Contamination makes aluminum oxide a priceless gem

Aluminum oxide or corundum is a commonly available material. However, trace levels of contaminates in the crystal structure of aluminum oxide can result in priceless gems, such as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Rubies are corundum with chromium contaminates. It's the chromium that produces the deep red color. Next to diamonds, rubies are the most precious gems. Sapphires come in many different colors: yellow, red, pink, and the more traditional color, blue. The blue color is only possible when titanium and iron are both present in the structure. The gem shown in Figure 1 was labeled a ruby at a gem show.


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Figure 1

However, the X-ray diffraction pattern collected on the Rigaku MiniFlex, shown in Figure 2, matches corundum and the two additional phases that can be found in sapphires, mainly, rutile [TiO2] and Cronstedtite [(Fe2+)2Fe3+(Si,Fe3+O5)(OH)4].

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Figure 2

This gem would be more appropriately called a red sapphire.


MiniFlexNew sixth generation MiniFlex X-ray diffractometer (XRD) is a multipurpose analytical instrument that can determine: phase identification and quantification, percent (%) crystallinity, crystallite size and strain, lattice parameter refinement, Rietveld refinement, and molecular structure. It is widely used in research, especially in material science and chemistry, as well as in industry for research and quality control. It is the newest addition to MiniFlex series of benchtop X-ray diffraction analyzers from Rigaku, which began with the introduction of the original MiniFlex system decades ago. Read more about Rigaku's MiniFlex...

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