If you're new to buying gemstones, or just new to buying online, this guide will help you find the best gems to meet your needs. If you're already an experienced buyer, you may find some useful hints on how to use our website tools to quickly find the gems you need.
What Do You Need?
If you're buying a gemstone to be set in a piece of jewelry, you may need a stone in a "calibrated" size to fit a standard jewelry setting. Consult our calibrated size chart to find gems in in standard sizes. If you're having a custom piece made, a good jeweler can create a setting for any size stone, so you don't need to worry about calibrated sizes.
What Do You Want?
Click on the "Details" button for any gem to see larger photos of that stone. All of our photos are photos of the specific gemstone offered for sale, and we show each gem from 3 different angles. Please make note of the size of the piece you're looking at, since the gems are magnified to give you the best view of the stone's clarity, cut and color. But a 1 carat stone may look just as a big as a 10 carat piece in the photos!
If you are looking for a particular color, such as pink, but you're not sure what kind of stone you want, you can find all the different gemstones in pink by typing "pink" in the search box that you'll find on the right side of every page.
The same technique works for searching for all gemstones in a particular shape, such as "pear" or "octagon." Or you can make a combined search and look for all the "blue oval" gems.
To learn more about a particular kind of gemstone that interests you, please see our information pages. These pages provide detailed information on specific gems, including what to look for in that particular variety.
If you want to get very specific, you can use our Shop By menu to search by any combination of gem type, weight, size, clarity, shape or price.
What Do You Look For in a Fine Gemstone?
But all gemologists would agree that in colored gemstones, it is color that is the most important single characteristic. Gemologists try to be quite precise about color, and they use a specific sets of terms for describing the color of gems: hue, saturation and tone. See our color page for detailed advice on evaluating gemstone color.
Cut and clarity are also very important, especially as they affect color and brilliance. Colored gemstones are typically graded according to a clarity scale, and every gem listing on GemSelect will include the clarity rating for the particular gem. In general, a gem that has no visible inclusions is preferred. But it is important to note that inclusions often add character and individuality to a gem. In fact gemologists use the distinctive character of inclusions to identify the origin of a stone. So while it is true that the higher the clarity grade, the higher the value of the gem, inclusions that don’t interfere with the brilliance and sparkle of a gem don’t affect its value.
The supply of high quality gemstones is falling as mines are depleted. At the same time, consumer interest in gemstones is increasing. These trends lead to a scarcity of fine gems, and a corresponding increase in prices.
The gemstone industry has responded to demand by developing certain treatments to maximize the color and clarity of the scarce yield from remaining gem mines. The most common of these techniques is heat treatment, which improves gem color through the use of high temperature, mimicking the effects of nature as she creates gems through heat and pressure. Other kinds of treatments include fracture filling, and the addition of certain chemicals such as beryllium to the heating process.
These treatments significantly improve the appearance of many gemstones, but they also affect the value of the stone. A treated stone is always less expensive than a similar untreated stone. But most of the stones that are routinely treated -- such as ruby and sapphire -- are now very rare in untreated form, and the untreated stones fetch a market price out of the reach of most consumers.
If you prefer to buy an untreated stone, you do have many choices. A number of popular gems, such as tourmaline, spinel, amethyst and garnet are almost never treated.
How Do You Keep Your Gemstone Looking New?