Quiz3notes EOSC 118
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Quiz3notes EOSC 118

Course Number: EOSC 118, Spring 2011

College/University: UBC

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Lesson 12 - Colour and Light Introduction A large part of the beauty and value of gemstones and precious metals revolves around the interaction between light and the object. This includes not only the hue and saturation of colour, but also how light is tra nsmitted, reflected, refracted, fluoresced, and dispersed. Light is electromagnetic radiation or energy, and can be described as behaving like both waves and...

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12 Lesson - Colour and Light Introduction A large part of the beauty and value of gemstones and precious metals revolves around the interaction between light and the object. This includes not only the hue and saturation of colour, but also how light is tra nsmitted, reflected, refracted, fluoresced, and dispersed. Light is electromagnetic radiation or energy, and can be described as behaving like both waves and particles (photon). Like all waves, light can be described by its wavelength, the distance from p eak to peak or trough to trough, and its frequency, the number of wave crests (or troughs) that pass through one point in one second. Light propagates in the direction of its wave front. All electromagnetic radiation (from radio waves to x rays) travels at a constant speed. So, when the frequency of light is decreased, its wavelength must increase this is an inverse relationship. Light energy increases with increasing frequency (or decreasing wavelength). Refer to the figure and table below for more information on the parts of a wave. Light also behaves like a particle when it travels as photon particles. More intense light would be composed of a greater number of photons with a higher frequency of incidence. For gemstones, interaction with light is best d escribed using the wave-like approach. For those students interested in the wave-particle duality of light, a good online starting point is Wikipedia. What is Colour? Colour is what our brain interprets from the incidence of light (electromagnetic radiation within the visible spectrum) on our eye. In other words, the colour of an object is our eye's interpretation of light in the visible range that has interacte d with the object we are looking at. The electromagnetic spectrum is continuous and represents radiation energy ranging from high intensity gamma rays (short wavelength, high frequency) to low intensity radio waves (long wavelength, low frequency). In the middle of this is the visible region which ranges from about 350 to 750 nanometers (nm). This range comprises the visible rainbow with which we are all familiar with: violet at the short end (~400 nm) and red at the long end (~700 nm). Remember the acronym ROY G. BIV? We use it to remember the sequence of colours of the visible spectrum: Red Orange - Yellow - Green - Blue - Indigo - Violet. Just outside of the visible region on the shorter wavelength end is the UV (ultraviolet) range and NIR range (near infrared) on the longer wavelength end. does White not appear as a colour in the spectrum because white light is a mixture of light with wavelengths across the visible range. Illumination Different sources of energy will emit electromagnetic radiation at different intensities across the electromagnetic spectrum. A simple example of this is a light emitting diode (LED) made to emit only one colour (monochromatic). In the case of a red LED, there would only be light emitted with a wavelength in the ~650 nm range and no light emit ted anywhere else along the spectrum. Light sources that are not intended to be monochromatic can have widely different spectral emittance curves depending on the composition of the source of energy we call the "light bulb". These spectral emittance curves describe the intensity of light at a particular wavelength and will often display data only across the visible spectrum (i.e., ~350 nm to ~750 nm). The figure below compares the spectral emittance curves (sometimes referred to as spectral distribution cur ves) of three different sources of light, emphasizing the difference in emitted colours across the visible range. Natural daylight (noon sunlight) is well balanced, incandescent lamps (heated tungsten filament) are skewed towards a warm red, and "Cool White" fluorescent lamps have distinct outputs in specific blue and green regions. This is why something you buy from a fluorescent-lit store (vegetables, clothes, jewellery) might look a little different when viewed outside in natural daylight or in your home under incandescent light. Businesses that depend on visual appearance to make their sales, such as in retail sales of jewellery, are very much aware of this and usually consult lighting experts to optimize conditions in their salesrooms. With respect to gemstones and jewellery, knowledge of how the intensity of light varies according to wavelength is very important when analyzing the resulting colour perceived by our eye. The "colour change" gemstone alexandrite (a variety of the mineral chrysoberyl) is a great example of this. Fine quality specimens will exhibit two distinct colours under specific lighting environments with distinct spectral emittance curves. Other gem varieties that exhibit colour change characteristics include garnet, corundum, and zultanite. Reflection and Refraction When light passing through one medium strikes another medium, part of that light is reflected (like a mirror) and the other part is refracted (like what

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