Beryllium treatment (Be heat) is a recent addition to techniques for treating gemstones. Beryllium treatment is a form of heat treatment, mainly for sapphire, that adds the element beryllium to the heating process. Beryllium is a well-known element in the gem world, since it is an essential constituent of many gemstones, including emerald, beryl, aquamarine and chrysoberyl.
When sapphires are heated with beryllium, the result is a reduction in blue tones. Thus bright yellow or orange sapphire can be produced from weak yellow or greenish gems. Some stunning colors have been produced using this method, such as those called 'sunset rubies', which are actually be-heated Songea sapphires.
This method is sometimes known as lattice diffusion. However, unlike some older forms of diffusion treatment, with beryllium diffusion the new color is deep within the stone; and these stones can be recut if needed. This is unlike the older diffusion treatment process, which only colors the surface of the stone. The discovery or invention of beryllium treatment for sapphire was made by inventive gemstone traders in Chanthaburi, Thailand.
Some six years after the initial controversy caused by the 'beryllium-scandal' gem scams rip-off report, which involved beryllium-treated stones being bought and sold as simply 'heated' sapphire, beryllium treatment is now widely accepted in the gem business as a legitimate method for enhancing stones. However, it is very important that gems treated with this method be disclosed as such since prices are much more affordable for treated sapphire than heat-only or untreated gemstones. However, despite the lower prices, we have noticed that the prices for beryllium-treated sapphires have been significantly rising since 2008.
The most common terms for this type of gem enhancement include "beryllium treated", "Be treated" and "Be heated". ("Be" is the symbol for the chemical element beryllium). Most gemstone labs do not have the equipment to test for beryllium treatment since the treatment is very hard to detect. When seeking gemstone certification reports, comments for sapphire treatments may mention 'not LIBS tested' or 'not tested for light elements'. If you are looking to save money on fine sapphire, there is certainly nothing wrong with buying treated sapphire, especially since nobody can tell the difference from treated or untreated just by looking at a stone!