Some good quality gemstones are inexpensive, such as quartz, topaz and garnet. But good quality gems are never cheap. There are cheap gemstones, however, and they are best avoided. So it's worth knowing how to recognize them.
The best way to buy gemstones, like buying most products, is to search out value. Value means the best quality for the price you pay. There are of course different quality ranges in gemstones. Some dealers sell at the top end of the quality range, with prices to match. Many high end dealers provide good value for those who can afford very rare specimens. But some companies -- we won't mention any names -- sell on price alone. But low price doesn't always mean good value. Some low-priced gems are simply cheap.
There are a number of ways in which cheap gemstones can be poor value. Some unscrupulous dealers who sell on price will substitute a lesser product for a more expensive one. When you see large pieces of amethyst or citrine offered at exceptional prices, it is almost always the case that synthetic quartz is being sold as natural. Selling cheap freshwater pearls as the much more expensive saltwater variety is another notorious example. The product may look reasonably nice -- freshwater pearls can be attractive in their own way-- but they are always inexpensive. They only look like a bargain when sold as something they are not.
Some cheap gemstones are natural stones but have inferior color. Pale amethyst or tanzanite, brownish peridot or tsavorite garnet, and blackish sapphire or garnet are simply poor specimens and generally poor value at almost any price. Similarly, heavily included faceted gems are usually not worth buying, even at low prices, unless they are emeralds (which are almost always included) or have exceptionally good color.
Gemstones that are poorly cut or polished are also no bargain. Though cutting can vary significantly as the gem cutter tries to achieve the best result from the rough material, gems that are cut too shallow or too deep or are not symmetrical will lack brilliance.
Good quality specimens of every natural gemstone variety can be good value if you can buy them at a good price. But some gemstone varieties represent especially good value. Click the link to see our recommendations on how to find the best values in natural gemstones.
- First Published: October-07-2008
- Last Updated: October-06-2010
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