Lessons in Gemstone Buying

Back in January, I had posted about what to look for in looking to buy a gemstone.  This is kind of an addendum to that.

– Don’t be afraid to ask too many good questions. One of the problems I often come across is that people are asking questions, but don’t understand the answers they are getting. If you don’t understand something, you should ask the vendor. I often will take massive amounts of time explaining things, so that even if a person walks away without buying something from me, they are more educated. A lot of vendors aren’t willing to do that, so you should take advantage of a person who is willing to share their knowledge. I’m a firm believer in “Leaving a place better than how I found it” which means if you ask me a question, I’ll do my best to educate you even further than just answering the question you’ve asked. Get educated about your purchases! You’ll make better, more informed purchases and likely save yourself time and money!

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Treatment. Size. Clarity. Origin. Modifiers. Things like that.

– A better understanding of general colored stone terms (as opposed to diamond terms) and terms when describing rings and pendants. Again, and I can’t reiterate this enough, ask questions. If you don’t know what something means, ask! If they don’t know the answers to your questions, walk away until you find someone who does.

– Not verifying the return policy because sometimes what’s online isn’t current or detailed enough. You should always verify the return policy before you make a purchase.

– Not seeing the gem in various lighting conditions. Different light temperatures are going to make the stone look different. You need to make sure that you are happy with all of the stone’s different looks. Or, if not all of the looks, at least most of them. A stone isn’t going to look nice in a pitch black room if you can even see it at all!

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Incandescent.

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Diffused daylight.

– Always put something on hold before discussing it publicly. There are people out there who might see what you are looking at, and buy it out from under you. Most vendors work on a “first come, first served” basis. If you don’t put something on hold, and then post about it publicly it might just sell out from under you.

– Expecting flawless or loupe clean clarity, especially in gems such as spinel, emerald, ruby and sapphire. If you want one of those to be flawless, buy synthetic.

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Not flawless, but it is eyeclean. Green Garnet.

– Don’t go to multiple sources looking for the same stone. This industry is very small. It is nothing but frustrating if you ask multiple people for the same thing, and they happen to start talking, and discover that they are looking for the same stone for the same client. Often, they will both give up on the search.

– Depending on the type of gem box that your vendor uses, you will probably want to open them upside down, above a soft surface, such as a low pile carpet, or best, on top of a made bed.

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I know of too many people who have opened a box outside, and the gem falls into the grass or through slats in a deck, never to be seen again. Also, use something thin and flat to open the gem box.

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I typically grab whatever is available, in this case, a ruler.

They put little slots on the sides to slide something in, and twist it to open.

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Little twist of the ruler and it pops right off!

The end of the gem tweezers are best, but you can use thing like paper clips just as easily.

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These spinels are safe and sound, in the lid of their box.

– You should look at a gemstone on your hand. I don’t have any gemholders, and I don’t suggest that people use them either. The spring type (the ones that look sort of like a ring) can very easily and very badly damage a stone.

I know that there are more tips and tricks for gemstone buying, but these are a good start. The absolute best tip I can give though is to buy what you like, and don’t be swayed by the “trade ideal”. If you don’t like what the trade finds to be ideal, you’re more likely to get a better deal on what you do buy.

Random note! Since I’ve been getting a ton of inquiries about the coupon code for my etsy store I decided to post it again, so here it is: “AUTUMN2015” (no quotes). It is good for 15% off purchases of $100 or more until November 1.

Next week is going to be all about the new line! By next Monday, all of the pages should be up for six of the rings, so make sure and keep your eyes peeled this week – Aurore, Exaltée and Feuilles Dorées will make their online debut!

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Lapidaries

I have a few favorite lapidaries, but I’m always on the lookout for new ones. I do tend to go for precision cut stones over non-precision cut stones, but so long as a gem is cut well, and sparkly, that’s the most important part. But, if all else is equal, I’ll chose a perfectly cut stone over a non-perfectly stone. Which is where those lapidaries who slave over their laps come in!

For a little bit about some lapidaries I have had experience with….

Barry Bridgestock of Artistic Colored Stones
Barry is fantastic. Barry watches a lot of baseball while he’s cutting stones. He is one of the most personable cutters I have had the pleasure of working with, and an amazing lapidary on top of that. I would tell you to run, don’t walk over to ACS to see what he has in stock – if he cut it, it’s sure to be beautiful. His website is a bit…old fashioned, but his cutting is worth it!
Artistic Colored Stones

Dan Stair of Custom Gemstones
Dan and Cindi are a great pair. Dan used to be a graphic designer, and his photographs are typically more on the artistic side. However, he recently started using videos on his site, and I cannot commend him enough for doing something that so few vendors do. Video is really the best way to see how a gemstone performs. I adore Dan’s step cuts, and he does not cut highly treated material.
Custom Gemstones

Gene Flanigan of Precision Gem
Gene is an engineer by trade, and can be a bit gruff at times. However, his cutting is wonderful, and some people absolutely flock to him and won’t purchase from anyone else. I think his cutting is top-notch and can absolutely see why people are drawn to his stones.
Precision Gem

John Burleyson of GemRite
John has recently been upping his game on the rough, and has been producing some larger rare stones. His cutting is wonderful, he posts videos for some of his stones and he is incredibly nice.
GemRite

Peter Torraca of Torraca Gemcutting
I love Peter. He’s exceptionally kind and posts great blogs himself, plus has an excellent Facebook presence. I loved watching his gradual heating of a red zircon, and always point people to his post about how to open gem boxes. Not to mention his skill at the lap, which is awesome!
Torraca Gemcutting

Gary Braun of Finewater Gems
I have nothing but good things to say about Gary. He’s an absolute doll to work with, and usually has some amazing and rare stones that he found on gem buying trips overseas but refuses to recut for fear of loss of face up size or the risk isn’t worth it. His cutting is absolutely wonderful and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from him again.
Finewater Gems

Dana Reynolds of Master Cut Gems
I actually have not purchased directly from Dana, but the only reason is because he didn’t have what I wanted at the time, and I always seem to miss out on stuff when I see something I like on his site. He is incredibly knowledgeable, and pleasant to talk to.
Master Cut Gems

Jeff White of White’s Gems
I’ve bought only one stone directly from Jeff, but he is absolutely wonderful and a fantastic cutter. He will bend over backwards to get what you’re looking for, but if he custom cuts for you (and that’s a vast majority of his work) you will have to pay a non-refundable deposit.
White’s Gems

And because I do my best to put photos in every post, some samples of their work. Check out the crown height on this blue spinel from Barry!

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A rubellite tourmaline from Gene.

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Montana sapphire from Dan Stair and a Merelani Mint Garnet from Barry.

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A asscher spinel from Peter

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Special shout out to Stephanie for the idea for this post!

This will be my last post of 2014! See you all in 2015!

Gem Blast: Moonstone & Sapphires

I’ve been helping a friend with a moonstone project for a while, serving as her personal shopper at times, and acting as a sort of consultant at other times. I have always loved moonstone with a blue sheen to it because it looked so mysterious and almost magical, but I have never bought one or owned one. In the process of helping her look, I have learned a lot about what makes an excellent moonstone. I also ended up buying one of my own.

Ideal moonstones are translucent, and have good blue shimmer. The best ones have a blue shimmer no matter what angle it’s viewed at. Moonstone is a pretty cheap gemstone in general, but it’s surprisingly difficult to find an excellent one.

As usual, for part of this journey, I enlisted my amazing friend Erin of Willajune Jewelry for excellent company and another set of eyes. I may have been pestering her to feature her here on my blog…more on that a little later.

These were three stones that I pulled for my friend. I preferred the left oval for her, but went out on a limb with the right oval. She wasn’t looking for a moonstone that showed a full rainbow, just wanting one that showed blue. So the right was dismissed almost immediately.

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I discovered that taking pictures of these stones is really quite difficult, even more so than your average faceted stone.

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These stones are super deep.

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So the middle stone was the top  choice…until I put it on my hand. Which was when I noticed the dark inclusions. Before this, they had been on the black velvet, where these were totally camouflaged.

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This pear moonstone ended up being the one that she liked the most, but in the end she still wasn’t completely enamored.

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So it came home with me. Erin is actually going to set this into a necklace for me at some point.

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Basic quick sketches I was playing with for it. I will probably give it up to Erin to figure it out though.

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And now, from the same shopping trip, some random pictures of sapphires I took while we were there. This one is a larger blue sapphire that has a lot of silk, and a couple inclusions/indented naturals that some might think mar the appearance of the stone, but I love the color, so I don’t think I’d complain about the inclusions on this one.

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A pair of pale blue sapphires totaling over 13.5 carats. I’m dying to go back, grab these and design a pair of really awesome earrings around them.

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You might recognize the purple sapphire in this photograph. It is the same sapphire as in this post.

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So, as I hinted at in the beginning of this post, I WILL have an upcoming post talking about Erin and willajunejewelry, so be on the lookout for that in a near future post!