Renee Newman: Who is She? 

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How did you end up writing books about gems?

While working as an international tour director, I was exposed to beautiful gems in Asia, South America, and the South Pacific. I saw gems everywhereóin hotels, airports, tourist attractions and, naturally, in shopping areas. My passengers wanted to know how to get good buys on them and spot quality, so I searched libraries and bookstores for help. Even though there was information on gem identification, history, mining and lore, there was little about judging the quality of pearls and colored gems.

When I heard about a colored gem grading class at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), I decided to enroll. The enthusiasm of the instructors inspired me to sign up for the gemology program there. Two years later, I obtained a GIA Graduate Gemologist diploma and began work as a gemologist at a wholesale firm in downtown Los Angeles, the Josam Diamond Trading Corporation. It was a great opportunity because I worked with a wide variety of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls. I was also involved in jewelry quality control.

Ever since Iíd become aware of the need for affordable information on gem evaluation, Iíd wanted to write a consumer guide to buying gems. However, when I learned how complex the subject was, I realized it would be better to just focus on diamonds in my first book. The Diamond Ring Buying Guide: How to Spot Value & Avoid Ripoffs was published in 1989; it was so successful I decided to continue writing more gem buying guides. To accomplish this, I could only work part-time as a gemologist. Gradually, writing, research and book promotion became a full-time occupation.

How did you learn to write? 

After graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara, I taught English in France, Spain and Japan. To do that, I had to learn to communicate in clear, simple English so foreign students could understand me. This in turn helped me write about gems in an easy-to-read style that lay people can understand.

Where do you get your information?  

  • From hands-on experience with the gems in the US and abroad.

  • Directly from dealers and jewelers who specialize in whatever I'm discussing. For example, Iíll interview several opal dealers if Iím writing about opals and Iíll have some of them check the accuracy of my sections on opals.

  • From appraisers and gem laboratories. I also have them check what I write.

  • From gem and jewelry seminars geared to the trade. Even though I graduated from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), I must keep abreast of new developments, sources and treatments.

  • From consumers and hobbyists. Sometimes they know more than "experts."

  • From gem shows. This is one of the best ways to learn about gem pricing and availability.

Where do you get your photos?

Iíve taken many of the photos myself (those with no photo credits). The others I get from designers, jewelers, photographers and gem dealers. They get free publicity by having their name mentioned and I get free usage of the photos. There is no paid advertising in my books.

Who is your target audience?

Anybody who buys gems or jewelry, be it a consumer or trade professional, will benefit by reading my books. Quality factors, buying tips and lab documentation are the same for all gem buyers. My books do not presuppose a prior knowledge of the material covered.

Why donít you explain gem pricing according to the 4 Cís of color, clarity, cut and carat weight?

When the concept of the 4 Cís for diamonds was developed in the 1950's, it was a workable system. Now there are additional factors to consider. For example, the treatment status of a diamond must be included as a price factor because it can have a significant impact on price, just as it does with expensive colored gems. Diamond treatments such as fracture filling and high heat & pressure treatment were not available prior to the 1980's, but theyíre increasing.

Likewise, transparency has become another relevant price factor because non-transparent diamonds are becoming more common. (Transparency is the degree to which a gem is clear, hazy, cloudy or opaque. Itís a separate factor from clarity.) Although itís rarely mentioned, transparency has always been a value factor for colored gems, and it can be just as important as color.

The way the trade explains cut with one term is confusing to lay people. Itís easier to understand if itís broken into its component parts of shape, cutting style and cut quality, all of which function as separate price factors.

Salespeople like to have a quick and clever way of presenting gem pricing to their customers, so they prefer to use the 4 Cís. Iím not selling you gems. Iím selling you information on how gems are valued. To do that, I'm committed to providing you with complete, accurate, up-to-date information.

Links to Details of Newman's Books

Diamond Ring Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Gem & Jewelry Pocket Guide, Details & Reviews

Gemstone Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Gold & Platinum Jewelry Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Pearl Buying Guide, Details & Reviews

Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald Buying Guide, Details & Reviews