Specific Gravity Testing Part 5: Using Heavy Liquids

Step 3: Practical Gemology

Lesson 11

Heavy liquids are chemical solutions with known high densities. Sets are sold for testing the specific gravity of gemstones. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) offers a set with densities of 2.57, 2.62, 2.67, 3.05, and 3.32. Other manufacturers offer sets with different ranges.

Before Using Heavy Liquids, Know the Risks

Although gemologists use these liquids, you should consider the risks first.

Most heavy liquids are solvents, in the same family as thinners, and toxic. Don’t inhale their vapors or get any on your skin or clothing. Heavy liquids are also flammable, so keep them away from heat sources at all times. Follow all the manufacturer’s safety instructions for whatever set you choose.

Why Use Heavy Liquids?

The theory behind using heavy liquids is simple. If you put a gem in a liquid with the same density, it’ll stay in place. Should the gem have a greater density, it’ll sink. So it follows that the gem will float if it has a lower density.

How fast the gem sinks or floats will give you some indication of how much its specific gravity varies from the liquid’s. If …

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