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Tips for Buying

It's reasonable to expect lasting value and enjoyment when you purchase colored gemstone jewellery. Learning a few things about gemstone quality and value will help you make sure you get what you want – and deserve.

You can start by trusting your instincts. Sensory appeal is always paramount. So, if a particular gemstone or jewellery design "speaks" to you, by all means listen!

You can also use what you know about the 4Cs. The familiar diamond value factors of colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight apply to colored gems as well. However, each gem variety is judged by its own potential: no one expects an aquamarine to have the same colour as a sapphire or an emerald to be as flawless as an aquamarine. But there are a few general rules you can use to judge gemstone quality.

 

  • The 4Cs
    It’s reasonable to expect lasting value and enjoyment when you purchase gemstone jewellery. Learning a few things about gemstone quality and value will help you make sure you get what you want – and deserve.
    You can start by trusting your instincts. Sensory appeal is always paramount. So, if a particular gemstone or jewellery design "speaks" to you, by all means listen!
    You can also use what you know about the 4Cs. The familiar diamond value factors of colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight apply to colored gemstones as well. However, each gemstone variety is judged by its own potential: no one expects an aquamarine to have the same colour as a sapphire or an emerald to be as flawless as an aquamarine. But there are a few general rules you can use to judge gemstone quality.

  • Colour
    Some gemstones come in a multitude of colours, while others have more restricted palettes. Experts analyze all these chromatic options in terms of three essential components: hue, tone, and saturation. Hue is the basic colour sensation – blue, red, green, and so forth, plus blends like purplish red and violet-blue. Tone is a colour’s lightness or darkness, and saturation is its visual intensity.
    Colours of pure hue, medium tone, and high saturation are generally most valuable, but different kinds of gems have differing potentials in this regard. For example, sapphire and tanzanite can reach a deeper blue than aquamarine, topaz, or zircon. Colour ranges can overlap to some extent, so different gemstones may have the same colour. Each is valued according to its own unique possibilities, however. Thus, the particular tint that's considered "best" for one gemstone might be "medium" for another.
    In buying decisions you need to be aware of colour ranges and objective value assessments, but it’s best to rely on your eyes and heart. Pure or mixed, light or dark, vivid or muted – whichever colour holds the most appeal for you is the one to choose.

 

  • Cut
    Choices in cut are almost as varied as for colour – and they're every bit as intriguing. Transparent colored gemstones are most often faceted like diamonds, in dozens of geometric shapes and styles. The ancient domed form known as the cabochon is traditional for gemstones like jade, opal and turquoise. It helps to bring out the special optical effects seen in star gems and cat's-eyes, too. Today many kinds of gemstones are fashioned into carvings. These range from classic cameos and natural motifs to designs that push the edge of abstract expression.
    Whatever the technique may be, cut is chiefly responsible for revealing a gemstone's beauty. Its contribution to appeal and value arises from the cutter's artistic creativity, technical skill and patient labour.
    To judge the quality of cut, examine the gemstone as you hold it at arm's length and rock it gently back and forth. The overall form ought to be pleasing and dynamically balanced. Colour and light should dance throughout a faceted gemstone, with no washed out "window" in the centre or dead spots around the edges. When you look close-up, details like facet shape need to be precise, with polished surfaces appearing smooth and bright.
  • Clarity
    Most kinds of colored gemstones may have internal characteristics – or inclusions – that it's possible to see without magnification. Many of these are simply by-products of the natural processes that create gemstones within the Earth. Among the most common are tiny mineral crystals that became caught up in larger gemstone crystals as they grew. As long as such inclusions aren't prominent, they don't diminish a colored gemstone's beauty or desirability, and have little effect on its value.
    There are some exceptions to this rule, however. You can expect a few gemstones to be "eye clean," with only microscopic clarity features. This list includes aquamarine, citrine, tanzanite, and topaz. On the other hand, inclusions in emerald and red tourmaline may be fairly obvious, but won't have a major impact unless they're also unsightly.
    It's important to recognize that inclusions have a positive side, too. They can prove that the gemstones in which they occur are natural – not synthetic or imitation.  Scientists study inclusions to learn the secrets of how gemstones form, and when viewed under a microscope, some are strikingly beautiful in their own right.
  • Carat Weight
    Like diamonds, most colored gemstones are weighed and priced by the carat. (One carat equals 1/5 gram.) As with colour, however, different kinds of gemstones have differing weight potentials.  A few rarely exceed 5 carats in high quality. Many are readily available up to 15 or 20 carats and some can be even larger.
    For gemstones with limited weight ranges, per-carat prices usually climb steeply as the carat weight goes up. For those with wider ranges, any increases tend to be more gradual. A 3-carat ruby might have a per-carat price that's three times higher than a 1-carat ruby of the same quality. As a result, the larger gemstone would cost nine times more than the smaller one. In contrast, a 5-carat amethyst is likely to have about the same per-carat price as a 1-carat amethyst, so it will cost only five times as much.
    Besides reflecting the natural rarity of larger gemstones, per-carat price can serve as an indication of other value factors. If two gemstones of the same kind and weight have significantly different per-carat prices, there will be differences in colour, cut, or clarity, which you need to consider in a purchase decision.
  • The Men's Manual to Buying Colour
    • It's that special occasion for someone who's special, and you're not sure what the perfect gift should be. But you are sure you need something fast. Flowers are wonderful, but will fade in time, and you want this relationship to last a lifetime.
      What about selecting a gift any woman would love to receive, one that will give her years of enjoyment - a gift of colored gemstone jewellery. Not sure where to start? Relax, it's easier than you think.
      Just follow these four easy steps:
    • The first one is simple. What are her colour preferences?
      What colours does she wear most often? Sometimes it is easier just to ask--what is her favourite colour? Whatever her colour preference, your jeweller is sure to have a gemstone he can recommend.
    • Find out what is available.
      This web section is designed to show you all about the wonderful gemstone possibilities, most of which will bring a smile to that someone special. Once you have found something you like, your jeweller should be able to answer your questions about price and availability.
    • Don't think the "4Cs - cut, carat, clarity and colour - are just for Diamonds."
    • Make sure you buy quality.
      Remember the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price. Colour and rarity establish quality in a gemstone. Quality determines price. Refer to our section on Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about quality and price. If you have a choice between a small gemstone of better quality or a larger one of lower quality, you may want to go for the smaller one...an investment that will pay off in the long run.

If, however, you are looking to make a statement that is big and bold, most gemstones come in a large range of qualities and sizes that allow you to match your mood with your budget.

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

  • How can I judge the value and quality of a gemstone? 
    Simply put, the type of gemstone and colour you select should be the one you like the most, the one that will give you the most pleasure to wear. However, colored gemstones are judged by their beauty and rarity. The same "four Cs" that establish quality in Diamond are used for colored gemstones: cut, carat weight, clarity and most importantly, colour.
    Colour: The more pure and vivid the colour, the more valuable the gemstone.
    Cut: All gemstones must be cut well to attain their maximum potential for beauty. Quality cutting is what produces the brilliance and scintillation that captures the eye of the beholder.
    Clarity: Gemstones contain characteristic inclusions that provide proof of their natural origin. Those inclusions should not be so visible that they detract from the beauty of the gemstone.
    Carat Weight: Obviously, larger gemstones are rarer. However, some gemstones, such as Amethyst and Tourmaline, routinely occur in very large sizes while others, such as Ruby and Sapphire, rarely occur in sizes above 2 to 3 carats.
  • I don't like by birthstone, what are my options?
    Colour is what gemstones are all about. The gemstone you select should be the colour that appeals to you. If given the choice, most women's favourite gemstones have less to do with when they were born and more to do with what colours they like and what looks best on them.
  • What is the difference between precious and semi-precious gemstones?
    The term "semi-precious" is somewhat misleading as it suggests that some gemstones have inferior value. Years ago, most people considered Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire as the "precious" gemstones and all others as "semi-precious." In truth, all natural colored gemstones are rare and precious and their prices are determined by the availability and quality of the gemstone.
  • How do I clean and care for my colored gemstone jewellery?
    The first rule for caring for gemstone jewellery is to treat it as you would any of your valuable possessions. Avoid wearing your gemstone jewellery when involved in activities that could cause it damage such as yard work, active sports and the like. You wouldn't wear your finest silk dress while gardening; likewise, there are inappropriate times to wear your fine jewellery. As for cleaning, keep it simple. The best way to clean your colored gemstone jewellery is to use a mild solution of soap and water. After letting your jewellery soak, gently brush your jewellery with a soft brush. Rinse the jewellery thoroughly, and lay it on a soft cloth to dry. It is best to avoid cleaning jewellery in ultrasonic cleaners, harsh chemicals or abrasives. Pearls, especially, should be protected from contact with perfumes, cosmetics and hairsprays. Store your jewellery in separate sections of your jewellery box or in a fabric pouch. For the best protection, bring your colored gemstone jewellery to your jeweller for regular inspection and thorough cleaning.
  • What do I do if l fall in love with a gemstone, but I don't like the mounting?
    Unless you have chosen a gemstone with a very unusual cut or one that is set in a custom made ring, there is no reason you can't have the gemstone you desire in a setting you prefer. An experienced jeweller can offer you a variety of designs or custom settings that can accommodate the gemstone you have selected. Also, many gemstones are cut to consistent dimensions, known as "calibrated" sizes. These gemstones fit into a variety of different settings. Ask your jeweller to help you select the perfect combination for you.
  • Should I have my colored gemstone jewellery appraised and insured?
    The first rule of shopping for colored gemstone jewellery is to work with a reputable jeweller. They should provide you with a certificate of value or an invoice with sufficient descriptions to have your jewellery properly insured. Most homeowner policies have dollar amount limitations for jewellery coverage, and you may have to obtain a "rider" to your policy to be sufficiently insured. It's a simple process so ask your insurance agent for details. The relatively minor expense required to insure your fine jewellery is well worth the peace-of-mind.
    When having your jewellery appraised, it is best to work with an appraiser who has the appropriate professional credentials. Whether working in a retail jewellery store or independently, appraisers should have a Graduate Gemmologist diploma or be titled as a Certified Gemmologist Appraiser. Ask your jeweller and your insurance agent for their recommendations.

 

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W.E.F. 1 Jun 2011