Amazing World of Agate and their known treatments

The objective of this article is to introduce to the on-line community the wonderful range of agate in Indonesia. Although there are many wonderful earth-mined agate gems, there are also a lot of of treated gems that appear to look like the natural ones. I was inspired to write this article by numerous questions I have received from my buyers. This article will highlight the various known treatments so that on-line buyers are more aware and informed to do their purchase intelligently.

Here is a photo of a typical gem store in Indonesia. Prices of Agate range from a low quality piece for a few dollars to a very high quality piece which can cost you several thousands! A friend of mine recently sold a gold pendant with a picture agate of “Jesus Cruzified on a Cross” for US$20,000! So it is pretty much a Willing Buyer Willing Seller Scenario.

Basically, there are a very wide variety of agates. I have divided them into the following category for further elaboration.

1) Dendritic Agate
2) Picture Agate
3) Enhydro Agate
4) Agatized fossil (Coral, Sea Shell etc..)
5) Agate with Mineral Inclusion (Pyrite, Copper, Moss, Rutile, fossil etc..)

Dedritic Agate

Dendritic Agate with it’s tree like, fern shapes and branches is a very interesting and pleasing gemstone.They are really inorganic manganese oxide, typically known as dendtrite.
There is no known treatment on this kind of agate. However, Dendritic agate can be determined by its age. A “young” dendritic agate typically shows dendrite growth that is less defined and the color is lighter in tone. A typical example of it as below.

An “old” dendritic agate has much more defined dedrite growth patterns and darker in tone and some really show spectacular display! A good piece of dendritic agate is as below.

Some dendritic growth can also create a picture effect. Like the above example, a “Maple tree” picture effect is created.

Picture Agate

Picture Agate is caused by impurities deposited along cracks of the stone. The impurities form patterns which eventually form a picture effect. Each picture agate is unique in its own right! There are 2 known treatments done.

1) Carbon infusion :- Carbon was injected into the agate to make the picture effect more defined or out-right “creating” the picture effect per say. Below is an example of a picture agate that had been injected with carbon to create a picture effect of “Arabic Word Allah”.

As you can see, you can have a bunch of them as above. Luckily, they are quite easily to detect. A trained eye will be able to see the difference between a natural one from a treated piece.

Below is an example of a natural piece with Arabic Word “Allah” picture effect. Natural ones are scarce and not easily available.

Below is a very fine example of Natural Picture Agate. Bearing a well-defined picture effect of a “Spider”.

2) Inserting a foreign object

It is pretty much like a doublet effect. A foreign object is inserted into the agate and sealed off with glue. This treatment is relatively easy to detect as there will be “breakage” at the edge of the stone like a doublet. Below is an example of a picture agate with foreign object insertion.

It looks perfectly normal from the front but you can see the sealed edge from the above picture.

Enhydro Agate

Enhydro Agate consists of fluid inclusion within a cavity in the agate. You will see a fluid bubble or in some rare cases, a few fluid bubbles within the cavity. It is commonly called “Water Agate” in the trade. This fluid inclusions are millions of years old and usually very pure.  Known treatment on the enhydro agate is “water injection”. Agates with a dry internal cavity are selected and a minute hole drilled through to the cavity and water is injected in and then sealed off with glue. You can usually detect this treatment by observing for sealed minute holes. However, this takes some skills to detect.

Extra care for enhydro agate:- Take note that the best way to store enhydro agate is to keep them in water. As agate is a rather porous material, even natural enhydro agate can lose their fluid inclusion under high temperature environment.

Agatized Fossil

Common fossils that had been agatized are Agatized Coral, Agatized Shell and sometimes other marine live forms. Some of these are color dyed to make them look attractive. However, this color treatment is rather obvious to detect. Below is an example of a very fine Natural Agatized Coral.

Agate with Mineral Inclusion

Mother Nature had “toyed” with the various kinds of minerals from its earth crust. Agates are found with Pyrite crysals, copper crystals, golden needles, fossils and in some rare cases silver or gold crystal inclusion. Some of these inclusion can also create a picture effect as well. The known treatment will be (same as picture agate) the foreign object insertion.

Hope you find this article useful. I will be updating this post regularly as soon as new treatments are discovered.

Note: Sellers with good business etiquette will always disclose all treatment that they are aware of on their gems. Always buy from sellers with good track record and reputation.


Gems Versus Paper Assets

Gems vs. Paper Assets
by Robert Genis

Why do people collect/invest in diamonds and colored gemstones? I once had a client that lived in Florida. He loved green stones. He started buying chrome tourmaline, next tsavorite and finally made his way to Colombian emerald. I would personally travel to Colombia once a year to buy him one stone. We would talk on the phone every night about what I had seen that day. I would probably look at 10,000 stones over a two week period and buy one for him. After many years, he had built up quite a portfolio.

I finally asked him what he did with his Colombian emeralds. He stated once a year, he would go down to his bank. He would go into his safety deposit box and take out his collection. Once inside the small room, he would open his gem box and look at his gemstones. He said it made him happy, unlike paper investments.

Hard Assets vs. Paper Assets
There are two types of financial assets. Paper assets include stocks, bonds, currency, money market accounts, C-D’s, etc. Hard assets include gemstones, diamonds, gold, silver, land, stamps, rare coins, collectible cars, wine, etc. Throughout most of our lives, the majority of people invested strictly in paper assets. The one exception was the late 1970’s when inflation was out of control. Recently, people have again become more concerned with a financial collapse. Many feel paper assets will fare poorly during economic turmoil, like what happened in 2007-09. Although it is possible all assets would be hurt in a full fledged Depression scenario, the general feeling is it would be better to have real assets with intrinsic value to buy, sell and barter with. I would rather own a Burma ruby than a California state bond.

However you feel about the future, it simply makes rational sense to allocate your funds between these two types of assets.

Gems vs Paper Assets
When you own top gemstones, you can hold a real, tangible asset in your hand, and that asset is highly portable. In addition, gemstones really do last forever. Your heirs will be happy as these stones will outlive all of us. Also, gemstones are very private investments as you don’t need to disclose you own them to anybody. If you buy, sell, and trade properly your gem collection should grow and grow. In a sense, it is almost a forced savings plan. Building a collection of fine gems is also fun and exciting. Unlike buying a stock certificate or a bond, gems are fascinating assets to accumulate. Investors should focus on collecting stones that you love. Many investors feel a real pride in owning some of finest, most rare natural beauties in the world. A top gem portfolio is viewed by collectors as considerably more enjoyable than looking at a declining 401k stock statement. You will also not experience the stomach-churning volatility of the stock markets in gemstones. Stocks have rose or fell more than 1% in 25 of the last 39 trading days. The only downside to owning gems and other collectibles is they are not immediately liquid like stocks.

Many people are abandoning their paper financial portfolios and buying hard assets. Stock investors are abandoning the stock markets in droves. Investors have pulled almost $125 billion out of emerging markets since June. Many are taking tried and true “buy and hold” theory and applying it to hard assets instead of paper assets. Be prepared.

Buying Gemstone on-line ~ What to take note

So, you’ve been looking to purchase a quality gemstone on the internet and you need some help determining what characteristics you should be looking for in a quality gem?

There are 5 simple rules to help you to become a successful buyer and to avoid unnecessary pin-falls.

1. Why are you buying the gemstone?

So what do you want this gemstone for? Is it for setting into a ring? Or is it for a pendant or a pair of Earrings? It is an important question to ask as some gemstones are not suitable for certain application due to the hardness and durability of the stone. Every gemstone has a hardness rating (on a scale of 1 to 10). Some stones are very hard (like diamond, ruby and sapphire) and some are quite soft (like opal, sphene and fluorite). Softer stones are not suitable for rings, because rings typically are more prone to knocks and scratches. However, they are fine for pendants or pins or earrings, where they are less likely to be damaged.

You would also need to consider your preference for gem type, color, shape and size. If you have your heart set on a sapphire, that would make your search easier. However, if you only want a brilliant blue stone for a pendant, you might want to narrow your search to a group of gems, such as kyanite, aquamarine and sapphire.

What gem you will go for would then depend on how much you are willing to spend. Attractive natural gems come in many prices which range from $5 to several thousands. It is unlikely you will find a AAA quality natural huge size sapphire or ruby for $5, but you can find many beautiful stones like kyanite at a price range which is very affordable. The next important factor to consider will be the shape and size of the stone. If you want a stone for a pendant, a PEAR shape larger stone will probably be suitable. However, this would really depend on your personal likings.

These are some of the important questions you have to ask yourselve first.

The key to a successful buy is to get the best possible stone for the best price. It’s all about getting the best value for your money.

2. Where should you search for the gemstone?

Ebay has a very good search engine which you can use to search what you are looking for. You can narrow your search by using the category selection. For example, if you are looking for a Oval shape cut blue sapphire, you can select under jewelry & Watches, under Loose Diamonds & Gemstones, under Loose Gemstones, under sapphire, under blue and under Oval category. You are refining your search to a category which sellers list their items based on specific gem type, color and shape.

3. Who should you buy it from??

Now that you have in mind what you really want and are able to search what you are looking for, the next question will be:- who should you buy it from? This is a very good question to consider. Who can you trust? Who has the best prices? Who ships reliably? Who has a fair return policy?

Good Feedback and longevity are two important factors to consider in selecting a trusted supplier. Good sellers guard their reputation as much as they do their bottom line. Feedback rating does show their reputation. However, feedback rating alone may not get you a clear picture. There are many gemstone sellers at Ebay. Some of them are honest and reliable and sell quality product. If they’re not, they don’t stay in business for very long. How long they had been around is also another important factor to consider.

Here’s a short list of what to look for:

* Does the seller provide his company name, physical address, phone, fax and email? Don’t deal with someone who tries to hide his identity.

* Had the seller been in business for at least a few years? Bad companies rarely survive that long.

* Is the seller committed to customer satisfaction? Some sellers just want to make a sale. However, good sellers want you as a long term customer. Looking at the detailed feedback rating profile helps to determine if the seller is committed to this.

* Does the seller provide accurate photos and descriptions for each individual stone? Don’t buy a stone without detailed information of that specific stone.

* Is the seller forthcoming with information about gem treatments? An honest seller will disclose all treatments. Does he provide lots of reference information so you can educate yourself about the gems he has for sale?

4. Where is the seller located?

Where the seller is located may be a factor to consider. It would determine if the seller is close to the source of gemstone and where the seller is buying the gemstone from. The closer to the source the seller is getting the gemstone means that less middle hands are involved and thus they can sell the gemstone at a better price. You may also want to consider if the seller is buying the gemstone in volume. If seller is buying in volume, that would mean they are buying at a lower cost and thus they can also provide the gemstone at a better price. The economy of scale does work here.

5. How should you pay for the gemstone?

Pay for online purchases with a payment method that offers you good consumer protection. Paying thru PayPal is a good method to consider. Do not pay by money order or wire transfer or any method that leaves you at no recourse if you are unhappy with your purchase.

Hope you find this article useful.

Lonrho Mining recovers two plus 5 carat diamonds from Lulo in Angola

Lonrho Mining recovers two plus 5 carat diamonds from Lulo in Angola
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 by Christine Feary Lonrho Mining (ASX: LOM) has recovered 35 diamonds with total weight of 38.65 carats from its Lulo Project in Angola, with processing ongoing.

So far, just over 130 cubic metres of gravel from the Lulo Concession has been processed. The diamond grade of the material processed is 29.5 carats per 100 cubic metres, with the average size of the diamonds recovered in excess of 1 carat.

Lonrho has recovered two diamonds weighing more than 5 carats and a third weighing more than 4 carats. Most of the diamonds are considered to be gem quality.

The company excavated more than 500 cubic metres of gravel from the BLK-06 bulk sample at Lulo, part of a program to evaluate alluvial deposits within the Lulo Concession. Processing of these gravels is continuing.

The Lulo Diamond Concession is a highly prospective 3000 square kilometre area which Lonrho Mining intends to develop with Endiama, the national diamond company of Angola.

Lonrho is evaluating funding options for a $12.7 million exploration program to follow up priority kimberlite targets at Lulo.

Burmese Ruby can be heat treated with Glass Filling

One broker brought to me a Ruby from Myanmar recently. Observed with naked eye and even 10x loupe, the unasuming ruby has the characteristics of an unheated ruby from Myanmar ~ Silk zoning, pinkish red( Characteristic of Mogok Ruby). However, under the micro-scope, minute air bubbles along the healed fracture lines were observed ~ which indicates that this ruby had been heat treated with glass filling.


In the past, only African Ruby is treated with Glass filling. Do note that this new heat treatment had been advanced to treat on Burmese ruby as well.

Differentiate Treated & Untreated Golden Coral

Golden Coral is a league of its own in Natural Coral Variety. It is only available in Hawaii Pacific Ocean and they had been banned from havesting. Because of its rarity, there is a lot of treated coral out in the market that try to imitate golden coral. Cheap porous coral is used and chemical treatment used to add color and then a layer or many layers of laquer applied on the surface to present a glossy finish.

So how do we differentiate between the treated and the untreated ones? A couple methods can be used.

The first will be visual check. As laquer is applied to the treated coral, the glossy finish comes from the layer of laquer. If you observe a treated coral upclose, you will realise that the glossy finish is from a transparent layer on top of the coral face.

The second method is a little more destructive. If you rub a treated coral over a sand paper, you will essentially remove the laquer layer, the glossy finish will be gone and if you try to re-polish the face, you will not get more the glossy finish. However, if you rub a natural coral over the sand paper and then re-polish it, you will still get the glossy finish back.

I have attached two pictures here. Can you tell which is treated and which is untreated?


See the glossy reflection of a transparent layer in the first picture? The first one is treated. The second picture shows an untreated golden coral. It will take some time to enquire the visual skill for this.


There are some on-line sellers selling big bunches of so called “Golden Coral branches” that are basically cedar wood branches sprayed with laquer. So if a seller can offer a bunch of golden coral for $20, be very weary. You are probably just paying $20 for a bunch of wood branches! A bunch of Natural Golden Coral branches would fetch well over $1000 in today’s market as they are just so rare. As this material is no longer in harvest, value will only go up in future. Hope this information helps:)

Prices of Yellow Soap Stone from Indonesia had sky-rocketed!

If you have purchased Yellow Soap stone from Indonesia in the past, you might want to let go some of your rocks now.

The price of this kind of rock used to be in the region of just $20-30 per kilo. Now it had sky-rocketed to over $100 per kilo and in some cases over $500 per kilo when the size is huge (Over 5 kg) and clean and color is intense! 

This kind of yellow soap stone is essentially Yellow Calcite mass. So why did the price go up so much? The answer is the huge demand from the Chinese. Apparently, the Chinese government had banned the mining of “Yellow Soap Stone” in China which is the material that a lot of fine carvings used. Yellow is an auspicious color for Chinese and Fine Carvings of this material command a very high price tag.

The Yellow Soap Stone in Indonesia is found to have the same crystalline structure to the material that the Chinese used and thus they flocked to Indonesia and snapped up everything that they can lay their hands on. This is an interesting observation as only they value this material highly. I have not seen the rest of the International Community following suit. This is an interesting demand and supply case. The domestic market demand in China actually caused the price of this yellow soap stone to sky-rocket.