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AGA Tucson Conference - Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gems... by the Color!

gemstones - © Anh Nguyen - Fotolia.com

Color is what draws people to specific gemstones…we talk about color every day. Color. Color flashes, play of color, fancy color, colors that glow. And every now and then someone might even ask – or think about – the causes of color. So AGA's Tucson conference is turning the spotlight on COLOR.

In the world of sapphire we hear about color enhancement but do gemologists really understand the causes of color in natural sapphire? Understanding what causes color is the first step to better enable the serious gemologist to recognize when colors aren't what they seem. So this year one of the highlights of the Tucson conference will be focusing on this extremely important – and little understood—facet of our field.

In addition to corundum, another gem family being highlighted this year is opal. We all have heard about and seen plenty about Ethiopian opal. The way this material has moved into the market during the past couple of years has reinvigorated the opal market. Supply is good and prices quite favorable for the current economy. But what does the trade really know about this beautiful product? Do these gems pose risks beyond those commonly expected of opal? And speaking of opal, Australian material sets the benchmark for opal. What is the current state of the Australian opal industry? Where is it's future headed?

necklaceOther important topics addressed this year include new information pertaining to the invaluable clues luminescence can provide, especially with regard to gemstone identification. Insights were gained into the world of luminescence/fluorescence, one of the most interesting and often ignored techniques available to gemologists.

We learned the latest on HPHT techniques for color-enhancing diamonds, including HPHT techniques combined with other techniques such as irradiation. How will these new techniques affect the world of diamonds? What are the detection challenges?

And last – but not least – an in depth examination of the issues surrounding nomenclature and the challenges that now exist in terms of declining public confidence. What are the issues? What are the solutions in this global economy?

This year's prestigious list of panelists included:

AGA's Gemological Conference Spotlight

Diamonds & Opals were among the Headliners at the AGA Tucson Conference

"Diamonds keep making the news," says the President of the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA ), Donna Hawrelko, "but the nature of the news is undermining confidence and creating concern about the future of the diamond market as we've always known it."

Sonny Pope
Sonny Pope

As a result, Sonny Pope of Suncrest Diamonds, one of the country's leading experts on the latest innovations in diamond treatments and diamond synthesis, addressed many of the critical questions of concern to anyone buying, selling and appraising diamonds. His presentation, Understanding New HTHP & Multi-Step Processes For Natural & Synthetic Diamonds—Trends and Detection provided us with straightforward information about what is now in the market and what we can expect in the foreseeable future…and what we can expect in terms of detection. The hands-on session during which participants examined material and tried out some of the latest technology provided useful in pre-screening as well as positive identification.

Gerry Manning
Cigdem Lule

Another important and timely presentation was on opals, one of the least understood of all the rare and precious gems, and one for which demand is increasing ad prices are strengthening. Whether speaking of the discovery of Ethiopian opal, a hydrophane opal that enjoyed immediate success because of its beauty and affordability, or the rarest of Australian opal, or opal from other sources around the world, Gerry Manning, CEO of Manning International, the oldest opal firm in the USA, and Dr. Emmanuel Fritsch, Professor at Nantes University, France, explained everything you need to know to fully appreciate opals. Manning's presentation -- Australian Opals: Things as they are (Not necessarily as they seem) -- An Old Opal Hand's Insights on Natural, Synthetic, Treated & Imitation – needed no explanation…and Dr Fritsch covered Ethiopian and hydrophane types. Here again, one of the most important parts of this presentation was the hand-on session, during which participants saw and compare various types and learned some tips from an "insider."

Concluding the morning session was a lively and stimulating presentation by Dr Cigdem Lule, Special Projects Manager at Gemworld International, on Nomenclature & the Gem Trade.

In the World of Sapphire...

Dr. John Emmett

We hear about color enhancement but do gemologists really understand the causes of color in natural sapphire? Understanding what causes color is the first step to better enable the serious dealer and gemologist to recognize when colors aren't what they seem.

Renowned corundum expert Dr. John Emmett discussed the colors of natural corundum. This presentation examined the causes of color in natural sapphire by looking at what occurs at the atomic level to produce the colors we see in the stone.

The conference also featured presentations by Professor Emmanuel Fritsch from the department of Physics at Nantes University, FRANCE. The AGA was excited to be able to provide this opportunity to have Dr. Fritsch present his latest research pertaining to the invaluable clues luminescence can provide, especially with regard to gemstone identification. Attendees gained new insights into the world of luminescence/fluorescence, one of the most interesting and often ignored techniques available to gemologists.

About the AGA Gala

The evening conclude with a festive dinner and awards ceremony, honoring this year's winner - Dr. Emmanuel Fritsch - of the prestigious Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology and Alice Keller as the first AGA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.


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