It’s a beautiful, breezy day here in Northern California, I have a fresh cup of tea on hand, and I’m ready to tell you all about shopping for genuine jewels. If you haven’t read the first post in this series, you can do so here. So sit back, relax, grab your favorite beverage, and read on…
A Few Words of Caution
Anyone – even the experts – can be fooled by a good fake. This guide is meant to help you learn to spot the more obvious fakes. When in doubt, always consult your local gemologist.
There’s No Such Thing as a Bargain
When it comes to purchasing gemstones, there is rarely, if ever, such a thing as a bargain. Jewelry sellers know what they’re selling and how much it’s worth. They’re not going to sell it for less than it’s worth. If the price seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
Don’t Be Rushed
Never let a seller rush you into making a purchasing decision. If someone tries to tell you that you can buy this $10,000 ring for $1500 – but today only – this raises two red flags: First, the rule I wrote above, “there’s no such thing as a bargain.” Second, the seller is trying to get you to make a rushed (and perhaps not wise) decision. If you go to a jewelry store that is trying to hurry you, leave and go to another store.
Shopping on Vacation
Never make an expensive jewelry purchase while you’re traveling. It’s often not possible to go back to the seller should any problems arise. I am a big fan of buying souvenirs of your trip: If you find a little shop with gorgeous hand-knotted necklaces on a remote island, go for it! I love that stuff too! But this is not the time to purchase a huge emerald ring.
One thing that waves a big red flag to me is a funny sounding gemstone name. I’m especially alert if a place/locality name is put in front of a familiar gemstone name. There are some legitimate and amazing stones with place names, such as Burmese ruby, Colombian emerald, and Ceylon sapphire, but if someone tries to sell you Russian jade, it’s probably not jade. Be skeptical of these gemstone names and do a little more research before making your purchase.
Buy a Jeweler’s Loupe
I strongly recommend that all jewelry fans purchase a 10x jewelry loupe, and learn how to use it. Even an inexpensive one will help you to examine a piece of jewelry closely to look for defects. Not to mention, walking into a store with your own loupe sends the signal that you’re a serious jewelry buyer – not a bad thing at all!
Know Your Rights as a Consumer
In the United States, there are guidelines for selling jewelry established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Most other countries have very similar laws or guidelines concerning jewelry sales. According to the FTC, a jewelry seller must disclose to a customer any treatments that have been used on a gemstone that affect its value or durability. I’ve provided a terminology list below to help you understand what you’re buying.
Never be afraid to ask the seller questions. You should walk away with your new purchase knowing exactly what you have. You should know the metal(s) used in the piece, if it has been plated, the gemstones used, the enhancements that the gemstones have undergone, and how the jewelry should be cared for. Some gemstones such as pearls, opals, and emeralds, require special care.
imitation: Any material that is meant to look like a gemstone. Can be glass, plastic, cubic zirconia, etc.
natural: Gemstone created by nature, not man. This can be a confusing term, because natural gemstones can be treated. Natural does not necessarily mean untreated.
untreated: A gemstone that has not be enhanced to improve its appearance or durability.
coated: Has been coated/sprayed with a thin surface layer to change the stone’s color or to add iridescence.
stabilized: Treated with resin, wax, or some other material to improve durability. Stones that are commonly stabilized include turquoise and magnesite.
Common Gemstone Color and Clarity Enhancements
irradiation – Stones are exposed to radiation to change the color, usually to darken the color. This often provides a more stable color than the stone had naturally. Commonly irradiated stones include smoky quartz and blue topaz.
heat-treatment – Stones are heated and held at a high temperature to change (usually darken) the color. Commonly heat-treated stones include citrine and sapphire.
oiling – A process done at high pressure to pull oil into a stone’s micro-fractures and reduce the appearance of inclusions. Sometimes done using colored oil to enhance the color of the stone. This is a common treatment done to emeralds.
glass-filling – Micro-fractures in a stone are filled with glass to reduce the appearance of inclusions. Sometimes done to rubies or diamonds. These stones must be treated with care when being cleaned or repaired.
Next Time on Faux or Fabulous…
I’ll be delving into more detail about one of the world’s most popular gemstones: JADE. Watch my blog for the next exciting chapter!