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Learn All About Emerald Treatments and How Emeralds Are Graded in 10 minutes.

Updated: Feb 20

For centuries, gem enthusiasts have been captivated by the mesmerizing green hue of emeralds. Despite their beauty, these gemstones are not always entirely natural. It is common practice in the gem industry to treat emeralds to enhance their appearance and desirability. This post will explore with clarity the various treatments and their implications, delve into this complete guide of emerald enhancements.

What You Will Find On This Post.

Colombian Emeralds Before and After Treatment
Untreated Emerald (Left) vs Treated Emerald (Right)

Understanding The Treatments:

Natural Cedar Wood Oils Refinement Process
Since Egyptians and Sumerians extracted cedarwood oil from Lebanon Cedars in the Mediterranean, cedarwood oil is now extracted from cypress trees instead of the original source.

Emerald treatments refer to a range of techniques employed in the gemological industry to enhance the visual appeal of emeralds. Natural emerald often contain imperfections, impacting their clearness and overall appearance. Gemstone experts use various methods to address these imperfections, aiming to improve the gem's quality and sometimes market value.

The most common treatment includes the use natural oil like cedarwood oil, the natural resin like the Canada balsam and other enhancing techniques to fill tiny fissures and reduce the visibility of inclusions.

It's crucial for consumers to be aware of these treatments when purchasing emeralds. While some treatments are considered permanent, none are entirely everlasting. Ethical gem dealers prioritize transparency, disclosing the treatment methods applied to each gem. This understanding helps buyers make informed decisions about the authenticity and value of their emerald purchases.

Surface Reaching Fissures

Detail of an Emerald Showing Surface Reachin Inclusions.

Surface reaching fissures are inherent features often found in emeralds, presenting as fractures that extend from the interior to the exterior of the gemstone, directly influencing its overall visual appeal. These fissures can compromise the gem's transparency, creating visible imperfections that may diminish its desirability and sometimes market value. Through the most common treatments or techniques such as filling these fractures with substances like natural oil or resin or utilizing other enhancement methods, the goal of treat emeralds is to create emeralds with improved clarity, ensuring that the captivating green hue takes center stage without the distraction of prominent fissures.

Fracture Filled Emerald

Fracture filling is a technique where emeralds are filled with natural and synthetic resins, improving their clarity. The fracture filling process for emeralds involves the application of a vacuum. facilitates a thorough impregnation of the filling substance, ensuring that it effectively minimizes the visibility of the fractures and enhances the gem's overall clarity. As a trusted and experienced seller we highly recommend that buyers should be informed about this treatment, as it impacts the gem's characteristics and requires transparency in before any transaction is done.

Type of Treatments for Emeralds

The main clarity enhancement techniques for emeralds include the use of cedarwood oil, known as the oiling process. It is extremely rare to find emeralds that have not been treated, and they are capable of commanding top market prices if they are of gem quality and higher. Most emeralds are clarity treated, but it's important to remember that even treated emeralds may still be valuable, regardless of the level of treatment that is used.

Oiling: Many emeralds have tiny cracks filled trough oiling treatment with to enhance their clarity and beauty. Think of it like giving the stone a mini spa treatment! The oil fills the cracks, smoothing the surface and making the color appear richer.

Resin: Natural Canadian balsam or synthetic resins fills the fractures improving the clarity. Resins are durable and longer lasting than oil, however it’s nearly impossible to clean out the resin afterwards.

Heating: This is a very common treatment on rubies or sapphires, both members of the Corundum family and other precious stones, but given the structure of the Green Beryl or Beryl family, heating an emerald may affect the internal fractures and brake the hole gemstone, (not recommended and not a very usual practice).

Gemstones Clarity Segmentation:

Type I: Gemstones that are usually Eye Clean. Examples: Aquamarine, Chrysoberyl, Heliodor, Morganite, Smoky Quartz, Spodumene, Tanzanite, Tourmaline and Blue Zircon.

Type II: Gemstones that are Usually included. Examples: Andalusite, Alexandrite, Ruby, Sapphire, Garnet, Iolite, Peridot, Quartz (amethyst, citrine, ametrine), Spinel, Tourmaline, all but green, red and watermelon, Zircon (all but blue and colorless).

Type III: Almost always included. Examples: Emerald, Tourmaline (red and watermelon).Emeralds are qualified on the Type III Grade as they are usually showing significant inclusions on their structure.

Grading Emerald Transparency: 

GIA Certificate Clarity Explained
A GIA Certificate Featuring the Clarity Grade for this Particular Emerald from Zambia

Transparency factor is crucial to define an emerald overall clarity grade, and it is featured in most of gemological reports like the GIA or GW Labs as "Transparency" and this grade is divided into 3 groups that helps to give a big approach to determine the quality of the gemstone.

TRANSPARENT: Transparent gemstones are those that have the ability to transmit light without serious diffusion. Inside this category, gemstones are graded in 3 Clarity Grade variations between; Eye Clean (EC), Visible Inclusions (VI), and Included (I). Some recognized gemological laboratories like GW always add the Clarity Grade on their gemstone and jewellery certificates.

TRANSLUCENT: A translucent gemstone only transmits partial light due to its numerous inclusions. These emeralds are classified as 'translucent'.

OPAQUE: An opaque gemstone has so many inclusions that no light can pass through it. Opaque gemstones are graded with a single grade called 'opaque.'

Grading Emerald Clarity Enhancements.

GIA established this grading scale for emeralds, taking into account the terminology that was being used by other laboratories in order to alleviate confusion both in the trade and with consumers. This classification system or nomenclature is used just to evaluate the level of enhancement that filled surface reaching fractures represent in an emerald, and not to offer an overall “clarity grade” for the emerald. This clarity enhancement grades are classified as: 

None:  When no fissures or inclusions are present on any surface of the gem. 

No Indications of Clarity: This grading is stated on a certificate when there are inclusions reaching the surface but they were not treated.

Minor (GIA F1: Minor Clarity Enhancements): It means that this is the grade for a minor usage of oils or resins fillings in the inclusions. 

Moderate (GIA F2: Moderate Clarity Enhancements ): It means that this is the grade for a moderate usage of oils or resins fillings in the inclusions. 

Significant: (GIA F3: Significant Clarity Enhancements): It means that this is the grade for a significant usage of oils or resins fillings in the inclusions.

Emerald Clarity Treatments Explained
Example of a GIA emerald certificate quantifying the treatment applied on the emerald, in this case is: Moderate

Disclosing Emerald Treatments

Enhancing the clarity on emeralds is an industry accepted practice but sellers must disclose the treatments that emeralds, undergo for ethical and transparency reasons. Disclosing treatment information builds trust with consumers, as it allows them to make informed purchasing decisions. Disclosing emerald enhancements applied to an emerald helps buyers understand its true value, potential durability, and any long-term care requirements. Lab reports can contribute to this fundamental practice that upholds ethical standards, promotes consumer confidence, and enables them to appreciate and enjoy their gemstones with full awareness of how are his emeralds treated.

Do Emerald Clarity Treatments Last Forever?

Oiling Emeralds
Emeralds Should be Re Oiled after two years. This is one of our clients ring after being re-oiled in 2024.

The myth surrounding permanent treatments in gemstones implies that certain enhancements render them indestructible over time. However, it's essential to debunk this misconception as no treatment is entirely permanent. External factors and wear can still impact treated gemstones. Additionally, assuming all treatments have the same lasting effect is another myth; the longevity of enhancements varies, and some may require reapplication. Educating buyers about these realities is crucial for managing expectations and promoting informed purchasing decisions.

In the beginning of 2024 Maria came to Emerald Whisper after looking for a professional who she could trust and handle this magnificent 1.46 carat Colombian Engagement Emerald Ring and Diamonds she got from her beloved husband two years ago. After receiving it properly, we opened the prongs that hold the emerald to dismount it and sent it to our gemstone expert to do re-oiling by Vacuum and re polishing a small scratch it had on the surface of the main facet. Then we carefully re-installed the emerald. When Maria came to pickup her ring, her emotion was remarkable: "When I arrived to pick up the ring, I couldn't believe my eyes. The ring was like new (maybe even better!)". This level of satisfaction is source of our compromise with our clients at Emerald Whisper. To ensure that your ring or necklace is handled properly, we strongly suggest looking only for experts that specialize in specific kinds of gemstones.

Cedar-wood Oil Magic:

Special Cedar oil is often recommended for oiling natural emeralds due to its compatibility with the gemstone's properties. The refractive index of cedarwood oil is relatively close to that of emeralds, resulting in a similar optical behavior. This similarity minimizes the visibility of surface-reaching fissures and enhances the gem's clarity without causing a stark contrast or undesirable visual effects. The refractive index match allows light to travel through both the emerald and the oil in a more coherent manner, reducing the visibility of imperfections.

Natural Gemstones Size and Slight Inclusions:

The relationship between the size of natural gemstones and the presence of light inclusions is complex and varies among different types of gemstones. In general, larger gemstones tend to have a higher density of inclusions compared to smaller ones. This is primarily due to the larger volume and longer formation time, during which various geological processes can introduce imperfections into the gem and might require a significant oiling, While smaller gemstones tend to show less or very slight inclusions, that may enter to the grade of Eye-Clean, meaning they aren't visible to the naked eye.

Untreated Emeralds vs. Treated Emeralds:

Distinguishing between untreated emeralds and their treated counterparts is a crucial aspect for consumers navigating the world of gemstones. Untreated emeralds are those that have undergone no artificial clarity enhancements, directly reflecting the gem's organic state as it emerged from the earth. On the other hand, a treated gemstone have undergone various processes to improve their visual characteristics, addressing issues like fissures or enhancing color, cloud calve an impact on the long term value of the emerald but not necessarily on its price. The choice between natural and a treated gem ultimately depends on individual preferences and the importance placed on the gem's natural purity. We want to clarify that the value and price could be 3 or 4 times higher on untreated gemstones, making them a perfect asset for investment purchases.

Cleaning Process and Ultrasonic Cleaners:

Maintaining emeralds involves a delicate cleaning process, and caution is advised with ultrasonic cleaners. After an experiment done by GIA experts in 1991, coming to the conclusion that while the amount of material removed using a ultrasonic cleaner, fractures that could not be seen without magnification before cleaning were eye visible afterward. This, in turn, could leave a jeweler exposed to claims of damaging (or even switching) the stone. That is why we strongly recommend that emeralds shouldn't be exposed to harsh cleaning materials or Ultrasonic cleaners. Ref: GIA-GEMS & GEMOLOGY Summer 1991. Check out our blogpost on How to clean correctly your Emeralds at home.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the world of emerald treatments unveils a complex interplay between nature and human intervention. While these mesmerizing green gemstones naturally possess imperfections that can affect their clarity, the gem industry employs various treatments to enhance their beauty and market value.

From the traditional use of natural oils like cedarwood oil to advanced techniques involving resins, these treatments aim to minimize the visibility of fissures and elevate the emerald's overall appeal. However, transparency in disclosing these treatments is paramount for ethical practices, allowing consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases. Distinguishing between non treated and treated gems, understanding the grading systems, and being aware of the potential impact of cleaning processes further empowers buyers in navigating the intricate landscape of emerald acquisitions. Ultimately, the appreciation of these exquisite gemstones is not just about their visual allure but also the acknowledgment of the delicate balance between nature's creations and the craftsmanship of the gem industry.

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