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Key steps in examining a gemstone


Throughout history, gemstones have been a much sought-after commodity. Their beauty, rarity, and inherent “magical powers” have made them the symbol of kings, the symbol of power, the symbol of wealth, and in more recent history, the symbol of love. Every civilization, every society, grandly exhibits mankind’s fascination with and desire to posses these beautiful gifts of nature.

As the growth of American jewelry business attests, we are no different from our ancestors. We too share the fascination, appreciation, and desire to posses beautiful gems. If history serves as a sound indicator of taste, we can rest assured that the lure of gems will be just as great in future generations. At least once in a lifetime nearly every American has an occasion to buy or receive a gem.

The experience of purchasing a gem can be a magical one. It can be filled with excitement, anticipation, and pleasure. Gem should never be bought as a gamble – the uneducated consumer will always lose. This is a basic rule of thumb. The best way to take the gamble out of buying a particular gem is to familiarize yourself with the gem. While the average consumer can’t hope to make the same precise judgments as a qualified gemologist, whose scientific, training and wealth of practical experience provide a far greater data base from which to operate, the consumer can learn to judge a stone as a “total personality” and learn what the critical factors are color, clarity, cut, brilliance, and weight – and how to balance them in judging the gem’s value. Learning about these factors and spending time in the marketplace looking, listening, and asking questions before making the purchase will prepare you to be a wise buyer more likely to get what you really want, at a fair price.

There are six key steps in examining a gemstone:
1.    Whenever possible, examine stones un-mounted. They can be examined more thoroughly out of their settings, and defects cannot be hidden by the mounting or side stones.
2.    Make sure the gem is clean. If buying a stone from a retail jeweler, ask that it be clean for you. If you are not someplace where it can be clean professionally, breathe on the stone in a huffing manner in order to “steam” it with your breath and then wipe it with a clean handkerchief. This will at least remove the superficial film of grease.
3.    Hold the un-mounted stone so that your fingers touch only the girdle. Putting your fingers on the table or pavilion will leaves traces of oil, which will affect color and brilliance.
4.    View the gem under proper lighting. Many wholesale jewelers use numerous incandescent spotlights, usually recessed in dropped ceilings. Some use special spotlights that can make any gems, even glass imitations look fantastic.
5.    Rotate the stone in order to view it from different angles.
6.    If using a loupe, focus it both on the surface and into the interior. To focus into the interior, shift the stone slowly, raising or lowering it, until you focus clearly on all depths within it. This is important because you won’t see what is in the interior of the stone if you focus on the top only.

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