How Long Have They Been Treating Gemstones?


Treating gemstones to make them more desirable and attractive is not very old, is it?  I mean, only modern, high tech scientists can change the looks of a gemstone, right?

The act of taking rather grungy gem rough from the mines of the world and doing the old “magic dance” to make the stones more saleable is not quite a new process.

That is, unless you think of the Roman, Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) as a modern, high tech lab guy.

Just in case you weren’t paying attention that day in 10th grade, Pliny is the man that wrote Naturalis Historia, an encyclopedia into which he gathered much of the knowledge of his world.  In this ambitious project, our good friend Pliny documents several techniques used in the treating gemstones. I’m talking Roman Empire here, not exactly high tech, 21st century laboratories.

There is even an Egyptian papyrus believed to date from the third or fourth centuries AD that goes into nice detail about heat treating clear and smokey Quartz to give them the appearance of Ruby.  I believe that was known as the Stockholm Papyrus, but don’t quote me on that.

Ok, so what’s my point?  My point is that I find the vast majority of people out there have a strongly held belief that the treatment of gemstones is somehow a modern phenomenon that happens only in super secret, high tech labs hidden away from the prying eyes of jewelry lovers.


That is simply not the case.


Humans have been taking a “less than gorgeous gem”, doing various and sundry things to the poor little stone, and increasing its value for centuries. Why?  Follow the money.

Better looking stones make better looking bank accounts.

Sure, with modern times come modern techniques. Today’s gemstones that are so lovingly placed in jewelry store displays around the world are commonly subjected to a barrage of treatments.  Some of these treatments have been around for many generations while others are high tech, irradiation type, nuclear age stuff that makes you instinctively take a step back from the showcase.

Stay tuned for more specifics on different treatments commonly used on different stones.


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