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How to Buy Jewelry? Gems

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How to Buy Jewelry? (Part 5) Gems

Before buying any jewelry with gems, you want to familiarize yourself with the various terms used with various gems.  Most important, check over the terms used for substitute gems, especially those of any gems in which you might be interested. Although no reliable jeweler would knowingly pass off one gem for another, if you are going to shop around you are going to have to expect to run into jewelers who may be less fussy.

Keep in mind that you cannot always tell what gem is by looking at it. Emeralds are green.  Also, Tourmalines are green, and that name itself comes from the Singhalese word for mixed gems.  Smoky quartz can outwardly resemble the more precious smoky topaz.  Then, there are the gems of which few consumers have heard, like spinel.

There is no rule of thumb of what you can expect to pay. Any price list today is out of date before it is printed. The only way you can tell what is a fair price is to ask jewelers. If you don’t have a regular jeweler whom you trust, it is even more important to shop around and check the prices of particular gems.  If you want smoky topaz, look at smoky topazes in as many stores as possible to get a general idea of the current price, although prices will vary with size and quality as well as setting. Still, you can get fair idea of fair topazes, or other gems, as possible.

Although the terms “precious gem” and “semi precious gem” have little meaning as the prices of all jewelry increase, the less expensive gems are probably safer buys from the point of view that there is less reason for anyone to try to sell a gem that isn’t what it is supposed to be.  However, some inexpensive gems, such as turquoise and zircon, can have nature improved on by various kinds of treatment, and spinel and garnet can be synthetic.

Another problem in buying jewelry with gems is that the gems are already set.  Once a gem is in the setting, you may not be able to see all the inclusions, nor may an appraiser, because the setting can hide them. A setting can also make up for imperfect cutting.  That doesn’t mean you should buy only unset gems.  The average person can be as taken in by unset gems as by set ones. It does mean that where you buy can be more important than how to buy.

Still and all, there are some precautions you can take in shopping around and looking at gems. These precautions hold particularly true for diamonds, which are most common gem purchased, and for few other stones.

  • Buying diamonds.
  • A diamond is not a diamond, any more than all that glitters is gold. There are two broad categories of diamonds, gem and industrial diamonds, and the first is the one that concerns the consumer.

The term “gem diamonds,” however, covers a broad spectrum of quality, based on the four Cs of clarity, color, cut, and carat weight.  Although the terminology can vary from store to store and country to country, more and more jewelers in the United States are using the standards and terminology established by the Gemological Institute of America, GIA.  These and other standards and terminology you may hear or see. Granted, you may find still other terms, but any reliable jeweler should be able to translate his terminology into GIA terms, particularly if he has taken GIA courses.  The GIA standards and GIA quality certificates, incidentally, are accepted and may be used worldwide, especially for investment diamonds.

Investment diamonds are at the very top of the standards used to judge gem diamonds.  At the lower end are jewelry diamonds, the diamonds you are most likely to find in jewelry. In Between are diamonds that are too good for ordinary jewelry. Hey are used in the best jewelry but are not good enough for investment purpose.

Although buying diamonds for investment purposes is entirely different from buying diamond jewelry and diamonds for jewelry, whose purpose is adornment, you should be aware of, and be aware, talk of investing in diamonds for the sake of diamonds. Diamonds have been bought by investors in other countries and are beginning to be thought of as being investments in the United States because of their dramatic increase in value over the past few years.

What you want to beware, as mentioned before, is the fact that the diamonds that have increased in value so much are the top quality stones and not all diamonds. As has been pointed out by a well-known diamond expert broker, an investment diamond must be flawless, be of top color (D – H on the color table), and at least 1 carat in size.  Cut and color are more important to a diamond’s attractiveness in jewelry than minor inclusions that can be hidden by a setting, but even the tiniest inclusions can lower a diamond’s value as an investment.

You also want to be aware that diamonds meeting the investment criteria are rarely found in jewelry. For one thing, they are usually bought before they can reach the jeweler.  For another, the cost at retail, often 100 percent above wholesale price, would not only make such a diamond prohibitive in price to the average consumer but also mean that the diamond would have to be held a considerably longer time.  In addition, prices would have to rise much more dramatically for the average consumer to break even on his investment.

Buying investment diamonds, therefore, means going to a wholesaler, whom the average consumer doesn’t know and doesn’t have access to. In addition, a wholesaler must be picked with all the care of a retail jeweler. All the experts in, a wholesaler must be picked with all the care of a retail jeweler.

Despite the fact that investing in diamonds is a subject far too complicated, if you thinking of diamonds in this sense, you want to:

  • Consider only diamonds of very top quality, color and cut and of at least 1 carat in size. The smaller the stone, the less demand there is for it and the less it will get on resale.
  • Buy the stone out of the setting, if possible. The gem must be removed from its setting for GIA certificate anyway.
  • Make sure the seller gives you a GIA diamond certificate attesting to the four Cs. With so much money at stake and so few people knowing much about diamonds, there is always the possibility of fraud.  A company or person that will take thousands of dollars of your money without providing GIA, and only GIA, certification of quality may not always be fraudulent but should be treated warily.
  • Try to get a Gemprint, which is a photograph made with a laser beam that “fingerprints” the stone.  No two diamonds are ever exactly alike, and the Gemprint is proof both of the gem’s authenticity and identification.
  • Plan to keep the diamond for at least two years. Diamonds are a long-term investment.
  • Above all, make sure you can afford the investment and the gamble that diamond values will continue to go up. Diamonds, particularly those rare top quality stones, may continue to increase in price, but they can always go down in value for a number reasons. One reason is a recession. Another reason is that some dealers feel prices are so high they will have to level off or no one will be able to afford diamonds.
    Many of the above points pertain to buying diamond jewelry and diamonds for jewelry, too.  To begin with, you want to familiarize yourself with the terminology. Then, you have to consider how much money you want or have to spend, keeping in mind that you will have a far greater selection of diamonds to choose from for jewelry than you have for investment purposes.
    The benchmark in price is one carat regardless of the kind of diamond.  The smaller the stone, the less valuable it is and the less value it has.
    Size is the first factor to consider because of its relationship to price. The second factor is color.  Colors D – H are the whitest, most transparent stones. The problem with color is that it can be deceiving. The color you se may not be what you get, depending on lighting, the background against which you look at the diamond, and the setting of the gem.

A well know diamond expert whose firm buys only investment diamonds, offers the following suggestions for jewelry buyers:

  • Look at the diamond only under direct lighting.  That means real light, which may be daylight or pure white fluorescence. Blue light will make any diamond sparkle with the desirable blue fire, and any diamond looks good in simulated candlelight. In addition, never buy a diamond at night, when no daylight is available.
  • Look at diamond against an off white or white background.  The best diamonds are transparent, even those that may be tinged with yellow, and the slightly off white will give a better idea of the true color than any other color background.  By the same token, yellow surroundings may make even the bluest-white diamond appear yellow. Thus, the background against which you look at a diamond can change the color or give the illusion that the stone is whiter or more transparent than it actually is.
  • Look at the top of the diamond, how the table disperses and refracts the light, to see how much fire and dispersion the diamond has.
  • Look at the diamond at a 45-degree angle to the crown, the 1/3 of the diamond above the girdle or setting, to tell the color. The top or table is only an indication of brilliance.
  • Try to buy or look at the diamond unset. A setting can hide inclusions. In addition, a diamond with a yellow tint will look better in a yellow gold setting, while a white diamond will look better in a white gold or platinum setting. Remember, a setting can hide inclusions, making it look better in the setting than it may look unset.
  • With a diamond of 1 carat or larger, insist on a GIA certificate.  Any reliable jeweler should get you one for a small fee. Even though you are not investing in diamonds, the GIA certificate is your assurance that the diamond is what it is supposed to be, what the jeweler tells you, and what is written on your sales receipt. Although the gem will not be appraised for price, it will be appraised for all the other qualities. Most, if not all, reliable jewelers will be willing to get you the certificate for a small fee that is well worth it considering what you are spending. In any case, your sale receipt should specify what the diamond is, as far as the four Cs go, and you should make sure it does or that you are given a certificate that spells them out.  Both will also come in handy for insurance. In this case make sure you get a complete sales receipt, identifying the diamond exactly.

Based on these criteria, what you may have to decide is whether size or quality is more important, depending on what you can afford.  Is size important? You may have to settle for an included stone with a slight yellow tint, if you want a diamond of 1 carat or larger. Is color important? You may have to settle for a white (D – H color) diamond, with a number of flaws depending on the size and cut. Is clarity important? You may have to settle for a very, very slightly include diamond of lesser color, again depending on size and cut. The Prices of these examples may be the same or so similar that there is little difference.  So, how do you decide?
No jeweler or expert can answer the question of which is the better diamond because each has its own drawbacks. One stone is better from the point of view of size, another from color, and another from clarity. Still, color is what the average person sees.  Clarity is actually less important for jewelry, as long as the inclusions do not interfere with the gem’s fire or brilliance. On the other hand, you may go along with the people who prefer a colored or “fancy” diamond and truly yellow diamonds, what are called “canary,” are as valuable as any fine white diamond of equal clarity. They may be more expensive, because they are rarer.

The decision is therefore, is one only you can make.

The GIA also appraises diamonds for individuals. You must make an appointment, however, because although laboratory facilities are extensive in equipment they are limited in size and space.  In addition, the diamond must be at least 1 carat and must be un-mounted.

To be continued in Part 6.

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To Web Masters:

The article above can be used on your web site or newsletter.

When it is published, may I request that you include my name and resource box (the bio, contact and copyright information) that follows the article. I would also appreciate if you could send me an email of notification along with a complimentary copy of the publication.

Copyright 2005 Bijan Aziz.

Bijan Aziz is the owner and Web Master for The Jewelry Hut

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