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Jewelry and gems
The Buying Guide
How to buy diamonds, pearls, colored gemstones, gold and jewelry with confidence and knowledge?
Becoming Intimate with Gems
Gems should never be bought as a gamble, uneducated consumer will always lose. This is a basic rule of thumb. The best way to take the gamble out of buying a particular gem is to familiarize yourself with gem. While the average consumer can’t hope to make the same precise judgments as a qualified gemologist, whose scientific training and wealth of practical experience provide a far greater data base from which to operate, the consumer can learn to judge a stone as a “total personality” and learn what the critical factors are, color, clarity (also referred to in the trade a “perfection”), cut, brilliance, weight, and how to balance them in judging the gem’s value. Learning about these factors and spending time in the marketplace looking, listing, and asking questions before making the purchase will prepare you o be a wise buyer more likely more likely to get what you really want, at a fair price.
Try to learn as much as you can about the gem you want to buy. Examine stones owned by your family and friends, and compare stones at several different jewelry stores, including online jewelry stores, noticing differences in shades of colors, brilliance, and cut. Go to a good established jewelry store and ask to see fine stones. If the prices vary, ask why. Let the jeweler point out differences in color, cut, or brilliance, and if he can’t, go to another jeweler with greater expertise. Begin to develop an eye for what constitute a fine stone by looking, listening, and asking good questions.
Five key questions to ask yourself initially before you consider buying any stone are:
Is the color what you desire?
Is the shape what you want?
does it have liveliness, or “Zip”?
Do you like it and feel excited by it?
Can you afford it?
If you answer yes to all five questions, you are ready to examine the specific stone more carefully.
The six steps in examining a stone:
Whenever possible, examine stones unmounted. They can be examined more thoroughly out of their settings, and defects cannot be hidden by mounting or side stones.
Make sure the gem is clean. If buying a stone from a retail jeweler, ask that it can be cleaned for you. If you are not some-place where it can be cleaned professionally, breathe on the stone in a huffing manner in order to steam it with your breath and then wipe it with a clean handkerchief. This will at least remove the superficial film grease.
Hold the unmounted stone so that your fingers touch only the girdle. Putting your fingers on the table (top) and/or pavilion (bottom) will leave traces of oil, which will affect color and brilliance.
The careful use of tweezers instead of fingers is recommended only if you feel comfortable using them. Make sure you know how to use them and get the permission of the owner before picking up the stone. It is easy for the stone to pop out of the tweezers and become damaged or lost, and you could be held responsible.
View the gem under proper lighting. Many jewelers use numerous incandescent spotlights, usually recessed in dropped ceilings. Some use special spotlights that can make any gemstone, even glass imitations, look fantastic.
Fluorescent lights may adversely affect the appearance of some gems. Diamonds will not show as much fire under fluorescent lighting, and colored gems such as rubies, look much better in daylight or under incandescent light.
The light source should come from above or behind you, shining down and through the stone, so that the light traveling through the stone is reflected back up to your eye.
Rotate the stone in order to view it from different angles.
If using a loupe, focus it both on the surface and into the interior. To focus into the interior, shift the stone slowly, raising or lowering it, until you focus clearly on all depths within it. This is important because if you focus on the top only, you won’t see what is in the interior of the stone.
How to use a Loupe?
A loupe (pronounced loop) is a special type of magnifying glass used by an experienced jeweler or gemologist. The use of the loupe can be very helpful in many situations, even for a beginner. With a loupe you can check a stone for chips or scratches or examine certain types of noticeable inclusions more closely. Remember, however, that even with a loupe, you will not have the knowledge or skill to see or understand the many telltale indicators that an experienced jeweler or gemologist could spot. No book can provide you with that knowledge or skill. Do not allow yourself to be deluded or let a little knowledge give you a false confidence. Nothing will more quickly alienate a reputable jeweler or mark you faster as easy prey for the disreputable dealer.
The loupe is a very practical tool to use once you master it, and with practice it will become more and more valuable. The correct type is a 10X, or ten-power, “triplet” which can be obtained from any optical supply house. The triplet-type is recommended because it corrects two problems other types of magnifiers have: The presence of the traces of color normally found in the outer edge of the lens; and visual distortion, also usually at the outer edge of the lens. In addition, the loupe must have a black housing around the lens, not chrome or gold, either of which might affect the color you see in the stone.
The loupe must be 10X because the Federal Trade Commission in the United States requires grading to be done under 10-power magnification. Any flaw that does not show up under 10X magnification is considered nonexistent for grading purposes.
With a few minutes’ practice you can easily learn to use the loupe. Here is how:
Hold the loupe between the thumb and forefinger of either hand.
Hold the stone or jewelry similarly in the other hand.
Bring both hands together so that the fleshy parts just below the thumbs are pushed together and braced by the lower portion of each hand just above the wrists (the wrist portion is actually a pivot point).
Now move the hands up your nose or cheek, with the loupe as close to the eye as possible. If you wear glasses, you d not have to remove them.
Get a steady hand. With gems it’s very important to have steady hands for careful examination. With your hands still together and braced against your face, put your elbows on a table. (If a table is not available, brace your arms against your chest or rip cage.) If you do this properly you will have a steady hand.
Practice with the loupe, keeping approximately one inch (more or less) from the eye, and about an inch from the object being examined. Learn to see through it clearly. A 10 X loupe is difficult to focus initially, but with a little practice it will become easy. You can practice on any object that is difficult to see, pores in your skin, a strand of hair, pinhead, or your own jewelry.
Play with the item being examined. Rotate it slowly, tilt it back and forth while rotating it, look at it from different angles and different directions. It won’t take long before you are able to focus easily on anything you wish to examine. If you aren’t sure about your technique, a knowledgeable jeweler will be happy to help you learn to use the loupe correctly.
What the loupe can tell you?
With practice and experience (and further education if you’re really serious), a loupe can tell even the amateur a great deal. For a gemologist it can help determine whether the stone is natural, synthetic, glass, or a doublet (a composite stone) and reveal characteristics flaws, blemishes, or cracks. In other words, the loupe can provide the necessary information to help you know whether the stone is in fact what it si supposed to be.
For the beginner, the loupe is useful in seeing:
The workmanship that went into the cutting. For example, is the symmetry of the stone balanced? Does it have the proper number of facets for its cut? Is the proportion good? Few cutters put the same time and care into cutting glass as they do into a diamond.
Chips, cracks, or scratches on the facet edges, planes, or table. While zircon, for example looks very much like diamond because of its pronounced brilliance and relative hardness, it chips easily. Therefore, careful examination of a zircon will often show chipping, especially around the table edges and girdle. Glass, which is very soft, will often show scratches. Normal wear can cause it to chip or become scratched. Also, if you check around the prongs, the setter to hold the stone.
In such stones as emeralds, the loupe can also help you determine whether or not any natural cracks are really serious, how close they are to the surface, how deep they run, or how many are readily visible.
The sharpness of the facet edges. Harder stones will have a sharper edge, or sharper boundaries between adjoining planes or facets, whereas many imitations are softer and under the loupe the edges between facets are less sharp and have a more rounded appearance.
Bubbles, inclusions, and flaws. Many flaws and inclusions that cannot be seen with naked eye are easily seen with the loupe. But remember, many are not easily seen unless you are very experienced. The presence of inclusion is not as serious in colored stones as in diamonds, and they don’t usually significantly reduce the value of the stone. However, the kind of inclusion seen in colored stones can be important. they often provide the necessary key to positive identification, determine whether a stone is natural or synthetic, and possibly locate the origin of the stone, which may significantly affect the value. With minimal experience, the amateur can also learn to spot the characteristics bubbles and swirl lines associated with glass.
The loupe can tell you a great deal about the workmanship that went into cutting a gem. It can help a professional decide whether a gem is natural, synthetic, a doublet, or glass. It can provide the clues about the gem’s authenticity, its durability, and it point of origin. But spotting these clues takes lots of practice and experience.
When you a loupe, remember that you won’t see what the experienced professional will see, but with a little practice, it cn still be a valuable tool which might save you from a costly mistake.
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Buy with confidence at The Jewelry Hut.
To Web Masters:
The article above can be used on your web site or newsletter.
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Bijan Aziz is the owner and Web Master for The Jewelry Hut.
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