A Traveler’s Guide To Buying Jewelry
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
A Gem & Jewelry Primer
Synthetic and Fake Gemstones
Emerald: The finest are a vibrant, medium-dark, pure, to slightly bluish-green color with very few to no eye-visible inclusions (flaws, or “jardin”). As one of the most treasured gems in the world, bargains on fine emeralds are very rare. Synthetic emeralds are VERY common and difficult to detect. Nearly all emeralds have been “oiled”; meaning the fractures have been filled with something to improve the apparent clarity. Ask the extent of oiling present.
Tanzanite: The finest are vivid, deep shades of pure blue to violet-blue and free of eye-visible inclusions. They will often look bluer in sunlight and more violet under incandescent lights. Fine stones will be expensive, but the medium blue, lavender and pastel shades are common and inexpensive. Very convincing imitations are very common.
Alexandrite: The finest change from vivid, medium-dark green in in-direct daylight to vivid medium-dark red in candlelight. The Brazilian stones are more bluish-green and purplish-red. Stones with weak, incomplete or muddy color change will have little value. Most natural alexandrite will have some minor eye-visible inclusions. Synthetics are difficult to detect and very common. Imitations are also very common. Fine quality, inexpensive stones are not likely to be natural.
Topaz: Fine “Imperial” topaz is very rare and expensive, paler shades are more common, much less expensive and called “precious topaz”. The finest are vivid, medium, golden orange with red over-tones and are free of eye-visible inclusions. It looks very little like the inexpensive Citrine, which is sometimes called “Brazilian topaz,” “smoky topaz” or “Madeira topaz”. Blue topaz is very cheap because the blue color is created by irradiation. U.S. law requires testing for residual radioactivity before it’s sold; most other countries have no regulations.
Aquamarine: Sometimes confused with blue topaz, except in fine qualities. The best are vivid, medium, slightly greenish blue and free of inclusions. They can be quite large, 20-carat stones are common. Often imitated by synthetic spinel, glass and pale blue topaz.
Diamond: The value of diamonds transcends borders and cultures. Finding a bargain on a diamond may mean that something is being misrepresented. Subtle variations in one quality aspect of a diamond can mean huge differences in value. There are many difficult to detect treatments to improve the color or clarity of a diamond. Only in the U.S. is disclosure of these alterations required.
As you shop for sparkling treasures on your travels, the more you know, the better your chances of success; but the real treasures are the joyful memories.