Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Buyer Beware: Purchasing Semiprecious Gemstone Jewelry and Supplies Online

The online marketplace is booming with sparkly offerings from talented artisans, big-box stores, and everything in between. Before buying jewelry or gemstones online, it's important to step back and evaluate your potential purchase.
  1. Descriptions. Is the item, including all materials, described thoroughly? As an Etsy seller, I always specify what type of metal I use and where, whether any stones are dyed, etc. Descriptions should not be vague (e.g. "yellow drop" is insufficient; look for jade drop, citrine drop, glass drop, plastic drop etc.)
  2. Photos. Are there multiple photos taken from different angles? Do the photos look like stock photos that have been reused (and therefore don't show the exact item you'll be purchasing)? 
  3. Research. Look up what you're buying. Many stones and metal components are not what they appear. Trade names for gemstones are often misleading as suppliers seek to make their stones more appealing. 
I've compiled a brief list of terms, including some common misnomers, and their definitions. It's by no means comprehensive, and I'll try to add to it in future blog posts.
  • Vermeil: Gold plated onto sterling silver. The gold used must be at least 10 karats to be considered vermeil. 
  •  Fruit Quartz. These "stones" include pineapple quartz and cherry quartz (pictured). The vast majority of fruit quartz on the market is glass with coloured inclusions. Naturally occurring cherry quartz is extremely rare. 
  • Howlite. Naturally occurring as a white stone with dark, vein-like inclusions (left). Porous and often dyed to imitate turquoise (right). If you're buying turquoise stones or jewelry for a very cheap price, you may be dealing with howlite, or a number of other dyed stones.
  • Tundru/Tundra/Tunduru Sapphire. May be a mix of gemstones, commonly pyrope garnet, hessonite garnet and tourmaline (clockwise from left). Tunduru, Tanzania produces a wide variety of gems including sapphire, and some Tunduru Sapphire strands are indeed genuine. However, many dealers are attempting to pass garnets for sapphires, calling them variations of Tunduru (e.g. Tundra).
  •  Water Sapphire. Trade name for Iolite.
    • Mystic Topaz and Mystic Quartz. Naturally occurring white topaz (left) and rock quartz (right) coated to add colour (often to give a rainbow effect).


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