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Romancing the Stone - The Gemstone Name Game

By  Arthur and Judith Anderson

In the 1730s, diamonds were first discovered and mined in Brazil.  Until that time the world's primary source for diamonds had been India.

As the Brazilian diamonds began to enter the market,  the Indian diamond interests unfairly dismissed the New World diamonds as being inferior and of lesser quality.  To work around this the Brazilian diamond merchants began misrepresenting their stones as Indian diamonds.  They even went so far as to smuggle many of the Brazilian diamonds into India where they were resold as native stones.

Such name games for gemstones are not a thing of the past.  Exotic foreign lands and precious gems have a common romantic allure.  We have all dreamt of sapphires from the Hindu-Kush,  emeralds from deep within the Andes and diamonds from King Solomon's mines.

Unfortunately,  unscrupulous jewelers and gem dealers will sometimes exploit these romantic associations.  An exotic origin may be attributed to a less than exceptional gemstone in an attempt to justify a higher price  (a dishonest practice known in the trade as "romancing the stone").  The current market is saturated with "Ceylon" sapphires,  "Burmese" rubies and "Russian" diamonds.  While beautiful sapphires have been found in Ceylon,  not all "Ceylon" sapphires are beautiful and of gem quality.  In fact,  many of the so-called "Ceylon" sapphires may not even be from Ceylon ..... remember the shenanigans of the Brazilian diamond traders.

What is in a name?  Knowing the origin of a gemstone can add to our appreciation and enjoyment of the jewel.  But, an alleged country of origin should not be confused with the quality of the gemstone.  George F. Kunz,  an eminent gemologist from the last century,  once said "Gemstones have no pedigree!"  In other words, knowing where a gemstone is from does not tell you whether it is of low or high quality.

For example,  recently "Russian" diamonds have been touted as being of exceptional quality and value.  The truth is that while Russia produces many fine diamonds,  it also produces an extremely large number of secondary and poorly cut gemstones.  The label "Russian" is no assurance of quality.  Similar caution should be exercised when considering a "Ceylon" sapphire,  "Burmese" ruby or the myriad of other gemstones that are sold with an alleged pedigree.

How do you protect yourself from the Name Game?  When shopping for a diamond or precious colored gemstone,  you should follow three basic rules.

1.  Learn about the gemstone you want to acquire.  Jewelry and gemstone education is the best way to increase your enjoyment and confidence when acquiring fine gemstones.

2.  Do not buy the first gemstone you see.  Through comparative shopping,  you can gain a better understanding of the range of color,  quality,  value and price that is available for the gemstone you are seeking.

3.  Enlist the assistance of an independent gemologist/appraiser,  if you are unsure about the quality or value of a gemstone you want to purchase.  An independent gemologist can help protect you from all the shenanigans and provide you with the technical expertise you need to acquire a jewel of fine quality at a fair price.

Bijoux Extraordinaire  is a practice of independent gemologists providing appraisal, custom design and gemstone acquisition services to the jewelry consumer.  Our gemologists regularly work with clients to help them acquire fine quality gemstones from throughout the world.

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