Treatment refers to any process other than cutting and polishing that improves the appearance of the color or clarity, or that are used to alter the appearance (color, clarity or phenomena), durability, value, or supply of a gemstone.
Today, most gems are treated to improve appearance. Gemstones are often treated to enhance the color or clarity of the stone. Depending on the type and extent of treatment, they can affect the value of the stone. Some treatments are used widely because the resulting gem is stable, while others are not accepted most commonly because the gem color is unstable and may revert to the original tone.
Heat can improve gemstone color or clarity. The heating process has been well known to gem miners and cutters for centuries, and in many stone types heating is a common practice. Most citrine is made by heating amethyst, and partial heating with a strong gradient results in “ametrine” – a stone partly amethyst and partly citrine. Aquamarine is often heated to remove yellow tones, or to change green colors into the more desirable blue, or enhance its existing blue color to a purer blue.
Nearly all tanzanite is heated at low temperatures to remove brown undertones and give a more desirable blue / purple color. A considerable portion of all sapphire and ruby is treated with a variety of heat treatments to improve both color and clarity.
When jewelry containing diamonds is heated (for repairs) the diamond should be protected with boric acid; otherwise the diamond (which is pure carbon) could be burned on the surface or even burned completely up. When jewelry containing sapphires or rubies is heated, those stones should not be coated with boracic acid (which can etch the surface) or any other substance. They do not have to be protected from burning, like a diamond (although the stones do need to be protected from heat stress fracture by immersing the part of the jewelry with stones in water when metal parts are heated).
Dyeing refers to one of the oldest treatments recorded. The treatment involves the introduction of a coloring agent into a gemstone to give it a new color, intensify an existing color or improve color uniformity.
Virtually all blue topaz, both the lighter and the darker blue shades such as "London" blue, has been irradiated to change the color from white to blue. Most greened quartz (Oro Verde) is also irradiated to achieve the yellow-green color. Diamonds are irradiated to produce fancy-color diamonds (which occur naturally, though rarely in gem quality).
Emeralds containing natural fissures are sometimes filled with wax or oil to disguise them. This wax or oil is also colored to make the emerald appear of better color as well as clarity. Turquoise is also commonly treated in a similar manner.
Fracture filling has been in use with different gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds and sapphires. In 2006 "glass filled rubies" received publicity. Rubies over 10 carats (2 g) with large fractures were filled with lead glass, thus dramatically improving the appearance (of larger rubies in particular). Such treatments are fairly easy to detect.