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Gemstone Buying Guide
Gemstones have been sought after and treasured throughout the history of mankind. They are found in ruins dating several thousand years. They are valued as gifts symbolizing love.
The first thing one needs to understand is that gemstones are graded by the rarity of their features. Even though the term quality is used, that does not mean that one gem is better than another. On the contrary, what is best for someone may not be the top or rarest grade of a gemstone. A 100-carat stone is far rarer than a one-carat stone and that feature adds to its value. However, simply a larger size does not mean that it is better. A small woman can not wear a large stone gracefully. This would not be the best gem for a small person.
So, as you read the following descriptions be clear that the grades have to do with the rarity of the feature. They do not mean more durable, (with the single exception of diamonds) more beautiful, or better suited for you. When choosing a gem, look for the one that appeals most to you.
Standard Industry Grading of Gemstones
If you have studied the diamond buying guide, you would know of the four c's. They apply to gemstones as well, in addition of a few other factors. The four c's are considered first and other features in alignment with those. These c's are: color, cut, clarity and carat. A more recent inclusion is the fifth c of cost.
The international colored gems association breaks up color component according to three factors: Hue, (red, green, blue, etc.), Saturation, (strong or pastel, red or pink.) and Tone (light to dark).
Generally, highest values go to gems with pure hues and strong rich colors. With prized gems, subtle variations make a significant difference in price. For example, a slightly greenish sapphire will not be worth nearly as much as one that is more towards blue or blue purple. Most people cannot see this difference, but to the expert it is significant.the color that is best for you is a personal matter. Strong, bold colors are preferred by people with strong personalities; others prefer something softer and brighter. The color of your complexion and the color of the clothing also have a significant effect on your choice. As you look at gems, you will notice that only a few of them have the absolute deepest and richest coloring. These demand special attention and special pricing. However, the boldest colored stones are not the best match for every complexion, or every personality.
In precise grading terms: clear, medium-tone, intense and saturated primary colors are the most preferred. Pure red, not orangish red. Pure blue, not greenish blue. Muted colors and colors between hues, which you might find very attractive, are usually less expensive.
Clarity in gemstones is always an important consideration, next only to color in importance. Colored stones are almost never as clean as diamonds and they should not be judged by the same criteria. The bottom line is there is no standardized grading system for clarity: it varies by gem type. With colored gemstones, if an inclusion is not showing in the face up position, it generally doesn't matter at all(unlike diamonds which are graded upside-down). Important stones like emeralds, rubies and sapphires are rarely clean. Clarity and transparency are definitely desirable but color is still of paramount importance. Gemstones are not the same- some are clean and some are always included. Gemstones that are normally found to be clean include amethyst, aquamarine, blue topaz, citrine, kunzite, tanzanite and yellow beryl. Gemstones that normally may have a few inclusions include iolite, peridot , ruby, sapphire, spinel and tourmaline. Gemstones that normally are heavily included are emeralds and red beryl.
In some cases it is the inclusions which enhance a stone's value. The best star sapphires and star rubies are usually translucent and it is the minute inclusions inside the stones that reflect the light and produce the star effects.
This is what gives a gemstone its beauty and brilliance. An ideal cut which reflects all the light in an even pattern without any darkness or windowing is considered the best. In gemstones, what produces the maximum brilliance is what is best.
A good cut is something that may not cost more but can add to or deter from beauty. Colored gemstones come in lots of different cut variations, far more than diamonds. There are no fixed rules about cutting and the ultimate value of a particular stone after faceting. A skilled cutter makes careful consideration of yield and proportion. Besides, the positioning of deep inclusions always produces the best result.
Remember, the intensity of color is always an important consideration for cutters. All gemstones become lighter as the size is reduced. The color of dark stones improves as their size is reduced while light stones become even lighter and lose some of their value as a result of cutting. Cutters frequently re-cut poorly faceted stones, using skill to select those with color and clarity and then drawing out their hidden potential, while still maximizing final weight and value.
Don't let anyone confuse you that cut refers to the shape. Shape refers to the physical form or contour of the stone. And cut determines how well is the shape executed.
Gemstone Carat Weight
A carat is a metric unit of weight used in the gemstone industry to describe how much a gemstone weighs. A carat is equal to one fifth of a gram and there are five carats in one gram. Thus when referring to decimal fractions of a carat, a point is equal to .01 (1/100th) of a carat.
Larger stones are always rarer and per-carat prices will usually be more than equivalent to similar stones in a smaller size. Relationships between per-carat prices and sizes vary with each specific gemstone group.
Carat weights do not determine size. The density of gems varies from very light stones like opal to especially heavy stones like zircon.
Like any other commodity, supply and demand determine the prices of gemstones. Fine gems are never available in quantity and demand is always strong with some gem dealers buying the best, the biggest and the rarest stones whenever they can.
Deposits are quickly depleting and mining sometimes stops or becomes too expensive when the gem deposits near the surface are exhausted. Deeper mining is more expensive; it requires more machinery, more fuel, and more time and effort to produce the stones. As the depth increases, the gems become more expensive and when the price of production exceeds the market price, the mining stops.
Supply may be unpredictable, but so too is demand, which can be promoted, or simply be the result of some unforeseen fashion trend due to the popularity of a certain color, or because of the association of a particular stone with some celebrity.
Gemstone Treatments and Enhancements
It is a norm in the gem industry for gemstones to undergo treatment. Records as far back as 50 ad testify such processes. Most prevalent is the heat treatment, which enhances the appearance of a gem. That is why they are also called enhancements. Treatments nowadays are of a permanent nature and untreated gems are a parody of what we have come to know as gems.
Important to note is that treatment does not affect a gem's value. Interestingly, in some precious and semi-precious colored gemstones there is no variation between the value of treated and untreated material. In fact, treating may even increase a gems value. However, high quality unheated rubies and sapphires are extremely rare and command a much higher market price. When purchasing high quality rubies and sapphires, please be aware that unheated material is almost non-existent, making it exorbitantly priced. However, for most of us, treatments are a godsend, as they make gems more available.
Common Gemstone Treatments
- Emerald - Usually oiled with colorless oil to improve appearance.
- Ruby - Usually heated to improve color and appearance.
- Sapphire - Usually heated to produce intensity or light color and/or improve color uniformity.
- Tanzanite - Usually heated to produce violet blue color.
- Aquamarine - Usually heated to improve color.
- Blue topaz - Usually irradiated and heated to produce blue color.
- Tourmaline - Commonly irradiated to intensify pink, red and purple color.
- Jade - Commonly impregnated with colorless wax.
- Lapis lazuli - Commonly impregnated with colorless wax or oil.
- Coral - Commonly bleached.
- Pearls - Commonly bleached to improve color and appearance.
- Black onyx - Always dyed.
Lab Created Gemstones
Gemologists use the term natural gems for gems formed in the earth. Whenever a man-made process is used to simulate the natural conditions and create an identical product, the gemstone is called lab created. Just as cultured pearls are a rage nowadays, synthetic, or lab created gems give a fair competition to their natural counterparts. In keeping with the ftc guidelines, we at Angara.com believe in making our customers aware that a particular gemstone is lab created. As appealing as their natural counterparts, labs created gems are the best alternative for people with budget constraints.
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