist who do research asked to look at these stones ?
and he did promise them to the GIA , through Richard Hughes and later came up with some lame excuse that the GIA is out to get him

Again this brings me too how is Mr James qualified to do this type of research with out help ? his qualifications are ?

Now if you are a student of his why are these such hard questions to have him answer .

These are just a few questions about tourmaline , i have others regarding his andesine but maybe someone can answer these

Anonymous said...

To Tenney

Since you are so convinced to tourmaline being treated why not send a piece to a lab to have them look at it ?

If i were to find something really weird in a gemstone and though that something was up why not let the labs do research on it , people want the labs to discovery these treatment but it don't seem like anyone sends them this funky tourmaline .
If you are a wholesaler and a dealer , why can you not have material checked out , have the deal depend on what a lab says about it ?

Why not talk to Vincent at the GIA he was willing to do tests on Mr James stuff til Mr James backed out .
A lot of these people who work in labs researching treatment and new finds of gemstones love it .

Why not help them help the gemologist to help the consumer .

Every one loves to say its for the consumer ,consumers have a right to know . why not send a piece to the lab to help other gemologist learn too ?

You never know you may get recognized for actually submitting proof to a lab that these treatments are happening .

Tenney Naumer said...

To those addressing me who have chosen to remain anonymous,

Are you suggesting that no rules need apply to eBay sellers and that we should just throw the Uniform Commercial Code out the window?

Are you calling all sellers of andesine disreputable, including those who relied on reports from the various well-known gemology labs?

Are you suggesting that all buyers should pay through the nose because they will get what they pay for? (LMAO)

I buy 95% of my tourmalines from dealers in Teófilo Otoni. Those dealers sure as heck know what a paraíba-type tourmaline is, and it not one of these glassy, watery Frankenstones with huge growth tube inclusions filled with gunk (oh, did I just coin a new gemological term???).

Why should I waste my money on a lab test when I already know a stone is treated? Should I send all my stones to labs and go bankrupt, especially when said labs are apparently printing nonsense?

What on earth do I need recognition for? Give me a break.

Have you bothered to read the latest G&G report (May 29, 2009) on heated labradorites from Tibet(?), China, Mexico, and two cities in Oregon? Based on their respective physical characteristics one would have to assume that China and Mexico were once joined at the hip.

It seems appropriate at this time to run some non-parametric statistical tests on the results.

Anonymous said...

Let me try to answer some of the questions on James.
He has no qualifications to be a researcher. His education does not include a University Degree. I have found no evidence he even graduated from High School. He blows lots of hot air about how important he is but it is all one big exaggeration.
He has no research team. He and his whole school is a one-man operation, operated from a computer. He wants you to think he directs a team of research scientists. That is all outright bull. No one but him. No professors in his school. Just him and his computer. Ever seen a school with no staff, no professors, no building. Just him and his computer.
He has not let anyone test his samples as promised because he knows that he will be disproved and his whole sideshow will topple like dominoes.
He is good at convincing some people he knows it all. I wouldn’t tell them otherwise. It is a waste of time. Some people just follow. They can not draw independent conclusions based on the facts. And we all know what we call those people.

Tenney Naumer said...

The word verification for this post is "ferds," which is so close to nerds that I just could not pass it up.

The second reason for this post is the commenters here who are apparently too spineless to use their real names while slinging baseless accusations.

As a two-year-old, one of my earliest memories is of being at the football stadium of SIU where my grandfather was giving the commencement speech. I have spent my entire life around Ph.D.s. Grandpa had two, and he was a man of great character and learning, but I also know that there are scads of people out there with Ph.D.s who don't know a rat's pittudy about their field.

Further, there are also plenty of people out there with no degree at all who are the leading experts in their fields -- does the name Richard Leakey ring any bells?

Let's go back to the accusations without foundation.

1. "He has no qualifications to be a researcher."

Please define what you think said qualifications should be.

2. "He blows lots of hot air about how important he is but it is all one big exaggeration."

Please provide proven examples of this, preferably in print.

3. "He wants you to think he directs a team of research scientists."

Same as No. 2.

4. "He has not let anyone test his samples as promised because he knows that he will be disproved and his whole sideshow will topple like dominoes."

I don't blame him one bit for this, especially after having read the so-called research reports from the various labs. Further, it is not something that is normally done by any researcher, so why should he?

5. "Some people just follow. They can not draw independent conclusions based on the facts."

OK, how do you define "the facts"? Are facts what the labs publish? Are facts what the labs published in the past that have now been refuted? Are facts what is to be published in the future? Just what are "the facts"? Please do tell.

6. "And we all know what we call those people."

This falls under "the kettle calling the pot black."

And I know what I call people who hide behind the name "anonymous" during a smear campaign.

Anonymous said...

Well for one thing you made us all quite aware of your background and who and what you use to do , this suggests to me you need and want recognition for who you are , yes i choose remain anonymous because i trust no one on the web , i have found people lie and can say what ever it is they choose to . I of course know what the different RI FLUIDS are and the differences between them , but i assume others here don't.LMAO

I will not debate andesine issues with you i know the truth and where the truth came from it is others who need to keep bringing it up , in some way of hopes of getting recognition

BUT no one of his student have been able to answer my questions ?

And a final remark , Robert James an author , LMAO if you call it books he wrote , the andesine book a 7x7 child's book of his newsletters , i can only imagine what the newest book is about all the images we have seen before to help him pay for his lawsuit !!!LMAO
A very famous man once said (and if you don't know who look it up ) but some authors are "armchair authors" who recycle their material and call it a book while others actually travel and can write about it !!!!!!!

i do read a lot of forums , one in particular not for any info , just to get my laugh of the day !!!!!

Richard W. Wise said...


Tourmaline is treated in a number of ways. The controversy addressed in this post has to do specifically with claims of "diffusion" first copper then grain boundary make by Robert James of ISG.

You mention a new treatment. I would love to know its characteristics. Why you say that it is new.

I am not sure what it is about comment posting that brings out the worst in some folks. Perhaps, as you say, it is the ability to remain anonymous. I will occasionally delete such posts if they are off the point and become too personal.

Mr. James, unfortunately has set a new, low standard for online discourse. You need only to read comments he has made against anyone who has had the audacity to disagree with him. His acolytes have followed suit, often descending en mass and tearing at the offending poster like vultures on the carcass of a roadkill.

These are the same people claim they are looking for the truth yet they will do all they can to silence anyone who disagrees with them. Unfortunately they are not alone. Passions have run high and as I said the level of discourse has a low bar.

I am calling a halt to the brawl between you and whoever. Comments here should be germain to the post and I think we can all agree that this particular scrap has gotten out of hand.

Opps, just got another post, sorry it's over.


Batman said...


First off, I remain anonymous because I’ve seen what James and his crew do to those that differ in opinion. He associates them with being jealous or having one of the seven deadly sins and then massacres them on his forum or by newsletter. He really is a nasty character.

Now let’s address your response. There are NO rules that apply to sellers outside of the US. Ebay has apparently had a suit filed previously that was dismissed. So, to answer your question - no, the UCC is worthless because it only regulates US companies.

Am I calling the sellers of Andesine disreputable? Yes. We have established time and time again that TV gemstone sellers stretch the truth to the furthest extent - often negating the truth completely. It’s not just about Andesine, but every gemstone. I have seen reports from individuals watching these shows where they have actually said mystic topaz is rare. And how many honest Ebay sellers are there? Can you not spend an entire day finding violations? I know I can.

Let’s get back to the question of honesty here - who sells a gemstone that has no known place of origin? Who sells a gemstone that has no rough available? Who sells this material - dishonest people. They know that gemstones are not cloaked in mystery - they’re cloaked in deception. Reputable dealers DID NOT touch Andesine, and you think that’s coincidental? It’s because they knew it would blow up in their face.

I find it equally amusing that you think paying the actual value for something isn’t fair. Somehow cheap is better for everyone? Really, this mentality that you have is shared far and wide. YOU and your fellow bargain shoppers are the precise reason why the gemstone treatments are being done - YOU are the reason for your own plight. Do you not see this? Now, you and others want to complain about treatments….you drove the market to do that…now that’s funny.

Richard W. Wise said...


Great, now I can at least tell you from the rest of the sic. anonymi!

Your argument is problematic or perhaps I just don't understand you. You seem to be arguing that the desire of the market to get the best price is precisely what drives the dishonest merchant. Or, are you arguing a variation of "you can't con an honest man"?

Seems like even a man willing to pay a fair price can be cheated and the motivation of the cheater is the making of a large profit.

The desire to get a low price does funnel the buyer toward a good deal but the deal need not be a con.


Richard W. Wise said...

Dear Anonymous,

"I see a lot of Robert James bashing but how much research has Mr. Wise done."

I am not a research gemologist and more to the point, neither is Robert James. There is a yawning chasm between a gemologist, G.G., FGA and a research scientist. Gemology, as Dr. John Emmett points out, is an "observational science." In short a gemologist is trained to do identification not research.

A degree does not make you a research scientist. Training plus apprenticeship plus long years of doing actual research makes you a research scientist.

I am a journalist. What my 30 years of experience has provided me with is the tools to understand and separate sense from nonsense. That is what I have done in this case. The argument, I believe it comes direct from Mr James, that I must do the research to evaluate the research is just plain absurd.


Gadfly said...

I can see I've missed little of substance in my absence from this thread.

Richard, with regard to my post, if Mr. Naumer has been working in this field, then I duly retract my comments directed at him personally. But as far as scientists outside gemology looking down on it, well, that's not really open to debate.

Honestly, the research is being done, people, but it takes time. Too many individuals in this debate want answers yesterday, but science rarely works like that.

Tenney Naumer said...

OK, I can't resist the word verification, again, "prown," which reminds me so much of some girls from Melbourne who used to call guys "prawn brains" (it was the accent).

Lemme c, I use my real name, try to provide bona fides, attempt to stick to the science, and when that does not work, point out certain errors of logic, and all that can be said is that I am seeking my 15 minutes of fame.

Research scientists are not perfect analytical machines. They are humans with all their foibles.

It is true that we must wait, however impatiently, for more results and that this may take some time.

But until then, critical thinking and a modicum of common sense must prevail.

Mr. Wise, I look forward to your follow up posts as the new results come out.

Anonymous said...

Tenney said: Have you bothered to read the latest G&G report (May 29, 2009) on heated labradorites from Tibet(?), China, Mexico, and two cities in Oregon? Based on their respective physical characteristics one would have to assume that China and Mexico were once joined at the hip.

YES i have read this apparently you did not and have only seem in recently because first off it was written on April 29th, but i found this quite interesting " Chemical analysis using LA-ICP-MS proves to be useful in identifying sources of material as they have DISTINCT differences in their chemical composition "
So physical characteristics will get you in trouble . It truly is scary when you claim to be a scientist but would be so convinced by pictures , me i like hard core results .

It was Mr James who has stated that no lab would help him , and then we find out he was asked but backed out brings big suspicions on his claims , why not have others see and write about exactly what he is supposedly seeing. So it is not like people just started to say show me the stones , he asked people to look at them and then backed out .


Gemfriend said...

The original Colored Stone article that is referenced here is now available online at this link.

Personally, I find it rather shocking that the President of an Online Gemology School can't tell the difference between a diffused stone and a dyed stone. One has to wonder what kind of gemological education he is imparting to his students at circa $1,500 a head.

At first, these tourmaline were touted as being "copper diffused" to create Paraiba tourmaline out of ordinary, plentiful and much cheaper tourmaline that was not copper bearing, and then as things evolved we are left with the rather pathetic conclusion that these are in fact dyed tourmaline. Which is something that the better beading sites have been reporting for ages.

In February, Mr. James cited as one of the reasons for withdrawing from the AGTA the fact that they had not given him any credit for his "work done on this issue" when they issued an alert about dyed tourmaline. It's difficult to escape the conclusion that perhaps Mr. James had a very good inkling as to what he was really looking at. Yet there seems to be no evidence of any statements other than this being made by Mr. James concerning the fact the diffusion that he purported to have proved was in reality simply a bad dye job. I certainly don't recall anything like that in the first Colored Stone article concerning this either.

That Colored Stone actually published the original claims without qualification really does smack of tabloid journalism, as Mr. Wise has so aptly inserted into the title of this post. Perhaps circulation is down and they needed sensationalism rather than presenting the various viewpoints in the industry? Hopefully Mr. Federman will comment on why he chose that route one day. Was it that old chestnut, "Any publicity is good publicity"? That's the nasty impression this whole thing has left me with, on the part of both the "researcher" and the publisher.

The rabid attacks against anyone who dares to question the veracity of the claims made by Mr. James quite frankly reminds me of the Brangeloonies. I guess that makes most of the gemological community a bunch of "jellus h8ers" who can't stand that Mr. James beat them to the punch, doesn't it? Even if the punch turned out to be something more akin to an effete air kiss. And so with that, I'll sign myself...


Richard Hughes said...

Ms. Naumer,

I'd like to comment on a few of your statements:

My point is that if a dixie cup works, why criticize it? I myself have had to resort to cheaper ways of doing things due to financial constraints... The photos are good. They work for me.

If you look at the images IGI has published, you will see the dixie cup does not "work." In some cases the grain from the paper completely obscures the internal features of the gem:




In one case, the embossed lettering on the bottom of the cup looked like growth lines in the stone.

With immersion cells less than $100, if you have enough money for a microscope, you can afford a proper immersion cell. Not having one is akin to a draftsman not having a ruler or compass. For an educator in the field, the lack of this basic tool is all the more questionable.

In these lab pronouncements, there are also various statements which on their face could never be found in a peer-reviewed article as they are in the realm of: "It looks like this, therefore it must be this." For example, in one lab report, the following statement was made: "This 'halo' is interpreted as induced by radiation. It is therefore most likely that the inclusion is radioactive." "Interpreted"? Based on what analytical test?

Based on LA-ICP-MS, which detected uranium and thorium in these growth tubes.


I appreciate many of your comments, but respectfully disagree with those above. And I do respect your willingness to discuss subjects without feeling the need to hide your identity.

Richard W. Hughes

Richard Hughes said...

Ms. Naumer,

A few more comments:

I have seen bizarre stones before (tantalite crystals come to mind), but some of the Frankenstones that have shown up recently on eBay are beyond unnatural.... The cookers in Thailand are becoming very creative, and who can blame them? It's what they do. As a buyer and seller of gems, I must rely on my innate sense of pattern recognition developed over the years. I can't wait for something to be proven guilty and assume its innocence until such time. Errors in judgment in this business are extremely expensive. I will continue to rely on my own judgment (which tells me beyond a shadow of doubt that tourmalines are being treated in some new and strange manner) because if I relied on Anonymous's, I'd be a fool, and a much poorer one at that.

Talk is cheap. When others made statements about how the Chanthaburi market was overrun with suspicious gems, I went into the market and asked for the stones. The best they could come up with was a few pieces of ordinary tourmaline that showed reflective effects and negative crystals cut through on the surface. The strange stones suddenly disappeared the moment I showed up.

I buy 95% of my tourmalines from dealers in Teófilo Otoni. Those dealers sure as heck know what a paraíba-type tourmaline is, and it not one of these glassy, watery Frankenstones with huge growth tube inclusions filled with gunk (oh, did I just coin a new gemological term???). Why should I waste my money on a lab test when I already know a stone is treated? Should I send all my stones to labs and go bankrupt, especially when said labs are apparently printing nonsense?

With all due respect, you need to get out more. I was recently at the Hong Kong office of the largest Mozambique tourmaline miner (a Brazilian). They showed me three large parcels of untreated Mozambique paraíba-type tourmaline rough. Many pieces had the same brown crust that has been cited as evidence of treatment. Several had the reddish color halos in surface-reaching fissures and growth tubes.

I gave one piece to the GIA in Bangkok to study. They found uranium and thorium in the openings with the reddish halos. This confirms the theory of Koivula, et al. and the findings of Peretti. You can see photos here:


Your suggestion that researchers don't often share samples is incorrect. Without collaboration, where would science be? The Smithsonian has a large research collection and the last time I was there they proudly told me how much of their collection was available for other researchers to study. Contact Jeff Post and/or Russ Feather and ask them for yourself.

Richard W. Hughes

Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Mr. Hughes,

With all due respect, if you would deign, for a moment, to descend from the rarified world of the great and the powerful, perhaps you might observe that the vast majority of gem buyers are perforce not world travelers.

Fortunately, a trip from Vitória da Conquista to Teófilo Otoni takes only 7 hours by bus and costs no more than $25.

There never seemed to be any question that new material of good color but with large growth tubes had arrived in the market.

As I understand it, the question largely concerns the lesser material.

It is also disingenuous to compare the Smithsonian's sharing of samples with Robert James' decision not to hand out his samples, especially considering the lack of descriptions of analytical methodologies by other parties to this discussion -- a discussion that is rarely on a professional level.

Further, it does not logically follow that the analytical results from samples collected in Hong Kong can be compared to the analytical results on rough coming from a different source that was cut and polished prior to analysis.

Collaboration on the quantitative analysis of samples by multiple labs must be carried out with strict protocols if results are to be compared.

So far, I have not seen any such protocols followed. However, I am awaiting the arrival of a copy of the G&G article and will reserve further comments until I have read it.

I don't think anyone is trying to claim that a dixie cup is the be all and end all of analytical analysis. Most people know that Robert James has done extensive microscopic work on the stones he is examining.

Did you expect sellers in the markets of Chanthaburi to hand over their most interesting treated stones when asked? Next trip, try spending several days with them, get to know their kids, their parents, speak their language, take an interest in the small matters of their lives, sit in the corner of their shops all day, watching and listening, and come back and do the same thing 3 or 4 times a year for several years -- then, you might learn a thing or two that would really surprise you.

Enjoyed your photos -- they remind all of us what we like about this business -- thanks!

Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Mr. Hughes,

It appears that I may have misjudged you, for which I apologize.

Apparently, you lived some years in Bangkok. Hopefully, you spoke the languages and knew many of the people there who were lower down on the pay scale than the higher up gem dealers.

I, too, have seen the Hindu Kush and travelled through the Kyber Pass, but that certainly does not make me an expert on the region.

One thing I have noticed, as a writer, is that there is a persistent theme of romance and adventure in the books and articles written about the gem trade in exotic places.

This speaks to the innate human instinct to explore, and it arouses the sensation of "hebzucht" -- a Dutch word that means "desire to have" (or that gleam in the eye one gets on seeing the next fabulous gem).

Without that sensation of hebzucht aroused in gem buyers, sellers would have no business.

I have nothing against maintaining a certain secretiveness and aura of mystery about the gem trade, but for the good of all, we need to expose treatments as soon as possible, and stop giving passes to the dealers who are making a killing off debasing our currency.

The problem, in my opinion, has been what appears to be a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the main gem labs for getting down to the facts as soon as possible -- this may be merely a problem of perceptions, which should be easy enough to correct.

Richard Hughes said...

Ms. Naumer,

I am writing this from Chanthaburi, which in the past few months I have visited more than 20 times. I've spent thirty years traveling for gems and I do sit with the local people and know their kids. Indeed, I have a decent knowledge of the language, I'm married to a local and have fathered one of the little buggers myself.

Regarding Chanthaburi, I didn't just pop into the market and say "show me your strange stones." I contacted the people who claimed the market was overrun with strange tourmalines and asked to see some. As it turns out, they didn't have any, so I said I would sit with them in the market to see them. Then I was told that if I stayed long enough, I might see one (so much for the market overflowing with them). So I arrived and sat. A few parcels were found that exhibited the features they were talking about. The features had nothing to do with treatments (I brought my microscope), but were misinterpretations of natural phenomena.

Regarding the sharing of samples, Robert James is the one who said he would share his samples, on several occasions to several different people (including me). He is the one who has reneged on his offers. FYI, Joel Arem did not personally examine any of James' samples.

Regarding testing protocols, the publications of ISG contain no descriptions of the manner in which the testing was done, and thus the results are close to worthless. This is why other gemologists have requested the chance to examine James' samples. He's reporting something that other gemologists are not seeing. We want to see, but it is the ISG reports that are missing the "materials and methodology" rather than those of the GIA and other major labs.

In any event, most gemologists have now moved on, doing their own experiments on the stones in question, in an attempt to put the matter to rest.

As for labs having a lack of enthusiasm for identifying treatments, I can assure you this is not the case at all. Labs live for the day when they can publicly unmask a new treatment. The notion that you have is indeed one of perception, rather than truth.

Thanks again for your comments.

Richard W. Hughes

Richard W. Wise said...

Ms. Naumer,

As you say, you have not read the relevant literature and should wait to form your opinions until you have had that opportunity.

As should be obvious, Richard Hughes is privy to a lot of research as well as the true nitty gritty of the market.

Mr. James was asked on several occasions to provide samples that demonstrated his findings. He did agree, once in my presence, only to renege several days later.


Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Mr. Hughes,

I would like to go back to a point I made earlier:

"In these lab pronouncements, there are also various statements which on their face could never be found in a peer-reviewed article as they are in the realm of: "It looks like this, therefore it must be this."

For example, in one lab report, the following statement was made: "This 'halo' is interpreted as induced by radiation. It is therefore most likely that the inclusion is radioactive."


Based on what analytical test?

To which, your reply was:

"Based on LA-ICP-MS, which detected uranium and thorium in these growth tubes."

And you provided the link below.


Perhaps you meant a different link.

The link provided goes to the analysis of a sample from 20 years ago, from Brazil not Mozambique, and growth tubes were not examined.

Gadfly said...

I assume Richard means this page:


"The U-concentrations are found at extremely small isolated areas along with other elements not related to tourmaline (Fig. Par78c-f) and are localized in the areas of orangy contaminated cracks and tubes."

That's the smoking gun everyone has been looking for.

Richard Hughes said...

Ms. Naumer,

My apologies. It is actually on page 46 where Peretti discusses this:


Here's the exact quote:

A theory of the formation of the “purple” halos was published at the printing date of this report (Lit. Par48). It is believed that these halos were produced by irradiation. During LA-ICP-MS analysis of orangy contaminations in the tubes and cracks, we detected isolated uranium-concentrations that are 10x higher than the concentrations found in the tourmaline matrix and about 30-60x above the detection limit (0.01ppm) in two different samples (Fig. Par76g and 78g). The presence of this radioactive element in the orange materials is support for the theory of formation of the “halos” by irradiation (Lit. Par48). Furthermore, “halos” are also observed around isolated solid inclusions that are not associated to cracks and tubes (Fig. Par70c). This is further supporting the theory. The “halos” around these inclusions, however, occur from the radiation that are produced by the mineral inclusion itself and not from contaminated orange colored substances. Elevated Cu-concentrations were not found in the orange zones (Other elements present, see Fig. Par76a-f and 78c-g).

Richard Hughes

Gemfriend said...

>>>>Indeed, I have a decent knowledge of the language, I'm married to a local and have fathered one of the little buggers myself.<<<<

Just wanted to comment that this actually did make me laugh out loud

Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Mr. Hughes,

Thank you for the update.

Irradiated material found inside the growth tubes had to get in there in some manner, i.e., probably under pressure, no?

We are now talking about treatments, aren't we?

Richard Hughes said...

Ms. Naumer,

Treatment yes, not human induced, but by that clever dame, mother nature.

I know some cannot afford immersion cells; others cannot afford a subscription to G&G.

I'll gladly send a proper immersion cell to Robert James and a copy of Koivula's article on unusual color halos in tourmaline to you. Both gratis. Now let's see who actually takes me up on the offer.

Richard Hughes

Richard W. Wise said...


As I think I point out in the post, Mozambique cuprian material is found mostly as alluvial pebbles. the so-called treatment or "goop" is simply the result of silt from a stream bed working its way into surface breaking growth tubes.

When the material is heated, the goop bakes hard and crusty. And there you have it, the hard truth behind the great diffusion conspiracy!

Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Mr. Hughes,

I appreciate your kind offer, but
I have recently received a copy of the paper by Koivula et al.

However, if possible, I would be most grateful if you could send me a copy of the 2006 G&G paper by Abduriyim et al., Vol. 42(1), 4-20, and the 2008 G&G paper by Laurs et al., Vol. 44(1), 4-30, as well as the paper by Reinitz & Rossman, Amer. Mineralogist, 73, 822-5.

I would prefer not to speak to the numerous holes in the loose "logic" of the Koivula et al. paper but rather to the science.

Thank you.

N.B. my e-mail address is available via my blog profile.

Richard W. Wise said...


"Numerous holes, loose logic?"

Is that meant to be a reasoned response to a scientific paper, Koivula, et al, G&G Spring 09? Sounds like a cheap shot to me.

The paper spoke of "probabilities." If you have a criticism, we would all love to hear it. Please make it specific and to the point.


Gadfly said...

We aren't talking about "irradiated" material, we're talking about uranium. Where, exactly, would the treaters be getting uranium? And why--if the assumption is that they're trying to create a blue color--would they be using radioactive material, since it has been long established that radiation creates pink color in tourmaline.

I would think anyone who deals in tourmaline has seen many a growth tube filled with this and that material. Calling that proof of treatment is a stretch, since it is routinely seen in untreated stones.

Gadfly said...

I have access to the G&G papers Ms. Naumer mentions. I reviewed both and can report the following:

-there is no mention of uranium, but it does not appear that this was tested for
-both papers mention the presence of filled growth tubes
-the Laurs et al. paper has numerous photos of the mining areas and recently extracted rough, much of which shows strong color zoning and the presence of crusts
-the soil in the mining areas, to my eye, looks exactly like the "crud" that is alleged to be proof of treatment.

Out of curiosity, I checked to see if there has ever been mention of uranium in this area in the literature. There are numerous references, but this one gets the point across:


Alto Ligonha, of course, is just uphill/upstream from the tourmaline mining area in Mavuco.

Make of all this what you like.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Hughes for giving you expert advice on this .
With Mr Hughes help the GIA in Thailand has put out a new update to their testing


Gadfly said...

Looks like my link URL got cut off. Here is a direct link.

Fission track age of Stibiotantalite from Alto Ligonha, Mozambique

Richard W. Wise said...


Well thanks for that provocative question. Uranium not irradiation. This is another of a seemingly endless series of contradictions that Mr. James makes no attempt to answer. He does not because he cannot.

He limited himself to talking to the two or three acolytes who still willingly suspend credibility and accept anything he says.

Welcome to the Flat Earth Society!


Anonymous said...

Thank You Mr Wise and Mr Hughes , and everyone who has had to deal with the negative things said about them being involved with trying to make this industy better!!
What baffles me is how can someone claim to be consumer advocates and be able to say such outrageous things and then not have to face any consequences to their actions , he right out there to pick on ebay seller and even tv sellers and everyone else he has bashed but gets to slink away like nothing ever happened , it has caused alot of confussion and damage to both miners and seller. Then the labs have to do prove him wrong ?

People say this industry needes to be fixed , YES i think it does when a industy magazine publishes anything but not have to be accountable for what they publish . Where are the retractions , where are the opps i made a mistake??
I read a quote from Mr James that said " make your words sweet you'll never know when you will have to eat them ." Well

I read and get that people like seeing this info come out and seeing the labs actually doing things but this has always been the case , but they dont want to pay for the info , they dont want to send the gems in to be tested but demand and yes i say demand because they feel they deserve an explination ? they want to buy things cheap and be guarenteed they get a bargin , but where is the money suppost to come from for labs to go to the mines, research the gems and write the info needed !!

The way you and Mr Hughes have been treated here and elsewhere is disgraceful , and these people who have said these things have they even looked into how much you guys have contributed to the industy !They would see why everyone in the industy knows one another is because you work together , work good together and get things done , but instead use this as some sort of conspiracy .

Im embaressed and appauled that not one has stepped up to say im sorry , so i as an appreciative consumer and gemstone lover and gemological student i say THANK YOU !!!!!
To everyone who has put in the hard work and time into teaching and researching gemstones and treatments i thank you too

Tenney Naumer said...

Since last I commented here, Mr. Hughes and others have kindly sent me most of the articles I requested, and both Mr. Wise and Mr. Hughes have "encouraged" me to comment again.

Looking into the history of Gems & Gemology (G&G), I found that it has been published for the past 75 years, which is no mean feat.

G&G has an editorial board for peer-reviewing original research articles:

G&G publishes research in the following formats:
Feature Articles, Review Articles, Notes & New Techniques, and Rapid Communications. (Please note that rapid communications are not "hastily written" but rather are brief articles published with shorter publication delays than those of longer articles.)

G&G provides instructions for authors:

This particular comment's purpose is only to impart the information above -- I will come back to the problems in the Koivula et al. article in my next comment.


Tenney Naumer, former technical editor (1979-1986), Elsevier Science Publishers, B.V., Science & Technology Division, Amsterdam, The Netherlands