What you should know.
Information provided in cooperation with AGTA (American Gem Trade Association), Jewelers of America and the American Gem Society.
For thousands of years man has fashioned uncut gem specimens into faceted and cabochon shapes, experimenting with cutting techniques, learning to enhance the play of light across their surfaces, to coax brilliance or fire from deep within. This art of cutting is the lapidary's craft.
Man has had a timeless desire to capture, enhance and possess these crystal fragments that formed deep within the earth, these raw natural creations which have drawn us to free their beauty from impurities that may dull the luster we believe lies within.
Majesty, mystery, allure, luxurious color and brilliance...these are among the qualities that draw us to natural gemstones. Over the centuries, we have learned countless methods to improve upon the natural properties of gemstones. These techniques are known as "enhancements".
They represent our desire to draw from nature's bounty the truest and purest color and brilliance, to fashion Mother Nature's bounty into our own fine jewelry, a gift of a lifetime and for generations to come.
Although cutting a gemstone is the most basic form of enhancement method used to fully display the beauty of a gemstone, there are many fascinating methods by which man has demonstrated his ability to draw maximum color, luster, clarity and brilliance from nature's earthbound treasures.
The most popular, universally practiced and acceptable process used in virtually every gemstone marketed is heat treatment.
A basic understanding of these enhancement techniques will add to your appreciation of the beauty, durability and value of the gemstones you already own or plan on purchasing.
Ben Bridge enhancement disclosure policy
Ben Bridge will only provide gemstones in which any treatments or enhancements have been disclosed. We have strict guidelines our vendors and suppliers are aware of concerning our desire to only provide consumers with gemstones that have enhancements and treatments that are widely accepted as standard practice in the jewelry industry.
We do not stock lab created gemstones or sell diamonds that have been laser drilled or clarity enhanced/fracture filled. We have a quality control department that inspects the gemstones we sell to assure you the consumer that our exacting standards have been met and that you are provided with the best gemstone available in each price range. With that in mind, you can be confident that your gemstone purchase from Ben Bridge, an American Gem Society jeweler and member of Jewelers of America, is providing you the best value in the industry.
Standard enhancement on the most popular gemstones
|Aquamarine||Ruby||Ben Bridge Gemstones||Platinum|
|Blue Topaz||Sapphire||Care and Cleaning||Cultured Pearls|
Amethyst / Citrine
Amethyst and Citrine are gemstone varieties of Quartz. Artifacts from ancient cultures the world over attest to Amethyst's and Citrine's place in our collective cultural heritage. The royal purples of Amethyst and the occasional bright, golden hues of Citrine were treasured possessions of emperors, kings and queens throughout recorded history. No jewelry collection will be complete without these fine treasures of nature.
Darker hues of Amethyst are rarely enhanced, but sometimes if they are too dark, they are heated to lighten the color. Brownish varieties are commonly heated and magically turn into the bright yellow or orange colors known as Citrine. This enhancement method is permanent and will last for the life of the gemstones.
The very name, Aquamarine, brings to mind the limpid, clear blue tint of the sea. Many Aquamarines are greenish when mined and cut. For those who prefer the purer blue, these gemstones are heated to enhance their blue color permanently. Some Aquamarine fanciers prefer the greenish hues, saying the greener tones remind them more of the sea. The color tones of Aquamarine are subtle and varied. Its soft luster is a wonderful addition to any natural colored gemstone jewelry collection.
Nature rarely produces Topaz in the blue variety, although some examples have been found. Challenged by this rare occurrence of Nature, man has discovered an enhancement method to "excite" blue color from a clear to brownish Topaz variety. After the raw Topaz is mined, it is irradiated to brown and then heated to a rich sky blue. This enhancement process is permanent.
Pearls have been treasured for their lustrous, creamy textures and their subtle iridescent reflections since the dawn of humankind. Because natural Pearls are so very rare and so very difficult to recover from the ocean's depths, man invented the technique of "culturing" salt and freshwater Pearls from mollusk carefully seeded with irritants similar to those, produced by Nature. This painstaking effort of "culturing" is one of the most dramatic examples of man's quest to coax beauty from Nature.
Today, cultured, freshwater and saltwater Pearls are often bleached to achieve a uniform color. They may also be polished in tumblers to clean and improve their luster.
Unique in the world of gemstones, a diamond is the hardest of all materials. Perhaps it is because of this durability that diamonds are treasured as symbols of devotion and purity. Yet, within the structure of diamonds there are often impurities or "inclusions". Sometimes they can be removed by cutting them away; other times enhancement methods are utilized. One method involves focusing beams of laser light at imperfections and vaporizes them. These diamonds are referred to as "lasered diamonds". Another method involves filling those passageways created by the laser beam with a clear resin or glass like substance making the inclusion less visible. These diamonds are referred to as "clarity enhanced" or "fracture-filled". Ben Bridge does not sell any of these types of diamonds.
Diamonds may also be colored in a variety of hues. Extreme heat and/or irradiation permanently enhance certain innate color properties, allowing them to display their hues in more brilliant array. As with all enhancements, Ben Bridge will disclose any color treatment your diamond has received.
Emeralds to many symbolize rebirth and life abundant. The rich green hues bring to mind regeneration of life in spring, and hope of new possibilities. Yet, perfection in emeralds, as in all things, is among the rarest of nature's treasures. When they are mined from the earth, almost all emeralds have unique birthmarks that distinguish them as truly natural gemstones. Early gem merchants in India sought to purify the color of their emeralds by immersing them in clear oils or paraffin. They found that clear oils and waxes rendered surface fissures nearly invisible to the naked eye.
Today we have more sophisticated technologies with which to clarity enhance emeralds. In addition to the oils and waxes of ancient methods, we now use clear resins to penetrate the open fissures surfacing in the stones. "Hardeners" are often added to solidify these liquids. This step prevents the resin from evaporating from the stones, thus making the clarity enhancement more permanent that oiling or waxing the gem. Special care in ultrasonic cleaning and steaming are needed for emeralds in addition to limited heat exposure and discretion in wearing emeralds due to the durability factor.
Passion, excitement, luxurious opulence...these are just a few words that describe our fascination with this most precious of gems. For thousands of years, men have sought to own precious rubies as symbols of devotion and objects of desire. Imperfections and impurities may be removed by controlled heating of the gemstone.
Soothing, sensuous blue; liquid blue; evening sky blue; cornflower blue...these are among the many shades of this lovely gemstone. And yet there are many colors and hues of sapphire from which to choose; hot and soft pinks; oranges, greens, purples, gold, yellow and white...all available in a variety of tones and saturation.
Since ancient times, man has treasures sapphire. Some thought the heavens crystallized to form a huge sapphire upon which the earth rested. All sought the pure colors of this gem variety as an expression of beauty and wealth. Yet, the perfect sapphire is as rare as the finest work of art. And thus, we have evolved methods over the centuries to enhance the purest hues of sapphire. This is often achieved by controlled heating of the gemstone to improve clarity and color. Heating sapphires is a permanent enhancement, as lasting as the gems themselves.
Tanzanite is renowned for the exquisite combination of purple and blue hues of this loveliest of gems discovered in modern times. Mined in Tanzania at the feet of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, virtually every Tanzanite is heated to permanently change its color from orange-brown to the spectacular violet-blue color for which this precious gemstone variety is known.
Tourmalines are found in an abundant array of colors. They offer a wide variety of choice for the discerning gemstone jewelry enthusiast. A complete collection of all the colors represents a fascinating quest for the knowledgeable seeker of Nature's bounty. Dark blue, blue-green and green Tourmalines are occasionally heated to lighten their color. Red Tourmalines (also known as Rubellites) and pink varieties are often heated and/or irradiated to improve their colors. Heat and irradiation color enhancement of Tourmalines are permanent.
Treated gemstones are globally accepted. It is estimated that more than 95% of the popular gemstones have some form of treatment. Many treatments are common and are accepted in the gem and jewelry industry. These processes can range from simple heating such as with tanzanite to irradiation techniques such as with blue topaz.
Below are the recognized forms of enhancements in the jewelry and gem industry. Ben Bridge does not carry gems that have been enhanced by some of these methods. We are able to provide information to you on treatments that have been done on gems that we sell and disclosure /enhancement information is provided on your purchase receipt whenever a gem has been treated or enhanced or is a gem that is usually treated or enhanced.
|(ASBL)||Assembled Products made of multiple layers or combinations of manufactured and/or natural materials joined together. Example: opal triplets.|
|(B)||Bleaching The use of chemical agents to lighten or remove a gemstone’s color.|
|(C)||Coating Surface Enhancements to improve appearance, provide color or other special effects.|
|(D)||Dyeing The introduction of coloring matter into a gemstone to give it new color, intensify present color or improve to color uniformity.|
|(E)||Enhanced This indicates that this type of gemstone is routinely enhanced. Since many enhancements are difficult or impractical to prove definitively, the approach taken in our printed materials and invoices is to assume, unless otherwise indicated, that such enhancement has been done to the particular gemstone material being described. If the particular type of enhancement is known, that enhancement symbol will be stated, rather than the “E” symbol.|
|(F)||Filling As a by-product of heat enhancement, the presence of solidified borax or similar colorless substances which are visible under properly illuminated 10x magnification.|
|(G)||Gamma/Electron Irradiation The use of gamma and/or electron bombardment to alter a gemstone’s color, which may be followed by a heating process.|
|(H)||Heating The use of heat to effect desired alteration of color, clarity and/or phenomena.|
|(I)||Infilling The intentional filling of surface-breaking cavities or fractures usually with glass, plastic, opticon with hardeners and/or hardened foreign substances to improve durability, appearance and/or add weight.|
|(IMIT)||Imitation Man-made products, fabricated in such materials as glass, ceramic or plastic designed to imitate or resemble the appearance, but not duplicate the characteristic properties, of a natural gemstone.|
|(L)||Laser The use of lasers and chemicals to reach and alter inclusions in diamonds.|
|(N)||Natural Stones which are not currently known to be enhanced.|
|(O)||Oiling/Resin Infusion The intentional filling of surface-breaking cavities of a colorless oil, wax, natural resin or unhardened man-made material into fissured transparent/translucent gemstones to improve appearance.|
|(R)||Irradiation The use of neutrons, requiring an environmental safety release from the NRC, with the combination of any other bombardment and/or heat treatment to alter a gem’s color.|
|(S)||Bonding (Stabilization) The use of a colorless bonding agent (commonly plastic) with a porous gemstone to give it durability and improve appearance.|
|(Syn)||Synthetic These are man-made materials which have essentially the same optical, physical and chemical properties as a naturally occurring counterpart.|
|(U)||Diffusion The use of chemicals in conjunction with high temperatures to produce color and/or asterism (star-like) inclusions.|
|(W)||Waxing / Oiling The impregnation of a colorless wax, paraffin and/or oil in porous opaque gemstones to improve their appearance.|
Ben Bridge Gemstones
Most colored gemstones are subjected to stable and possibly undetectable enhancement processes. Most gemstones need enhancement through cutting, polishing, and sometimes treatment to look as they do in the piece of fine jewelry.
Below are some examples of common treatments that may be present in your Ben Bridge gemstone purchase- if they are, a treatment message will print on your sales receipt. Other gems not listed may also have treatments, and if so, will be disclosed. Some gemstones will have no treatments and this may also be noted.
Examples of treatment messages you may see:
The Iolite and Peridot are natural in color, and required no enhancement except cutting and polishing
This Onyx is dyed to produce its consistent color
The Tourmaline and Sapphire are heated to improve their color
This Emerald has been treated with colorless oil or resin which penetrates its surface
The Tanzanite has been heated to permanently improve its color
Care & Cleaning
Regular care and cleaning of your fine jewelry will enhance your satisfaction. Fine jewelry is precious possession that is designed to be worn and enjoyed and Ben Bridge Jeweler is pleased to offer simple guidelines for the care and cleaning of your fine jewelry.
Store your jewelry in a clean, dry place.
Keep your jewelry in a fabric-lined jewelry case, or in a box with compartments and dividers. If you prefer to use ordinary boxes, wrap each piece individually in soft tissue paper.
Don't jumble your jewelry pieces in a drawer or jewelry case. Pieces can scratch each other.
Be careful when removing your jewelry to wash your hands. Do not leave your jewelry on the rim of a sink where it can easily slip down the drain.
Visit Ben Bridge or your local American Gem Society affiliated jeweler once every 6 months to have your jewelry checked for loose prongs, worn mountings, and general wear and tear. At Ben Bridge, one of our Associates will be happy to clean and inspect your jewelry for you- in most cases while you wait. This is a free service.
There are many types of small machines on the market that will clean jewelry using high-frequency sound. These machines are called ultrasonic cleaners and are available in many different models and prices. They can be a convenient way to quickly clean your jewelry at home. However, ultrasonic cleaners can damage some jewelry and prolonged use may loosen gemstones from their mountings. Your local Ben Bridge Associate can tell you if an ultrasonic cleaning machine is right for your jewelry and if it is, can recommend an appropriate model.
Diamond jewelry is very popular. Some pieces, such as diamond engagement and wedding rings, are often worn 24 hours a day. Even though you may wear your diamond jewelry around the clock, you should give thought to its care. Diamonds are durable, but they still require proper maintenance. Diamonds can get smudged, soiled and dusty. Lotions, powders, soaps and natural skin oils put a film on diamonds and cut down their brilliance. Clean diamonds glow, because the maximum amount of light can enter the stone and return in a fiery brilliance. It takes just a little care to keep them that way:
Do not wear diamond jewelry, especially rings, when doing rough work. Even though diamond is one of the hardest materials in nature, it can still be chipped by a sharp, sudden blow.
Chlorine can damage and discolor the mounting on your diamond jewelry. Keep your diamond away from chlorine bleach or other household chemicals. You should also remove your diamond jewelry before entering a chlorinated pool or hot tub.
Clean your diamonds regularly using a commercial jewelry cleaner, a mix of ammonia and water, or a mild detergent. Dip the jewelry into the solution and use a soft brush to dislodge dust or dirt from under the setting.
Always thoroughly rinse and dry your jewelry after cleaning and before storage.
Avoid touching your clean diamonds with your fingers. Handle clean jewelry by its edges.
There are many different types of colored gemstones, some of which require specific care and cleaning. It would be impossible to detail all the specifics in this forum. However, there are some general care and cleaning rules that apply to all colored gemstone jewelry:
Many natural gemstones are treated or enhanced from the time they are extracted from the earth by one or more traditionally accepted jewelry industry practices. These treatments and enhancements can affect how you should clean and care for your colored gemstone jewelry. Consult your jeweler for more information on caring for treated or enhanced gemstones.
After wearing, wipe your precious gemstone jewelry thoroughly with a clean, soft, slightly damp cloth. This will enhance the luster of the gemstones and ensure that your jewelry is clean before storage.
Store gemstone pieces individually in soft pouches.
Do not expose your precious gemstone pieces to saltwater or harsh chemicals, such as chlorine or detergents. These chemicals may slowly erode the finish and polish of gemstones.
Hair spray, perfume and perspiration may cause jewelry to become dull. Apply all cosmetics, perfumes and colognes before putting on colored gemstone jewelry. Make sure to wipe your gemstones after wear to remove any chemicals, oils or perspiration.
Do not subject gemstone jewelry to sudden temperature changes.
If you have an active lifestyle, take extra precautions with some types of gemstone jewelry. Emeralds, for example, are brittle and should not be worn when doing household chores or any other activity where the stone could be hit or damaged.
Be extra careful with ultrasonic cleaners. Some gemstones are fragile and can be damaged by ultrasonic cleaners. Consult your Ben Bridge Personal Jeweler for the best cleaning procedure for your particular gemstone jewelry. They are also a good source for any information on colored gemstones.
Almost all colored stone jewelry can be safely cleaned using a mild soap and water solution and a soft brush.
Always thoroughly rinse and dry your jewelry after cleaning and before storage.
Karat Gold Jewelry
Karat gold jewelry pieces make up the majority of many fine jewelry collections. Gold comes in many different styles and colors, but the care and cleaning procedure remains the same:
Remove all gold jewelry before showering or cleaning. Soap can cause a film to form on karat gold jewelry, making it appear dull and dingy. By preventing the formation of this film, you immediately reduce the frequency with which your pieces will need to be cleaned.
To clean your jewelry at home, you'll find many commercial cleaners available. In addition, you will find a soft chamois cloth an effective and inexpensive way to keep your pieces lustrous and shining.
For certain gold jewelry, especially pieces that do not contain colored gemstones, an ultrasonic cleaning machine may be appropriate. Once again, ask your Ben Bridge Personal Jeweler to advise you.
Be careful of chlorine. Chlorine, especially at high temperatures, can permanently damage or discolor your gold jewelry. Do not wear gold jewelry while using chlorine bleach or while in a pool or hot tub.
You can remove tarnish with jewelry cleaner, or by using soap and water mixed with a few drops of ammonia. Carefully brush with a soft bristle brush. An old toothbrush can also be used. After the brushing, simply rinse with lukewarm water and allow to dry. If there is a heavy tarnish on your jewelry, consult your jeweler for the best cleaning procedure. You should also talk to a Ben Bridge Associate in the store before attempting to clean any karat gold jewelry set with colored gemstones, because some stones require special cleaning procedures.
Grease can be removed from karat gold jewelry by dipping the jewelry into plain rubbing alcohol. Again, check with one of the Ben Bridge store Associates about colored gemstone pieces.
Platinum is one of the rarest and most durable precious metals. It is resistant to tarnishing and discoloration from chlorine and other chemicals. These factors, along with its strength and white luster, have made platinum an increasingly popular choice for jewelry, either on its own or as the setting for diamonds and other precious gemstones. However, despite its durability, platinum jewelry needs to be properly cared for.
Platinum jewelry can be cleaned in the same manner as other fine jewelry. A professional cleaning every six months will keep your platinum jewelry in great shape.
Store your platinum jewelry separately and with care, not allowing pieces to touch each other, because even platinum can be scratched.
Signs of wear, such as scratches, can eventually appear on platinum. However, due to the metal's durability there is usually little metal loss from the scratch. If visible scratches do appear, you can have your piece re-polished. In some cases we can help with this at the store level- other times you will need to leave your item with us so we can have your piece of jewelry re-polished at our repair facility.
If your platinum is set with diamonds or other precious stones, be especially careful, as these materials can be more susceptible to damage.
Some fine jewelry pieces combine platinum with karat gold jewelry. Care for these pieces as you would your gold jewelry.
Cultured pearls are precious jewels and should be treated as such. They're also the products of living creatures. Cultured pearls are formed when an irritant is introduced into a mollusk. The mollusk secretes a substance called nacre, which covers the irritant and produces the pearl. Nacre gives pearls the rainbow of colors and luster that makes these gemstones so treasured, but its delicate nature also makes pearls particularly susceptible to damage. For this reason you should be extra careful with your cultured pearl jewelry:
Apply cosmetics, hair sprays and perfume before putting on any pearl jewelry. When you remove the jewelry, wipe it carefully with a soft cloth to remove any traces of these substances.
You can also wash your pearl jewelry with mild soap and water. Do not clean cultured pearls with any chemicals, abrasives or solvents. These substances can damage your pearls.
Always lay cultured pearl strands flat to dry. Hanging a strand may stretch the threads.
Do not toss your cultured pearl jewelry carelessly into a purse, bag or jewel box. A pearl's surface is soft and can be scratched by hard metal edges or by the harder gemstones of other jewelry pieces.
Place cultured pearls in a chamois bag or wrap them in tissue when putting them away.
Cosmetics, perspiration, oils and ordinary wear weaken and stretch the threads on which the pearls are strung. Bring your pearls back to your jeweler for restringing once a year if you wear them often. Make certain the pearls are strung with a knot between each pearl. This will prevent loss of pearls if the string should break.
Watches need the same amount of attention as fine jewelry. Fine watches are sophisticated and precise pieces of equipment; the price often reflects the skilled workmanship that goes into a fine timepiece. In order to get the most satisfaction out of your watch, you should follow some simple care and cleaning guidelines:
No matter how handy you are, do not attempt to perform watch repairs yourself. Only an expert jeweler/watchmaker should be trusted to put your watch back into working condition. Bring your watch to Ben Bridge for assistance. Some of our locations have a watchmaker on staff in the store, otherwise the Ben Bridge Associate will take your watch in for repair and it will then go to our repair facility.
Give your watch a quick check on a regular basis, making sure that the strap or bracelet is securely attached to the watch face.
A mechanical watch should be checked regularly by your jeweler/watchmaker or an authorized dealer and serviced according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
If you have a mechanical movement, wind your watch in a clockwise direction, preferably about the same time each day. Remove the watch from your wrist when winding so as not to place undue pressure on the stem.
Replace broken or scratched crystals immediately. Even a hairline crack can let dust and moisture into the timekeeping mechanism, threatening its accuracy.
Unless the degree of water-resistance is clearly specified when you purchase your watch, do not wear it into the shower or pool, or on a moist wrist. Do not have your watch around steam.
Have your Ben Bridge jeweler/watchmaker replace the battery in a quartz watch preferably before it runs out. Dead batteries left in the watch can leak or corrode, ruining the timepiece. Do not attempt to change the battery in a watch yourself. If your watch is water-resistant, a water- resistance test should be performed after the battery has been replaced to ensure that water will not leak into and damage the watch.
Battery life varies considerably according to the type of watch and its functions.
Oils from your skin can build up on a watch. If your watch is water-resistant, you can give it a quick cleaning with a mixture of warm water and either a mild soap or a dish detergent. Dry the watch with a soft cloth after cleaning. If your watch has a strap made out of leather or another material, you should clean only the watch face and not the strap.
If your watch is not water-resistant, or you're not sure, do not immerse it in water. Clean the piece with a slightly damp cloth and then dry.
Cleaning with soap and water
A mild soap and water solution used with a soft brush is effective for many home jewelry care needs. Even the mild chemicals of commercial jewelry cleaning products may damage certain gems. Although soap and water is the best choice for most gems and jewelry, do not use soap and water with amber, coral, emerald, jade, kunzite, lapis lazuli, opal, pearl, or turquoise. Never use anything abrasive such as toothpaste to clean your jewelry.
Home jewelry care
Check with your Ben Bridge Personal Jeweler prior to using a commercial cleaning product for the first time. Dispose of any such cleaner after 3 months. A home solution of one part mild detergent, one part household ammonia, and three parts water is also effective for many jewelry cleaning needs. Dry the jewelry with a lint-free towel.
This method of cleaning is especially desirable for alexandrite, amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, diamond, garnet, iolite, moonstone, ruby, sapphire, spinel, tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline, and zircon.
Home ultrasonic cleaner
Home ultrasonic cleaners are best used for karat gold jewelry without gemstones. The ultrasonic may also be suitable for some diamond-set jewelry. Intense vibrations may loosen stones, so a professional annual cleaning and security check is important. DO NOT use the home ultrasonic for amber, coral, emerald, kunzite, lapis lazuli, opal, pearl, ruby, or turquoise
Where to Go for Care and Cleaning
Your local Ben Bridge store can help with any questions on the care and cleaning of your jewelry. If you are no longer in the area of a Ben Bridge store- check with your local American Gem Society member jeweler for assistance.
We recommend that your fine jewelry be examined and cleaned once every 6 months. We will check all the prongs for gemstone security. We also check clasps. If needed, we will recommend restringing pearls to protect against string failure. When we clean your jewelry, we will also check the stone itself for any damage that may warrant re-cutting or re-polishing.
Be sure you understand how your fine jewelry should be worn, how to store it, how to clean it, and what to look for to protect it from harm. We would also be glad to discuss with you the questions you might want to ask your insurance agent concerning coverage against loss, theft or damage. The care you provide your fine jewelry will reward you with years of pleasurable wear.
Since 1934, members of the American Gem Society have been protecting the jewelry consuming public. Membership is awarded only to selected jewelers who possess proven gemological knowledge and the highest ethical standards. American Gem Society members know what methods will most effectively clean and secure your fine jewelry. Membership in the AGS is your assurance of the reliability and capability of the American Gem Society firm.
Ben Bridge is proud to be a member of the American Gem Society and of Jewelers of America. As a fourth generation family operated jeweler we strive to provide quality jewelry at a fair value. We believe in customer service and know that by helping you to understand more about gemstones and your jewelry we create a personal relationship that is based on trust and knowledge. We take pride in letting consumers know we have more Certified Gemologists and Registered Jewelers in our company than any other jeweler in the country.
If you are located by one of our 80 Ben Bridge stores, we invite you to stop by and let us clean and inspect your jewelry. We provide this service at no charge, and always will have a cup of coffee waiting for you.