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To buy gemstones on the internet or not to buy?

I recently had a client very upset and asking for my help with two gemstones they had bought from a very popular online auction website.

While they were natural tanzanite and were the actual gemstones in the listing’s photo they had been touched so much that it was ridiculous to argue it was not a misleading description of those particular tanzanites.

This is not the first time I see people in that tricky situation and quite frankly this one was just the drop that made the cup overflow. That got me cranky! For those of you reading this who know me, you already know how much I love what I do. To see such a blatant ripoff prompted me to write this post in the hope that it will prevent a few people from getting caught by those nasty dealers that give my industry a bad reputation.

Following are the details of this very bad transaction:

The tanzanites were listed on a popular auction website. The normal details of size and weight were there along with only 1 photo of each tanzanite and the seller’s clarity: “internal flawless”and “AAA” colour grades.

What I think of this listing:
  1. the weight and dimensions were correct
  2. only 1 photo, this cannot give an accurate representation of the gemstone as you cannot see the proportions or regularity of the shape and facetting.
  3. while referring to “Internal flawless” means something it does not have the same importance for a coloured gemstone as it does for diamonds
  4. “AAA” colour means absolutely nothing. No professional laboratories use this in there certification of coloured gemstones. (to see a genuine sample of a coloured gem certificate from the GIA click here or visit the Gemological Institute of America website here)
  5. Now for the eye opener… the photos I took of the 2 tanzanites:

I know I do not have a professional photo set up or pretend to be a good photographer but I think it is quite clear that the colour is different and the angles the photos were taken was to make potential buyers think they were of much higher quality, colour and cut than they actually were.

While the seller refused to refund as they were the gemstone listed, my client got his money back from his credit card company after he gave them the report I wrote for him.

A lot of  gemstones sold on the internet are genuine gemstones but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful. You usually get what you paid for but something bought for a few dollars online is not going to be valued at a thousand dollars if you know what I mean…

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Why are natural emeralds oiled?

Large natural emerald

I recently posted on Facebook photos of emeralds repairs including one matching set which had one emerald completely stripped of its oil during rhodium plating (see the Facebook post here). I showed the usual before and after photos which triggered a few questions about emeralds and oil.

I am sure you have seen natural emeralds and noticed they tend to have inclusions and fractures. These are marks of the conditions they experienced when the crystal formed deep in the Earth’s crust. Very often water or some form of liquid was around as well and became trapped inside the gem while it was crystallising.This minute amount of liquid can be released when the emerald is cut and the fractures reach the surface of a facet.

I don’t know when exactly the oiling process began but I can tell you it was a long time ago! The first cutters would have noticed the change in appearance of those inclusions when “wet” as opposed to “dry” and went on researching the best way to make it look as it first did. Through research it was found that Cedar oil had a refractive index very close to emeralds. Basically that means this particular oil is not going to affect or change the natural characteristics of an emerald and simply replace the original fluid that was lost when cutting and minimise the appearance of fractures. Oil is stickier than water so it stays in the inclusions better, this is why I always recommend the utmost care when cleaning jewellery with emeralds.

Oiling of emeralds has been done for many generations and is an accepted treatment in the jewellery industry. Why it is accepted? Because it is non invasive and does not change the overall characteristic of the emerald. It can be removed safely without damaging or any adverse effects to the natural gem.

Any other form of treatment has to be disclosed by the seller, that includes fracture filled emeralds (with some sort of resin), dyes or coloured oils to enhance the colour of the emerald… Synthetic emeralds are normally displayed as “Biron emeralds” or “Chatham emerald” to refer to the manufacturing process that created them (the 2 most common synthetic emeralds available).

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This is a very brief explanation about emeralds and oiling, there are entire books written on emeralds… If you have any other questions or comments please use the comment box bellow 🙂

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When a broken cushion turns into a new heart

Finished heart shape aquamarine

This poor aquamarine cushion got badly damaged as you can see on these 2 photos. I don’t know exactly what happened to it but this is how it arrived to my workshop for repair.

Broken aquamarine viewed from the top
Broken aquamarine viewed from the top

Broken aquamarine pavillion
Broken aquamarine pavillion

After studying it for a little while I decided to cut it into a heart shape to retain the maximum of the original size and weight of the stone.  The first step was to preform the shape and to cut the new facets .

Preformed heart shape
Preformed heart shape

Now that the rough shape is done and the new facets and all the damage has been taken out I can go on to refining the shape and facet angles. It is at this stage that my 25+ years experienced eyes and hands make all the difference as it is very easy to get the cleft of the heart off centre or having the heart look a bit bigger on one side compared to the other. While the angles of the facets have been adapted to accommodate the given angles of the original cut it is very close to what a “proper” heart shape facets should be. Coloured gemstones are rather forgiving and will still sparkle in all their coloured glory even if the angles aren’t strictly perfect unlike diamonds.

Finished heart shape aquamarine
Finished heart shape aquamarine

I know I am a bit biased after working on it but I think it’s a stunning little aquamarine! Now it is up to my client to make some pretty piece of jewellery with it.