Saturday, August 26, 2006

Gemstone Terms that Every Jewelry Buyer Needs

Photo: Natural Topaz

I recently went to a local mall and visited every jewelry store there. I was amazed at the lack of knowledge that every store attendant I talked to had about gemstones.

At one store I asked, already knowing the answer, what a particular stone was and how much it cost. The clerk told me it was cat's eye and it was $299. I asked "Cat's eye what? Cat's eye isn't a gemstone name. It is an adjective." She said "No, it is just called cat's eye". I gave up trying to explain at this point and just left.

In order to protect you from on onslaught of misinformation, I wrote this list of common terms used when it comes to gemstones.

Chatoyant: a band of light that moves across the stone as it is turned in a direct light. Tiger's eye is a great example. Synthetic ruby and sapphire are made to do it also.

Synthetic: Lab created to be an exact copy of a naturally occurring material. Synthetic diamonds are physically and chemically identical to natural diamonds.

Imitation: Made to look just like the real thing. An analog of a natural stone. Glass, porcelain, enamels, and other rocks are examples. Other types of imitations are ones with no natural analog. YAG, GGG, and CZ are examples. They are not trying to reproduce or copy a natural stone. They are making them for their own beauty.

Reconstructed & Reconstituted: In part made from real stones. Powder, dust, chips, and splinters are pressed into epoxy or plastic and fashioned into gemstones. Turquoise and Lapis are often reconstructed or reconstituted. Sometimes it is difficult to tell once the stones are polished.

Heat Treated: According to GIA (Gemological Institute of America) 98% of all naturally colored stones are heat treated. Sapphires are all ran through this process just to make sure they can't be improved. This treatment involves heating the stone to burn off any impurities that may be inside. It also has the effect of enhancing the color. If a stone is pale before the process, it will be a much more rich color when it comes out. This is the case with 100% of all Tanzanite. Tanzanite is normally a dull gray-green color until it is heat treated, which turns it the beautiful lavender we all like. (Tanzanite is also oiled to hide all the flaws--100% of the stones have flaws).

Enhanced Color: Any process that changes or improves the color of a stone. Heat treating is one way. Another enhancement is to soak a stone in oil or wax that has a artificial color which will soak into the stone changing or enhancing the color.

If you are going to purchase a gemstone or a piece of jewelry, make sure you research the stone. One jeweler I visited insisted that a certain stone I was looking at was a natural ruby. It was around 15 carats and was completely flawless with a paler shade of red than a ruby should have. I am sure it was a synthetic ruby. They insisted it was a natural, and at $5,000 was a bargain. If it had been a natural ruby, that quality and size would have made it around $250,000 per carat making the stone $3,750,000! Synthetics are much cheaper, and this stone (assuming it was a synthetic) should have cost about $15. This makes it quite the bargain for them, not for the buyer.

I'm sure there are other terms out there, so if you have questions about any of them please just ask.


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