Are you in the market to purchase a piece of fine jewelry with gems either for yourself or for that special someone? Aside from the considerations of: design or look; gems of choice; and type of jewelry (Engagement Ring, Necklace, Pendant, Earrings, etc.), the quality of the craftsmanship should also be looked at carefully. Some buyers prioritize on gem size and quality. For those who do, I encourage you to review this article just so that you can understand some elements that will surround your gem of choice. Some buyers prioritize the look of the jewelry: how blingy; how dainty; or how elegant, rather than the actual longevity of piece of jewelry. For that special group that can afford that priority (Must be nice), I guess you can skip this article. For all others who do want to prioritize quality but do not really know what to look for, this is the article to read. Here are the 6 features or considerations to look for when buying quality fine jewelry with gems.
This article is part 6 of a longer article that will be posted at the completion of the all the parts. For a summary, please see 6 Tips in What to Look For When Buying Quality Jewelry. Please sign-up to receive the more detailed future posts.
6. What to Look for in a Quality Gem
There are so many great educational articles in the internet that would do a better job informing you of how to look for a great quality gem. Some obvious places to look for great material would be from the main gemological laboratories that certify the gems we purchase. The most reputable source in the US for all gems is GIA and for diamond education specifically, I like AGS. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has a great encyclopedia of gems, each having its own buyer's guide. AGS (American Gemological Society) also has a buyer's guide but what I like more about AGS is its focus on the diamond's scintillation--the brilliance of the diamond. There are many other sites out there with additional tips and pointers and I will occasionally update this post to add a few more later. To keep it simple, go to the source that certifies most gems like the above mentioned.
That being said, I will add a few cents on what I prioritize. My pointers should only be used as reinforcement to those great articles out there and not as a primary source.
In the case of diamonds, there are many factors involved in selecting a center stone, if one of your main factors is sparkle or, like the kids call it, "bling"--officially called "scintillation" by AGS--then the cut of the diamond should be the absolute priority in selecting diamonds. The cut of the diamond is the main feature of a diamond that returns light to your or that special someone's eyes. The better the cut, the more accurate the return of light to the eyes, and the amount and array of color that will return to the viewer. This should apply to any size of diamond equally. Even small diamonds should sparkle like the rock stars that they are. For smaller diamonds, also known as melee diamonds, excellent or ideal cut diamonds are recommended.
For center stones, the hierarchy in grading the cut of high quality diamonds should be at the very least Very Good in GIA or AGS2 for AGS and at the best Excellent for GIA or AGS0 if it is graded by AGS. I recommend maximizing the cut's three subgrades (For GIA: Cut-Excellent; Polish-Excellent; Symmetry-Excellent). For AGS: Light Performance 0; Polish-0; Symmetry-0). There is some confusion with the different cut grades from GIA and AGS. The simplest way to look at it is to focus on the three sub-categories of cut and go for the highest grade you can afford. For more info on the confusion and some further clarity visit this post.
The carat weight, color, and clarity are important also, but I would sacrifice any of them, to get the best sparkle possible. If you would ask me to prioritize, I would say: Cut, Color, Carat Weight, Clarity.
For color faceted gems, the simplest way to evaluate these gems are by color, color intensity specifically. Again, I invite you to visit GIA for more in-depth details. Whatever color you are looking for, make sure that the color is rich and it is not faint or too dark. If you want to delve deeper into quality, then check the enhancements on the color. The less enhancements (heat treated, color treated, etc.) the rarer and better the gem. If you want to delve even further, then look at the quality of the facets or cuts in the gem. There should be nice symmetry and proportionality in the facets. If you want to go even deeper than that, first of all, you are into a world of hurt, but you can educate yourself as much as you want in the internet.
For other gemstones or semi-precious stones. It gets a lot more subjective. There are rare gems and stones, so there's that, but there are some gems that are not rare but can have a lot of character or significance. Make sure that the stones are natural. There are some that are treated for stability and there are others that are rare versions of opulent stones or gems. Every gemstone and semi-precious stones require a unique set of factors to evaluate, so use the internet.
So this is the take-home point:
Diamond cut matters for sparkle; pure colors, enhancements, and cut symmetry matters in color faceted gems; everything else, check GIA, AGS, and the internet.
This concludes my 6 tips on what to look for when buying quality fine jewelry with gems. Stay tuned for my final installment on this topic that will detail some further considerations and closing remarks. Please subscribe.