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Characterization of coloured gemstones by X-ray micro computed tomography

Heyn, Rene ; Rozendaal, Abraham ; Du Plessis, Anton ; Mouton, Carene (2021-02-08)

CITATION: Heyn, R., et al. 2021. Characterization of coloured gemstones by X-ray micro computed tomography. Minerals, 11(2):178, doi:10.3390/min11020178.

The original publication is available at

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund


The monetary value of gemstones is based on five variables: rarity, cut, weight, color and clarity. The latter refers to internal impurities and defects. Fashion may also dictate demand and price. To enhance some of these features and value, gemstones are treated. Disclosure or nondisclosure thereof has been controversial and affected consumer confidence. Most of these treatments are difficult to detect with the naked eye and accurately quantify with traditional optical and analytical methods. X-ray micro computed tomography (micro-CT or μCT) is proposed as a relatively low cost, physically non-destructive and complementary method to detect and quantify clarity enhancement and also to provide a unique 3D fingerprint of each gemstone. A collection of 14 cut colored gemstones was selected. Micro-CT scans allowed fracture detection, their distribution and calculation of filler volume as well as 3D mapping of inclusions, surface and internal imperfections and artificially induced modifications. As a result the method allows the construction of a digital twin. X-ray exposure could however induce unwanted color changes. This effect was minimized or eliminated by optimizing dosage and exposure time.

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