Lessons from Dr. Hanneman

Have you ever wondered why Dr. William Hanneman has never been properly recognized and awarded for his work in gemology? His work has been so important that he stands with such names as Alan Hodgkinson and Richard T. Liddicoat in his impact on this industry. I believe the reason Dr. Hanneman has not been recognized is because he stood for one simple concept that goes against the grain of the big corporations in this industry: Affordable Gemology.  He even wrote a book: Guide to Affordable Gemology.

The answer lies in the fact that there is big money at stake in this industry, big money that needs to create big, protected revenue streams in order to operate. They do this by making people believe that you must spend big money on education and equipment to do proper gemology. When someone like Dr. Hanneman comes along and proves that high-quality gemology can be done with tools that cost only a few dollars, they rock the big industry corporation’s boats. Big corporations don’t like to get their boats rocked, and will make sure the one rocking the boat gets their due comeuppance.

This is what happened to me with Tibet andesine. It is on record that once in my hand, it took me all of 15 minutes to formally report that Tibet andesine was artificially color treated. I did this not by any special scientific equipment or expensive testing, although all of that certainly followed. I did it by using things I learned from Dr. Hanneman, Alan Hodgkinson and others that taught the use of common sense, experience and training, with just a smidgen of gemology tools required.

In the case of Tibet andesine, it was a simple plastic Dixie cup cut in half and filled about  a quarter full of regular old San Antonio tap water. Place that Dixie cup on top of the light base of the most basic model Meiji Techno microscope, and that inexpensive little set-up became the  battering ram to bring down the most massive, multi-million dollar international gemstone fraud in the history of this industry.

Some of the big labs and institutes chided me severely for daring to use a Dixie cup immersion cell to go against their big name gemologists who tried to defend the Tibet andesine. But when it came down to actual court room litigation, not one of these big name labs could overcome the Dixie cup.

In short, the Dixie cup rocked the big corporation’s boats.

The truth is, most diffusion treatments of gemstones, including beryllium, copper, etc…can be viewed using that little Dixie cup if you know what to look for. I thought I would take just a few minutes today and let you know what to look for, so you can identify these for yourself, and help rock the big lab’s boats a bit for yourself.

Here is a look at some of the treated gemstones you can identify with a simple Dixie cup immersion cell.

Diffused Sapphire

Here you see a cobalt diffused sapphire.  The cobalt is a surface diffusion that does not penetrate the sapphire to any measurable depth. The key is (and you will find this for virtually all diffusion gemstones) the color is never uniform to the extent expected for natural gemstone coloring. It is the common sense element of Hanneman’s teaching. In air, the sapphire appears a beautiful and uniform blue. Do you need to send it to a major lab? Hell no! I have a Dixie cup immersion cell!

Now you’re getting into the spirit of the thing. Let’s continue.




Beryllium Treated Sapphire

It was a major industry debacle when masses of beautiful, low-cost padparadscha sapphires suddenly hit the market and no one bothered to say….”hey, wait a minute…this is not right”. No, most of the  Thai dealers just jumped on board and began raking in the profits. Then the bottom fell out. Word got out that someone had been successful in getting beryllium completely inside sapphires, which was turning a lot of ugly sapphires into beautiful sapphires. The treatment itself was excellent, the lack of disclosure was criminal. Once again, if someone had just bothered to place a few in an immersion cell the whole thing could have been avoided. At left is a group of Be treated sapphires in our Dixie cup immersion cell. The unnatural color zoning is quite obvious. Common sense, experience and training could have avoided a multi-million dollar scandal in the industry.

At left is a beryllium treated sapphire in a Dixie cup immersion cell, even showing the diagnostic blue halo just above center of the gemstone.

Copper Infused Feldspar

At left is the immersion cell image that broke the back of Tibet andesine and all those who sell it as natural. Perhaps to the untrained eye with little common sense about gemstones it may not appear like anything, but that was the cause of the whole thing in the first place. This uneven and unnatural coloring of the feldspar with color concentrations at the facet junctions, along with the green interior, was an easy identification to anyone who understood copper-bearing feldspar. Only those who either don’t know, or don’t want to know would let themselves be fooled by this. This was one of the very first images I published, and it still took another 5 years and over a half million dollars in legal fees to force the industry to accept the truth.




Color Infusion of Tourmaline

Last week I posted independent scientific documentation that proved tourmaline is being artificially infused with color. The extremely high levels of iron in the green, and manganese in the red tourmaline was confirmed as being the result of astronomical levels of those elements in intense colored tourmalines that could only happen by artificial processes. Once again, in an immersion cell the coloring proves to be unnatural with a tell-tale structure that is unlike anything produced by nature.




Color Infused Zoisite to Create Tanzanite

We had quite a bruhaha with the tanzanite issue. The huge Tanzanite Foundation was determined to put a stop to the report of artificially colored zoisite being turned into tanzanite. The problem was, in spite of their effort to quash the matter, the Dixie cup immersion cell told a story that even the best of the big gemology labs hired by the Tanzanite Foundation could not negate. Common sense, experience and a smidgen of gemology tools trumped the huge industry corporation. In the end, the treated zoisite made for beautiful, affordable tanzanite, but the problem once again was lack of disclosure. Lack of disclosure of treatments is the single most urgent issue in this industry. Here you see a treated zoisite in an immersion cell, and a high magnification of another zoisite showing the coloring material in an internal fissure.

The Emperors New Clothes

Hans Christian Andersen’s story could have been written about the international gemstone industry. Everyone who visited the Pala International booth and first saw the picture of the fall foliage around the Tibet mine entrance, that was claimed to exist at an altitude far above the possible tree line, should have said: “Wait a minute! The Emperor Has On No Clothes!” But because this picture being shown by Jacki Li of Tibetan Sun was being offered with the endorsement of Bill Larson and Pala International, no one bothered to stand up and cry foul. Big corporations get by with this stuff.

In truth, there are ways to identify a myriad of gemstone treatments if one just uses a little common sense, trust their experience, and add just a smidgen of gemological tools.

The Dixie cup immersion cell is a good place to start. For most of the treated gemstones you have seen, that Dixie cup start was the beginning of the end of the charade of non-disclosure.

This gemology thing, it’s not rocket science. It’s common sense, some experience and a smidgen of gemology tools.

The bad guys will hate you. The big corporations will work against you. But you will become one of the best gemologists in the world.