Buying Flaws for Beginners
Most aspiring gem-lovers are overwhelmed by the depth and width of the market. If they have been confused in a B&M jeweler, a quick web-search is going to do the rest. But, alas, there is no competence for the lazy. Selecting antiques, real estate or vintage cars requires homework too.
101 buying guides offer good reading and places like this help. Be prepared to spend weeks in a fog but do not despair. Collecting gems is a passion and the learning never ends.
Here is a fresh perspective for the determined beginner. It comes out of a thousand discussions with early stage buyers and their consecutive decisions.
First allow this axiom: “No natural gem is perfect.”
The deeper your knowledge the better your choices will get, but there is no final word. All veterans know this.
Consider that 95% of what comes out of a mine goes straight back into the pit. Most rough material is too small, too included, too dull or too unshapely to be cut into gemstones.
Only the remaining 5% make it into sales and they all are flawed.
It is those flaws that need attention: Evaluating gemstones means recognizing imperfection.
Here is an exemplary list of common flaws rated with negative numbers:
1. Clarity: From lens-only bubbles (-1) to visible black inclusions (-3)
2. Window: From small and symmetric (-2) to big and uneven (-5)
3. Color-zoning: From faint (-1) to dramatic (-2)
4. Cutting: From not-precise (-2) to native egg-shape (-5)
5. Treatment: From heat-only (-1) to surface coating (-10)
6. Color: From off-ideal (-1) to pale or dark (-5)
1) A terrible gem could here, theoretically, make it to minus 30. Yuk!
2) Color includes tone and hue
This individual list has no fixed reference. You can add or disregard issues or give reverse ratings. It needs to look different for cat’s eyes, pairs or color changers; in fact, the list will look different for every single purchase.
Professionals make this kind of evaluation automatically and in seconds.
You need not to be that fast. Also, you need not think of anything other than what you want or like; and that is entirely up to you. You may find a specific color perfect and some treatment acceptable while other buyers might not be interested in the same stone for half the price.
As always, if you want what everybody wants you need to dig deeper.
Imagine the one elusive but perfect stone: It would have no window (not even a tilt window), be free of inclusions but not synthetic, have no color-zoning, sport an art-full precision-cut, be untreated and have exactly the hue you want it in and in exactly the right tone. Plus, it needs be in the desired size and shape, have ideal proportions, be of your preferred origin and have a perfect certificate. And it must be for sale at an affordable rate.
Back to reality: On the one side we have a set of negotiable flaws. On the other side we have restrictions in budget and time. A successful purchase needs to balance these two sides (only eternity or unlimited budgets are excused).
Practically, you might be shopping for a round yellow sapphire in 2 carats and you need to order soon. The web shows legitimate offers between 250 and 2000.
Study the flaws that make the difference between 250 and 2000.
A terrible window may bring you from 2000 to 1000, a pale hue downs it to 500 and heat may bring you to 250.
Below 250 (e.g. bad window, pale, BE-treated and included) the definition of gem-quality sapphire gets shaky.
If you like numbers you may actually chart your alternatives with prices and flaws on a rough scale.
In the end, I advice to follow your heart, not the numbers.
Remember: “There is always a better one”.
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