Lotus Gemology has made its inclusion photomicrographs available for the trade to see through its new, free database, Hyperion. This photo shows melted crystals surrounded by “runny channels” in a heat-treated Thai/Cambodian natural ruby. (Image courtesy Lotus Gemology/Photo credit: E. Billie Hughes)
Tucson, Ariz.—Bangkok-based laboratory Lotus Gemology just made its inclusion photography archives available for everyone in the industry to see and use.

Hyperion, a searchable database, features more than 900 photomicrographs—photos of gemstone inclusions taken through a microscope—shot primarily by Lotus using a trinocular microscope, which has a third eyetube to connect a microscope camera.

The database is largely the result of the work of Billie Hughes, who opened Lotus Gemology in 2014 with her parents, Richard Hughes and Wimon Manorotkul.

Whereas her parents had decades of gemological experience, Billie Hughes had just received her gemology diploma from the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A) and didn’t have a lot of practical testing experience at the time they opened their lab, she told National Jeweler in Tucson during the AGTA show.

“I found that a lot of what we learned in class was based on identifying gems, which is really important, but most of our customers already know what they have. Ninety-plus percent know if it’s a ruby or not a ruby. They’re looking for treatment, for origin, for color. They’re basically looking for all the things they need to sell it to somebody.”

Because she was seeing so much material and learning as she went, Hughes started taking photos of inclusions, hoping it would help her remember what came in front of her.

“I just thought, ‘Oh, I’ll take pictures of everything. It’s like taking notes.’”

She photographed inclusions she thought were interesting and saved them in the Adobe Bridge computer program, along with a brief description. After a few months, Hughes was able to search through them for reference.

She said her parents saw the inclusion database she was building and thought it should be made available to the industry since so many could benefit from what she had catalogued.

So, Lotus put the photomicrographs into the database it had already had set up to test stones and made it accessible online.

Now, Hyperion—named for the Greek god of light—is available as a free reference for anyone.

It currently is comprised predominantly of ruby, sapphire and spinel photos, Hughes said, because that’s what they’ve been testing for the past five years. But this year, Lotus will start testing other colored gemstones, so the database likely will expand.

Each picture is accompanied by a brief description of what’s pictured and characteristics of the photographed stone, such as enhancements and origin.

The database includes both natural and man-made stones to allow users to compare materials.

“I think a lot of the functionality of it is based on searches and comparisons. You can search by origin. You can search by treatment, like heated versus unheated. You can combine parameters. And you can search by keyword,” Hughes said.

For example, users can compare a heated ruby from Mozambique to an unheated ruby with the same origin or search using the keyword “silk,” which results in more than 100 images.

In fact, because Lotus Gemology believes some of the photos are even more powerful when seen side-by-side, the lab has compiled some pairings and posted them with notes on the Lotus website.

Concurrent with the launch of Hyperion, Lotus also has debuted Four Treasures, a free database containing more than 5,000 references intended to help with research relating to gems and gemology.

Built from the lab’s internal reference database it uses for research—from thousands of hours of work over nearly four decades—Four Treasures provides a search for books and papers about gemology from a variety of sources. It is particularly strong in citations relating to ruby, sapphire, spinel and jade.

“It is our way of giving back to those who have come before us, and going forward, providing tools to researchers who are working to push gemology ahead,” the lab said on its website.

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