Gemstones Buying Guide
Who knew that something found in dirt could be both beautiful and expensive? While they don't come straight out of the ground looking shiny enough to wear on a necklace ,gemstones can be cut and polished to make them worthy of being called precious. And depending on the durability, rarity, size and colour, these jewels can have some precious price tags too. Use this guide to help you determine which gemstone is best for your special occasion and your budget.
If you've got more specific questions, try checking out our Diamond Buying Guide, Pearl Buying Guide and our Gemstone Shape Guide.
What to Look For
Like diamonds , gemstones are classified by the four c's : cut, colour, clarity and carat weight. But unlike their white counterparts, the ways in which these categories are interpreted varies.
- Cut: The overall look of a stone is often determined by the angles and proportions of its facets. In coloured gemstones, diamond cutting focuses most on maximizing the stone's natural colour.
- Colour: This is the most important factor in evaluating gemstones, as those with the most vivid colours often have the highest prices. And because specific gemstones only occur in certain colours, it's best to evaluate the colour by comparing one gemstone to others of its kind.
- Carat Weight: While size affects the weight of a stone--measured in carats --other properties can affect density, and in turn, also affect weight. This means that two stones of the same size could technically have different weights and for this reason, coloured gemstones are often listed by size instead.
- Clarity: While clarity is proof of the natural origin of the stone--flaws created by the earth's pressure affect clarity--it can also affect the overall look and price of the stone. Some internal flaws may be less noticeable depending on the colour.
Questions To Ask When Buying
- Is the stone natural or synthetic?
- Are there any noticeable scratches, chips or other inclusions?
- Has it been treated?
- Is the colour vivid and even throughout the entire stone?
Caring for Your Gemstones
Like any other piece of jewellery, your gemstone pieces need to be taken special care of in order to preserve their shine and colour. Here are some tips for cleaning, storing and wearing your favourite gem pieces.
- Avoid potentially damaging activities like sports, yard work or using household cleaners.
- Avoid swimming in your jewellery as chlorine can distort the colours of more porous gemstones and can potentially loosen their settings.
- Remove jewellery before applying make-up or hairspray.
- For most gemstone jewellery, a warm water rinse is sufficient for cleaning. You can scrub the stones with a soft brush, but make sure to rinse them thoroughly and allow plenty of time to dry by laying them on a soft cloth.
- Some opaque stones, like lapis and turquoise, should only be wiped clean with a moist cloth. Soap or other cleaning chemicals can discolour them easily because of their porous nature.
- Store jewellery separately so it doesn't get scratched by other pieces.
- Avoid direct sunlight to protect from colour fading. This means no window sills.
- Avoid extreme temperatures that can disturb jewellery settings. This means no heating vents or car dashboards.
- Lay beaded necklaces (like pearls) flat so as to avoid stretching over time.
How Dealers Treat Them
Dealers can treat their gemstones in a variety of ways. It's important to know what treatment options are out there so you know the right questions to ask when shopping.
- Irradiation brings out colour and removes imperfections. This is common for vibrantly coloured stones like aquamarine, topaz, and emerald.
- Dying is the most common treatment used on gemstones. Lapis, rose quartz and black onyx are often dyed as a part of their normal processing.
- Coating gemstones often helps to seal the stone and bring out colour. Coating substances are often petroleum or wax based products.
- A specially regulated heat treatment can bring out the colour in some stones as well.
Gemstones for All Occasions
The Zodiac is popularly associated with gemstones, as it predicts a particular stone for each month or astrological sign . It is said that wearing the stone of your sign will focus the energies of the sign through the gem and enable the wearer to express those energies in everyday life.
There are also certain gemstones that are appropriate for anniversaries. Below is a table courtesy of Overstock.com that denotes a stone for every year up to your 80th! Let's hope all romances last that long.
The Real Deal
Gemstones can be natural, genuine or synthetic. It's important to understand the labels and be able to spot the differences between them.
Natural and Genuine
- Natural gemstones have been taken straight from the ground to the store. They may have been cut and polished along the way, but have undergone no other treatments.
- Genuine gemstones may have been lightly treated.
- Both natural and genuine gemstones are more highly valued than their synthetic counterparts.
Synthetic gemstones have most of the same qualities as natural or genuine gemstones, but were manufactured in a laboratory instead of being fetched from the ground. Be sure you determine whether your jewellery is made from synthetic or real stones so as to avoid paying an unfair price.
- Two kinds of synthetic gemstones exist.
- Some are made to resemble another stone, but do not have the same physical or chemical properties.
- Cubic zirconia and moissanite are diamond look-alikes, for instance, and some jewellery may use coloured crystal or glass to imitate the appearance of real gemstones.
- Some are identical in chemical make-up to the real deal.
- This is especially true of synthetic rubies, emeralds and sapphire.
- Cultured pearls are made just like natural pearls, except the oysters are grown in a lab.
- Pros to going synthetic: They hold up longer and are less expensive.
- Cons to going synthetic: They can get cloudy fast and won't increase in value over time.