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    Answers to Readers' Questions

How do you determine if a seller is knowledgeable and ethical?

What qualifications should jewelry appraisers have?

What gemological diplomas do the letters GG, FGA, AG (CIG), FCGmA, FGAA, FGG stand for?

Why donít you list cut measurement standards for fancy shapes (non-rounds ) in your diamond book?

Do gems bought abroad cost less than those purchased at home?

Why donít you include fluorescence as a value factor for diamonds?

Is it okay to get an insurance appraisal for antique jewelry at a jewelry store?

What's the best way to clean gems?

How should jewelry be stored?

 Should I get a written appraisal of my estate jewelry before I try to sell it?


How do you determine if a seller is knowledgeable and ethical?

The best way to determine a sellerís credibility is by becoming an informed buyer and by asking questions such as:

* How would you describe the quality of this (stone or jewelry piece)?

* Is this stone treated? Or what treatment(s) has this stone undergone?

* Which of these two stones is cut better and why?

* Will you put in writing what youíve just told me verbally

Sellers should be willing to tell you both the positive and negative characteristics of a piece and they should be able to give you concrete information about quality features instead of just saying, for example, "this is a beautiful stone with a great cut." Sellers should disclose and explain gem treatments in clear language rather than only with euphemisms such as "clarity enhanced."

Ask about the storeís return policy as well; itís a good sign when jewelers are willing to back up their merchandise in writing with full money-back guarantees. If youíre not buying the gems or jewelry locally, insist on this type of written guarantee and pay with a credit card.

What qualifications should jewelry appraisers have?

Good jewelry appraisers have:

1. Formal training in gemology so they can accurately identify and describe gems and gem treatments. A gemological credential such as a GG, FGA, FGG, AG (CIG), FCGmA, FGAA or FGG is a minimum requirement.

2. Trade experience

3. Integrity

4. Formal training in valuation theory, ethics, appraisal procedures and law so they can write appraisals that give you proper legal protection and that are respected by insurance companies, courts and the Internal Revenue Service. Appraisal credentials such as AM, ASA, MGA, ISA, CAPP, CMA, CGA are awarded to appraisers who have attended appraisal courses, passed exams and met other appraisal qualifications.

    Itís in your interest to select an independent appraiser (one who is not affiliated with a jewelry store or gem dealer) if you want to determine if you paid a fair price or if you want to obtain a third party document that will be recognized by insurance companies and courts. Many insurance companies do not recognize appraisals provided by the seller because thereís a conflict of interest; the grades and values could be inflated. Appraisals from competing jewelry stores might be undervalued.

     To see a list of independent appraisers with gemological and appraisal credentials, click on appraisers. Unfortunately, some states do not have independent appraisers. If none are in your area, you should at least have your jeweler provide you with an independent lab report for high value items. (Unlike appraisals, true independent lab reports and certificates do not include a price. One example is a GIA grading report. These reports are also recommended as adjuncts to appraisals).

What gemological diplomas do the letters GG, FGA, AG (CIG), FCGmA, FGAA, FGG stand for?

GG, Graduate Gemologist. Awarded by the Gemological Institute of America

FGA, Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain

AG (CIG), Accredited Gemmologist. Awarded by the Canadian Institute of Gemmology

FCGmA, Fellow of the Canadian Gemmological Association

FGAA, Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Australia

FGG, Fellow of the German Gemmological Association

Why donít you list cut measurement standards for fancy shapes (non-rounds ) in your diamond book?

I donít list such standards because there are no agreed-upon industry standards for fancy shapes. There are only individual sellers who provide guidelines, which are based on what they have available to sell you.

The best way to judge the cut of a fancy shape diamond is to look at the stone. If itís a good cut, it will display brilliance all across the stone face-up; it wonít have dark areas or a see-through effect. Neither will it have a thick girdle (edge) or a deep, bulky pavilion (bottom). See Chapter 6 of the Diamond Ring Buying Guide for photo examples of good and bad cuts and what to look for.

Itís important to learn to judge cut with the eye instead of just with numbers because most of the diamonds you buy will be mounted and wonít come with lab documents and proportion measurements (center stones excepted). Youíll have to look at the stones in semi-mounts, necklaces, bracelets and brooches to determine if theyíre well cut. It would make no sense to buy an "ideal-cut" diamond and then place it in a mounting with shallow or deep-cut small diamonds.

Do gems bought abroad cost less than those purchased at home?

Gems bought overseas arenít necessarily less expensive than domestic purchases. Nonetheless, they do make great souvenirs and gifts. Theyíre lightweight and donít take up much space. Theyíre usually more appreciated than large, junky gifts. And if you buy gems near the source, you usually have a wider selection and greater range of qualities to choose from than at home. However there are also more opportunities for fraud and misrepresentation.   

Some advantages of buying gems locally are convenience, service, ease of returns and greater recourse against fraud. If you're an astute buyer, you can find deals at home that are just as good as those overseas. 

Before you spend a lot of money on gems abroad, first read the Gem & Jewelry Pocket Guide: A Travelerís Guide to Buying Diamonds, Colored Gems, Pearls, Gold and Platinum Jewelry. Then make sure the store offers a written 100% money-back guarantee and pay with a credit card that offers consumer protection.

Why donít you include fluorescence as a value factor for diamonds?

If a diamond omits light when stimulated by UV lights or sunlight, itís fluorescent. When I worked in the diamond trade, I never once saw a dealer check the fluorescence of a diamond under a UV light to determine if he wanted to buy it or not. What matters to diamond connoisseurs is the overall brilliance, color, clarity, shape and transparency of the diamond and whether itís been cut to have unnecessary weight. Nowadays itís also important to know if the color and clarity are natural or the result of treatments.

Some people are propagating the notion that if a diamond has fluorescence, itís cloudy. This is false. First of all, practically all diamonds have some degree of fluorescence. Secondly, even diamonds that are strongly fluorescent can be highly transparent, and diamonds with negligible or no fluorescence can be cloudy. The best way to judge transparency is to simply look at the diamond. If itís cloudy or hazy, donít buy it unless thatís the effect youíre looking for. Diamonds with the highest transparency are the most valued

Diamond buying is already complicated; whatís the point of adding a factor that doesnít affect the a diamondís beauty? For further information on diamond fluorescence, consult the Diamond Ring Buying Guide, pages 49, 85, and 86.

Fluorescence can have a positive effect on some colored gemstones. The worldís most valuable rubies, for example, are noted for having a strong red fluorescence, which helps them have a highly saturated red color throughout.

Is it okay to an insurance appraisal for antique jewelry at a jewelry store?

Itís best to have antique jewelry appraised by a specialist in antique jewelry.

Antique appraisals must take into consideration that antique jewellery cannot be exactly replaced in todayís market. Therefore, it wouldnít be appropriate to base the value on the estimated costs to replace the item in newly manufactured condition (which is what jewelry stores usually do).

Value estimations for antique jewellery must be a reflection of the sum to replace the item of similar condition, motif, degree of workmanship, subject to the availability of a like article in the current marketplace. Occasionally an appraisal of antique jewellery is done to authenticate the item. Research for authentication includes provenance, attribution and identification.

Always ask if the appraiser is familiar with the item. A code of ethics states that appraisers shouldnít accept items they donít know about

Answer by Debra Sawatzky, GG, AA-CJI, ISA-CAPP, specialist in antique and period estate jewelryó68 Empire Ave, Toronto, Canada, phone: 416-362-9011.


Whatís the best way to clean gems?

One good way of cleaning gemstones is to spray them with a bit of Windex and wipe them with a soft lint-free cloth. The window cleaner evaporates fast without leaving water spots. A cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol is also effective.

Cool water and mild soap is usually safe for all gems. However, gems whose cracks have been masked with oil or other fillers should not be soaked in cleaning solutions because they may remove the fillers. Porous gems such as turquoise, opal, pearls, coral and lapis may also be damaged by cleaning solutions. Just clean them with a soft damp cloth.

Ultrasonics can be effective in cleaning very dirty stones, but should be avoided if stones are fragile or have fractures. The Gemstone Buying Guide gives cleaning and care tips for each of the major colored gem species as well as for many lesser known species such as benitoite, diopside, rhodonite etc.

How should jewelry be stored?

A padded jewelry box with lots of compartments is a convenient way to organize your jewelry, but hide it well so burglars wonít find it easily. Cloth pouches and padded jewelry bags with compartments are also good for protecting jewelry and itís easier to conceal them or place them in safe deposit boxes. Separate jewelry and avoid jumbling it together because gems and metals can be easily scratched by each other.

Should I get a written appraisal of my estate jewelry before I try to sell it?

No, you would be better off getting an identification report from an internationally recognized lab. Estate buyers make offers based on the weights, identities and quality descriptions of the components of a piece. Reports from independent labs are more trusted than those from jewelers.

The value jewelers put on appraisals is typically the retail replacement value, which is used for insurance purposes. Estate buyers donít pay full retail. They will make an offer based on the merits of the jewelry piece, which are best substantiated by purchase receipts and reports from internationally recognized labs such as the GIA, AGL, AGTA, SSEF, etc. (for more information on such labs see the Diamond Handbook and the Gem & Jewelry Pocket Guide by Renťe Newman).

To get a good price for your piece, get several offers from knowledgeable estate dealers. In some cases, the auction market will be the most appropriate way to get the best price for your estate/antique jewelry.

Links to the Newman Gem & Jewelry Series

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

Copyright © 2003 & 2005 by Renťe Newman