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Selecting the Best Quality Gemstones and Jewelry

Find out what makes the most valuable and highest quality gemstones, and what is considered beautiful, rare and durable.

Each one of us can express their own style with a uniquely colored gemstone.

To ensure the best quality gemstones follow the standards set by the Jewelers of America (JOA) when buying gemstone jewelry that fits your budget.

Understanding Gemstone Grades

Similar to diamonds, gemstones also have the 4Cs (cut, clarity, color and carat weight), but they are graded and valued a little differently.

For instance, in diamonds cut is the most important, while in gemstones the color is the most important C by far.

The Color of a Gemstone

There are three factors that determine the gemstone’s color (whether it’s purple, blue, green, yellow, orange or red), which in turn determine its beauty.

These factors are:

  • Hue: describes the dominant pure color, and any additional colors visible in the gemstone.
  • Tone: from very light to very dark, as described in the tone-grading system made by the GIA.
  • Saturation: or intensity, how pure the dominant hue is.

Selecting the best color usually comes to personal preference, so find the hue that you like the best and have your jeweler show you and explain how each gemstone shows its optimal hue, tone and saturation, and don’t forget to make sure it fits with your personal budget.

The Cut of a Gemstone

Gemstone cut is always a balance between the color, weight and a safe mounting shape, and how affordable and pleasing it is. Obviously the main constraint is the gemstone’s raw size and it’s rarity. For instance alexandrite, although large, are extremely rare, while large amethysts are very common in nature.

A gemstone that is cut in a precise fashion will give a lot more sparkle which adds to its beauty. Usually a colored gemstone is described by the shape that it’s cut. Different gemstone types are best shaped in a certain way. For instance an opal cut is usually smooth and rounded surface, while sapphires are shaped into flat symmetrical planes, which bring out the best reflection of light, which emphasizes the gem’s color. Today some gemstones are cut in a convex or concave shapes, making them similar to small sculptures.

The Clarity of a Gemstone

The way light reflects through a gemstone effects it’s beauty; the more light is reflected the better. Some gemstones like tanzanite have internal inclusions that interrupt the passage of light. Another example is the emerald that has a “jardine” (garden), which makes it especially unique.

The Size of a Gemstone

The colored gemstones are always measured in carats, but in addition the jewelers also measure them by dimensions in millimeters, which is taken into account when matched to a type of jewelry like a ring or an earring.

Durability of Gemstones

Hardness and toughness are both measures of a gemstones durability, which in turn affects its ability to be shaped, mounted and worn. Some gemstones are very good for daily activity like rubies, sapphire and garnet, so they are fashioned into rings, bracelets or cufflinks. Other gemstones are fashioned into necklaces and earrings to keep them from harm’s way like emeralds, pearls and opals.

Enhancements to Gemstones

Some gemstones are naturally colored, but today some are artificially enhanced in order to get more satisfying hues. Rubies are a prime example; even though some rubies are naturally red, the professionals have known for as long as rubies are used as gemstones in jewels, to heat them in order to obtain a deeper and desirable red color. With that said, the naturally colored gemstones are more valuable than enhanced ones.

Gemstones enhanced by heat or irradiation can reach the desired color and clarity for any size. Even though these gems are less rare than the naturally occurring ones, they are also very valuable. The least valuable gemstones are synthetically colored by jewelers in a lab, although they end up having the same optical, physical and chemical properties of naturally occurring gemstones.

How to Buy Colored Gemstones

If you are looking to buy a colored gemstone, answer these questions first:

  • What is your prefered color?

  • Do the gemstone’s reflective properties give it a great sparkle?

  • Is the gemstone clear, or is it occluded in different areas?

Some prefer to purchase a ready-made gemstone jewelry, but if you share with the jeweler the purpose of the gem, how you plan to use it, and what you’d like it to be, the jeweler may offer you a jewelry consistent with your lifestyle and budget.

The resulting jewelry will be a perfect custom-fit only for you, and it will be unique.

Make sure to inquire what are the properties of the gemstone you are buying; the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a specific standard for the jewelry industry that compels jewelers to disclose any treatments or enhancements made to a gemstone, or if it’s properties are natural, and that will affect its value. Make sure the jeweler you buy from is a member of Jewelers of America (JOA) which hold them to a high professional code of conduct, so you can be sure that they will disclose all the information about the gem you’re interested in purchasing.

Reports of Jewelry

When you purchase a gemstone from a reputable jeweler, you’ll get a note with a report about your purchase. The note will contain all the information in either plain words or code. Sometimes this information is attached to your invoice. If you don’t know how to read the code ask the jeweler to explain what is written there prior to departing, as you might need it when you want to resell your gemstone, or when you want to clean or repair it, as well as if you want to insure it or replace it if stolen.

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