Gemstones: What to look for

So, buying gemstones is a tricky business. I’ve been doing it for many years, but I’m still far from being an expert at it.

Now, having said that, I do have some guidelines that I try to follow when I am after something. There are just too many variables for an easy how-to kind of guide the way diamonds have. There isn’t a lot of set pricing for various colored gemstones, so you have to do a lot of research to know if you’re getting a good deal or at least a fair deal.

Color
Color dictates everything. Red, especially pure red stones will be the most expensive stones you can buy. Pure blues, greens, yellows, and beautiful pinks won’t be far behind. Oranges are also very difficult to find, and are typically best found in garnets, but occasionally a great orange sapphire will come around.

Cut
This is something that’s different for everyone. I can overlook cut flaws for great color, some people are not as lenient as I am.

Clarity
This is something else that’s different for everyone. I don’t mind some inclusions, especially if they are cool looking (bubbles in spinels! Horsetail inclusions in demantoids!) but some people want completely clean and flaw-free. With most colored stones, this just isn’t possible. Not only that, but inclusions can help indicate the treatment level of a stone.

Size/Carat/Dimensions
Always buy by dimensions! Sapphires, for instance, are very dense and heavy, which means that 1ct will face up smaller than stones that are less dense.

Price
What is your budget for the project? How much does the gem in the size and color you desire typically cost? How savvy of a negotiator are you? You aren’t going to find a well cut, ideal blue with violet secondary in the 5ct range for $1k, unless it’s a fakey.

Treatment
Gemstones are constantly being treating in new and interesting ways that would lend to better color and clarity, not to mention making fakes. So the labs out there are having to stay on top if new treatments and innovative ways to, lets face it, scam people (ugh, the jewelry industry has such a bad rap when it comes to this topic!). The gems that are worth the most come out of the ground as you see them. There are different levels of heating, and other type of treatment – so many that I won’t got into all of them here. The GIA and AGL websites have tons of information on treatments.

Helpful hints:
1. If you’re buying a sapphire, ruby or emerald of a larger size, get a lab report.
2. Ask questions and ask for more pictures. If the seller doesn’t know the answers to the questions, and doesn’t seem to care about getting you the information you need, I’d reconsider doing business with them.
3. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of buying the gemstone variety you’re looking at. Blue topaz is almost always irradiated. Emeralds are almost always oil treated. Sapphires are almost always heated. Garnets and spinels typically aren’t treated (although lately there are rumors of heat treatment for color and clarity enhancement.) Look for comparables. I always go to reputable seller’s sites and compare compare compare. I try to find at least 3 other stones of similar size, shape, color.  If you’re after something really rare, this is harder than it sounds.
4. Ask outsiders for help! If you don’t know, ask someone else! Develop relationships with jewelers and utilize their knowledge. Ask for my help!
5. Understand that if someone acts like an expert on everything, they probably aren’t. Most jewelers are not well versed in gemstones because they aren’t as popular as diamonds.
6. Google is your friend. Seriously, I google stuff all of the time!
7. Don’t buy from the TV stations.
8. Buy what you like.
9. Manage your expectations!

Two unheated 5ctish Aquas. Blue is precision cut, green is not. Both are glorious in their own ways!

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9 thoughts on “Gemstones: What to look for

  1. Will you help me find a gray spinel please? Or maybe two. Or three. They are sooo beautiful. But I need help on this journey to find The One(s) as I am getting confused about what my expectations are and what seems to be available (which does not seem to be much). P. S. thanks for the post on gray spineIs.

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  2. Thanks!!! I am looking for something wow for a ring that makes people take a second look. Round or cushion. And not too small as my fingers are not dainty. Maybe 7mm. I like your stones which you have rated 3 and 5 in colour on one of your posts. I like all of them very much, but those ones caught my eye more. The quality must be good, precision cut and a clean stone, but I think that the very best is out of my price range.
    I have seen a stone which does not look very promising in the photo, but the description and provenance sound very good. Would you mind taking a look please and giving me your opinion please? And would you mind emailing me so I cam email you back the url please as I am reluctant to ‘advertise’ the whereabouts of it 😉 liz

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    1. I have looked at some Montana sapphires, but I haven’t been able to find a pure gray one that really spoke to me. Part of my problem is that I like bigger stones and typically Montana sapphs just aren’t big enough for what I want. If I found one I loved though, I wouldn’t hesitate to snatch it up! Or a nice green sapphire. That is also on my “to do list”.

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