Gemstones: A Buying Guide to Finding Beauty and Value

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Gemstone jewelry is a popular and highly-coveted gift for Valentine’s Day, engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and a variety of special occasions. There’s a lot of emotion connected to a gemstone purchase, so it’s best to go into it prepared to make prudent choices. Here’s a primer to help you get value and quality when entering the gemstone-purchasing arena:

What is a gemstone?

Wikipedia defines a gemstone as, “a piece of mineral, which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments.” Gemstones are often classified as precious or semi-precious. According to, generally, diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald are considered precious, while all other gemstones are considered semi-precious.

What to look for in a gemstone

Diamonds, as “kings of the gemstones” have a grading system all their own. Others have no specific grading system, making their evaluation a bit more complicated; however, the “Four Cs” used in grading diamonds can be a useful gemstone evaluation tool:

  1. Color – Look for clear, medium-tone, intense, saturated, vivid colors. Avoid stones whose color appears too dark or muddled.
  2. Clarity – Look for clear, transparent gemstones with no visible flaws in the face-up position.
  3. Carat – Gemstone prices are calculated by weight, or carat, which equals 1/5th of a gram. Each gemstone has its own density, so different gemstone varieties, even those similar in size, can vary significantly in cost. And although price is not calculated by size, larger-sized stones of some varieties (ruby, emerald, sapphire and tourmaline, for example) are rare and therefore more expensive.
  4. Cut – A well-cut faceted gemstone reflects light back evenly across its surface area when held face up.

Where should you buy gemstones?

Feeling confident in your gemstone purchase comes down to trust. According to their website, The American Gem Society is, “a non-profit trade association of fine jewelers, jewelry, and suppliers in the United States, Canada, and some select international members. These members are dedicated to consumer protection, ethical business practices, and the development of superior gemological skills and knowledge.” This type of certification can help assure you that the seller is knowledgeable, skilled, experienced and trustworthy. Find and deal with a trusted, certified gemologist – preferably someone who who cuts the stones (s)he sells. This is a strong indication that they will stand behind the gemstones they sell you. Seek out someone you feel comfortable consulting for information and advice. Ask friends and family for recommendations as well.

Best practices and common sense when buying gemstones

Gemstones carry a lot of emotional “weight” so it’s important that you keep your wits about you when purchasing. Remember this advice when regarding all those precious, sparkly stones:

Buy what you love – not what you feel you “should” – When it comes to the hundreds or thousands of dollars you’ll probably be spending, make sure you REALLY love it – or are certain the recipient will. Don’t let sales pressure, peer pressure, perceived status, size, stone or price influence your decision. Just because her birthstone is emerald, would you buy your wife one when she dislikes green?

Buy what’s affordable – Set yourself a budget and tell your salesperson that you want the best you can get for that amount. A good salesperson will respect your budget and do right by you because, while they want to make a sale, they also want to please their customers.

You can buy gemstones without spending more than necessary or being taken advantage of. Do some research, find a reliable source, trust your eyes and don’t let your heart make the entire decision.

What’s your best advice for buying gemstones?

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