Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gemstone Buying Tips

Gemstone jewelry is beautiful and if well cared for can last centuries. Here are some ways to get the best gemstone jewelry for your money.

Gemstone Jewelry Pricing

Gemstone price is determined by: size, cut, quality (color/clarity/treatments), and type. Here are some questions to ask about gemstone quality:

  • Questions on Gemstone Size
    • How big is the actual gemstone?
    • Will the gemstone be too big or too small for the intended setting?

  • Questions on a Gems Cut
    • What type of gemstone cut? A well dimensioned "Brilliant" cut sparkles the most.
    • How regular is the gemstones cut?
    • What are the dimensions of a cut? The deeper (total depth) the gems cut, the more it will sparkle.

  • Questions on Gems Overall Quality
    • Are the gems damaged? Are there noticable chips, inclusions, or marks?
    • Has the gemstone been treated? (See treatments listed below)
    • Is the gem natural or synthetic?

  • Questions on Gemstone Color
    • Is the gemstones color even?
    • How good is the gems color? (Is it vibrant?)
    • If you are buying the gemstones for earrings or cufflinks, are the gem stones well matched?

Gemstone Treatments

Jewelry dealers may treat gemstones in hopes of gettng a higer price. The savvy buyer asks lots of questions and hopefully tests the results. Here are some gemstone treatments to look for:

  • Coatings: Jasper is often dipped in petroleum products to bring out color and to seal it. Emerald is oiled; turquoise is waxed.
  • Dye: This is the most common treatment used. On clear gemstones, dye may be visible in cracks that are darker than the rest of the stone. Sometimes dye appears as a residue that rubs off or white patches. Lapis and Rose Quartz are commonly dyed. Amethyst and Citrine are often dyed. Black Onyx is permanently dyed in normal processing.
  • Fake Gem Stones: Some dealers will try passing off fake gems instead of natural ones. There are fake stones for most gemstones on the market. Always ask what gemstone something is if you are not certain. Honest dealers will tell you. If a gemstone looks too perfect it may be fake, irradiated or dyed. I avoid laboratory made products also known as synthetics (unless getting a really good discount).
  • Gemstone Swap: When a deal seems too good to be true, the dealer may be substitutiong one gemstone for another. For example, dyed Howlite is often substituted for Lavendar Jade.
  • Heat Treatment: Amethyst, Aquamarine, Ruby, Tanzanite and Topaz are often heated at high temperatures to enhance color.
  • Irradiation: It is common to irradiate Aquamarine, London Blue Topaz, Emerald, and Diamond as well as other gem stones. This treatment brings out color and removes imperfections. Many dealers know if the gemstones they are selling have been irradiated. Honest ones will tell you if they are aware of the treatment.

Tips on buying gemstone beads

  • Look for the best quality gemstone (if buying real gemstones)
  • Verify that the cracks in a gemstone bead are not darker than the bead itself (if so, the bead is dyed)
  • If the beads are being sold in a 16" strand -- I make sure it is 16" -- not 14" or 15" if possible.
  • Make sure beads are not cracked or chipped by the holes as this tears the thread
  • Evenly shaped beads (as appropriate)
  • Good color (so can create harmonious necklaces and matching earrings)
  • Good sized holes (so can use a stronger thread)

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