Buying gemstones online “should be” a lot easier now.
With the internet, we can now buy multiple consumer products like smartphones, computers, clothes, watches, etc.
Also with the World Wide Web, we can now buy gemstones based on
c) Third Party Certificates
d) And other important specifications.
So, with all the above information it should help us make an informed purchase decision.
However the fact is these ‘attempts to standardize’ the colored gemstone trade has has not help. There is still a lot of issues concerning buying gemstones online.
That I would like to discuss about in today’s blog post
Lack of Trust Makes Buying Gemstones Online Difficult
It is now normal for me to get an email every week from a potential gemstone buyer still concerned
a) If the gemstone they are purchasing is of the “correct price”
b) Or of “good quality”
c) Or the company they are dealing with is “trustworthy.”
These questions are all subjective and difficult to answer. Without actually looking at the gemstone by hand. It is very difficult to answer these questions.
I would not buy a gemstone without seeing it under a neutral light setting. Or have dealt with a particular company before.
Judging Gemstones Color is Imporant
Unlike diamonds, the beauty and difficulty in buying a colored gemstone are determining what the actual color is.
Color is the most important factor in any gemstone. And without actually looking at it personally. It is impossible to judge what the actual color is with the information we have online right now.
Here is an actual example. We found this 21.68 carats star blue sapphire on eBay and this was image provided by the seller:
As I don’t buy any gemstone online without seeing in person I got the stone and took my own image. Notice the stark difference in color!
Even with the modern cameras, the exact color of a gemstone is not captured accurately.
From personal experience in taking hundreds of photos & videos. I have seen cameras NOT capturing certain colors. Or MAKING other colors that don’t exist with the naked eye.
The major labs GIA, Gueblin, and GRS have tried to standardize the color grading. By defining “hue, tone and saturation” concept on their websites, certificates or gemology courses.
But, even these definitions are still broad and not applied in practice.
How is Color Defined When Purchasing Gemstones?
Color, in general, has a very broad definition.
If you have ever tried making websites through HTML coding or used Photoshop. You will understand how you can “change the slight green color, or red color, or blue color.” To a color range you would like.
In fact, according to Wikipedia Color Vision article, the human eye can distinguish 10 million different colors!
That is a lot of colors and you can see why it is very difficult to standardize this.
Why Color Standardization Difficult?
To provide you a real example, let’s look at what a “ruby” gemstone color should be.
The definition by GIA is that the ruby hue color should be from pinkish-red to purplish red. This defines only the hue color.
Then there is the tone level ranges from very light (whitish range) to very dark (near blackish range).
Finally then there is the saturation level which can range from low range (grayish color) to high saturation (only pure color).
So, there are three factors or 3D perspective in defining what a ruby color should be.
Buy Gemstones Online Unsafe (First Issue) – Labs Have Not Standardize Color Yet
However, when we actually look at our reputable gemstone lab report like GIA, GRS or Gubelin.
They still only provide one line explaining color which is the “hue” color grading. For example for rubies it will be pinkish-red, red, purplish-red, orangish-red, etc.,
There is nothing explaining the tone range or saturation range the gemstone is.
GRS has tried defining the color for higher quality rubies. By using generic terms like “vivid red or vivid pigeon’s blood red.” Though these are also subjective based on the ‘graders assessment.’
There is now a lab called Lotus Gemology who is trying to rectify this issue. They have introduced saturation & tone grading in their certification report. Only time will tell if their endeavor will succeed.
This lack of standardization has really made it difficult for everyone. Including traders, retailers and end-users.
a) To determine what color the gemstone is?
b) What are the desirable color ranges?
c) How rare the color ranges are?
And therefore getting the “correct” assessment of buying a particular gemstone based on color.
Buy Gemstone Online Unsafe (Second Issue) – No Standardization in Clarity Range
Another issue with gemstones lab reports is that there are no “clarity” definitions.
Even though they have strict grading criteria for diamonds. For example – diamond clarity can range from IF, VVS, VS, SI, & I grade.
As there many different types of color gemstones. And some are ‘expected to have inclusions’ or others are ‘defined based on their inclusions.’
GIA decided to classify colored gemstones as either ‘type 1’, ‘type 2’ or ‘type 3’ as shown in the list below.
Type 1 Gemstones
Aquamarine, yellow and green chrysoberyl, heliodore, morganite, smoky quartz, spodumene, tanzanite, green tourmaline and blue zircon.
These stones are usually ‘eye clean’ which means no visible inclusions can be seen with the naked eye.
Type 2 Gemstones
Amethyst, ametrine, andalusite, alexandrite, citrine, corundum (all sapphire and ruby), garnet, iolite, peridot, spinel, tourmaline that is not green, pink or watermelon, and zircon that is not blue.
These stones are usually included. That means that some ‘clean’ stones can be found, but more difficult than type 1 stones.
Type 3 Gemstones
Emerald, red beryl and red, pink and watermelon tourmaline.
For these gemstones, a high clarity grading (eye clean or flawless – IF) is incredibly rare. Since these stones are almost always included.
Though GIA has classified gemstones based on the above groups. There is no line on their certificate providing a ‘clarity grade.’
This is also true for GRS or Gubelin certificates.
So, the only way for the consumer to get the clarity information is from a reputable gemstone dealer. Or websites that provide the ‘diamond clarity grade’ based on their personal assessment.
Buy Gemstone Online Unsafe (Third Issue) – No Cut Grade Standard
Finally, there also no cut grade standard for color gemstones, unlike diamonds. Though this is not as important when compared to the other factors above.
Because there are a lot of colored gemstones with different properties. It is very difficult to get a standard or ideal number in how to cut a particular gemstone.
Also, color is the most important factor for any colored gemstone. The particular cut is usually used to enhance this feature. If the gemstone is cut too deep it will be too dark and if it is too shallow it will be a lot ‘lighter’ than ideal color range.
Therefore, how a gemstone is cut really depends on what shape and color the gemstone rough crystal is.
In my personal opinion, there is no way to standardize this criterion.
Only Way To Buy Online is With Trustworthy Eye
Due to significant issues as stated in this blog post. The only way to purchase colored gems online is if you have a trustworthy person who can look at the actual stone.
The ideal candidate will be a person who has no personal interest in the product. Or someone who can provide you a frank and honest opinion. This person should, of course, understand how to assess color, clarity and some gemstone knowledge.
I hope the above guide is helpful and if you have any additional questions. Please feel free to provide your comments below or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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