Some may call them Frankenstones, but Lead-glass and Ruby Composite stones are finding their waysinto many of the most respected jewellery establishments and are being sold without proper disclosures.
Lead glass composite stones are created by treating very low quality, heavily included reddish Corundum with a strong acid to remove other minerals leaving a very fragile sponge-like structure of Ruby. This is dipped into molten glass containing lead. The lead raises the refractive index of the glass to match that of Ruby.After cutting, the glass picks up the colour of the sponge and turns the whole stone red. In some cases a dye is added to improve the colour.
Inside Editionaired an exposeon composite stones being sold by Zales and Lord &Taylor as Ruby without any detailed disclosure. A quick check of Lord &Taylor’s website shows this blanket disclosure statement:“Surface cavities and fractures of rubies may be filled with glass and glass-like substances containing lead.” (You’ll need to click on “read more” under the description to even find this statement.)
A blanket disclosure does not help the consumer identify what they are buying. “May be filled”…is my particular stone filled or not? Does my stone contain lead? How much of the stone is actually filler? These questions are not just curiosity, they are vital to understanding the value, durability and safety of the product.
Since they are made from what is essentially worthless scrap, these stones have a low cost, often as little as a few dollars per carat. Natural Rubies of similar appearance are priced in the hundreds of dollars per carat. The consumer has a right to know which product they are buying.
Durability is another factor to consider. Natural Ruby is a fairly rugged stone.It can stand up to high heat and strong acids. A composite stone is attacked and destroyed by common chemicals such as jeweller’s pickle. Even lemon juice can etch a composite stone, rendering it unattractive.This brings up a serious safety issue. If it is swallowed, stomach acid will dissolve the glass filler leaching lead into the blood stream. The remaining sponge core could have sharp edges, damaging the digestive tract. We have a responsibility to inform our customers about the care and safety of their purchase.
Selling composite stones without full disclosure will backfire on you. You will lose the customer’s trust when they discover that they do not have a real Ruby. They will be heart broken when exposure to common chemicals destroys their stone. If you are lucky they will be satisfied with a full refund but it is doubtful they will shop with you again. They could press criminal charges of fraud, or if they really want to get nasty, they could demand a replacement with natural Rubies. No matter what happens, it will cost a lot in time, aggravation, money, and reputation.
There is nothing wrong with selling composites as long as you provide your customer with all of the information necessary to make an informed decision. Without disclosure…composites are a problem just waiting to happen.