Semi-precious gemstone jewelry is as versatile as it is beautiful. Gemstones are available in a wide variety of cuts and colors, and they can adorn everything from clothing to rings. The following tips will help consumers understand how to buy semi-precious gemstone jewelry, what to look for, what to ask, and how to get an idea of the monetary value of a piece before making a purchase.
What is a Semi-Precious Gemstone?
The term 'semi-precious gemstone' encompasses gems of many characteristics and all the colors of the rainbow. They are distinguished from precious gemstones such as diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, mainly due to their greater availability. The price and value of an individual stone or class of stones is set by the market and can fluctuate a great deal; what is valuable and precious today can drop in value as new deposits are discovered or increase as the source dries up. Some semi-precious gems, such as amethyst, were once considered precious due to their rarity. New sources of amethyst have increased the supply and reduced its perceived value in the marketplace. However, it would be a mistake to assume that a plentiful supply of raw materials means that semi-precious gems are substandard or diminished in beauty. A well-cut, flawless topaz or aquamarine in an extraordinary setting is every bit as beautiful as any precious gem. Some semi-precious gems, such as tanzanite and alexandrite, are very valuable; jewelry containing paraiba tourmaline is pricier than some diamond jewelry.
A Short History of Semi-Precious Gemstones
Semi-precious gemstones have been used for enhancement and jewelry-making in nearly every culture, dating back thousands of years. The rarity and difficulty in finding and cultivating most gems made them very precious to early civilizations. New technologies, treatment methods, and sources of gemstones have made them more readily available and easier to enhance and finish. Some gems are considered sacred to different cultures and religions due to healing powers they are believed to possess. Jade has been heavily regarded in Asian cultures for its beauty and mystical qualities. Moonstone is widely used in modern paganism. Many other semi-precious gems such as quartz, amethyst, tourmaline, and tiger's eye are used for the treatment of nervous disorders, arthritis, and depression.
How Gemstones Are Evaluated
The factors that determine the value of an individual stone are the cut, color, clarity, flawlessness, and size. Due to the variances in the characteristics of gemstones, such as opacity, they can be analyzed in the same manner as precious gems or graded like stones. Opaque stones such as opals and jade are graded on a scale of A to AAA, as well as on flawlessness and finish. Here are the main things to look for in a semi-precious gemstone.
The cut of a stone determines value. Cut is not only the shape of the finished stone, but also the surface area. A precision-cut stone with well-proportioned facets produces a finished gem of superior brilliancy, color, and light reflection.
Clarity refers to the flawlessness of a gemstone, or the absence of marks, inclusions, and blemishes.
Color is rated by vivacity, intensity, and saturation. A color that is bright, in the medium range, with no cloudiness is considered the best quality.
A carat is a unit of weight in gemology. One carat is equal to .200 grams. However, size is not always a determining factor in valuing a gem; a badly cut or colored large stone with numerous flaws is lower in value than a smaller but more perfect specimen.
A natural stone is more valuable than a stone that is treated to enhance color. Treatment methods affect the value of a gem as well. Stones that are dyed or filled to hide flaws are of low quality. Heat treating gems to enhance color crates a lasting bond and permanent color change.
This is not the same as opacity. Transparency in a gemstone is measured by how much light is diffused throughout the stone; the more transparent a gem, the higher the value.
1. Learn that factors that distinguish a quality stone from one that is substandard.
2. Remember that pictures are not always a true representation of a piece. Differences in color or an inability to determine scale can make the decision to purchase a piece more difficult; ask for clarification or additional information when in doubt.
3. Know the right questions to ask the seller about the piece of jewelry, and don't be afraid to ask them. A listing for jewelry should tell the size of the stone, usually in millimeters, as well as the total measurement of the whole piece of jewelry. It should also list the weight of the stone in carats or grams, or the total weight if there is more than one stone. To get a rough measure of the weight of individual gems, take the total gem weight and divide it by the number of gems. A listing for gemstone jewelry should state whether the stone is natural or treated, and the method of treatment. If this information is not listed, send a message asking for clarification before purchase, and get a written appraisal, if available, and certificate of authenticity.
4. The setting is important as well. Natural stones are set in a manner that allows the stone to "breathe." Typically gemstones are prong set in a slightly elevated manner or have a small hole in the setting directly behind the stone.
5. Determine if there are any visible imperfections such as inclusions, cloudiness, or other flaws that decrease value.