Shopping for gemstones and gemstone jewelry can be confusing, because prices are sometimes very different for jewelry that appears to be similar. Many of the words used in jewelry ads can be confusing too, since gemstones are labeled as natural, genuine, synthetic, simulated, treated -- or a combination of those terms. Let`s talk about the differences.
What Are Natural Gemstones?
Natural gemstones are delivered to us courtesy of nature, with no interference from humans. By the time they appear in our jewelry they`ve been cut or polished, but they`ve not been altered in other ways.
What Are Genuine Gemstones?
A genuine gemstones is the real thing, but isn`t natural anymore if it was treated in some way to enhance its appearance.
Enhancements allow jewelry manufacturers to improve the look of lower quality gemstones that consumers wouldn`t otherwise purchase. Treated gemstones are genuine, but they are no longer considered natural. If naturally "perfect" stones were the only gems available, most of us couldn`t afford them.
Are All Natural or Genuine Gemstones Valuable?
No, a `natural` status does not guarantee that a gemstone is valuable. Small to large gemstones of poor quality are common and often considered mining castaways, and gems vary in value due to their abundance. Get the facts about a specific gem before you pay a premium price.
How Are Gemstones Priced?
Like any other industry, supply and demand drives gemstone prices up and down. For instance, compare two red gemstones:
Natural rubies of high quality are rare and demand for the gem is always high. Some of the areas where topnotch rubies are mined are in political turmoil, reducing the supply even more.
Compare rubies to red garnets, which are gorgeous, but not rare. A flawless natural garnet costs a great deal less than a ruby of similar quality.
Buying Synthetic Gemstones
A synthetic gemstone shares a natural stone`s physical, chemical and optical qualities, but it is created in a laboratory. It`s kind of like making a high tech batch of cookies -- we know the ingredients and we know how long to cook them. You`ll see synthetic versions of nearly all popular gemstones and many versions have been available for years. Older synthetics were fairly simple for gemologists to detect, because they were often too perfect. Some modern synthetic gemstones look more natural and are more difficult to identify -- ask an experienced jeweler or gemologist to do an inspection.
Jewelry that includes quality synthetic gems can be just as beautiful as jewelry made with natural stones. Good synthetics aren`t always inexpensive, but should cost much less than natural stones of similar size and quality.
Since synthetic gemstones have the same composition as their natural counterparts, they could technically be called genuine, but that would be considered deceptive labeling if the stone`s origins are not disclosed. Question the ethics of anyone who knowingly omits origin information, and the expertise of anyone who cannot provide the facts.
Gemstone Shopping Tips
Buy pricey gemstones from a company or individual you trust, especially if the gems are labeled natural. Ask for verification from a respected laboratory before paying top dollar for any gem.
Gemstones that aren`t usually treated include garnets, peridot, hematite, alexandrite and moonstone.
Read as much as you can about gemstones and jewelry, and then study ads carefully to compare prices. Ask for details on all components, not just the gemstones. Go shopping locally to compare jewelry and gemstones side-by-side.