As a buyer who is planning to spend a good sum on gemstone rings (this could be anywhere from $25 to over $200), it’s always a good idea to follow a few pointers to prepare before actually buying an item. Concerns that may arise when purchasing a gemstone include what your item is made of and it’s value to ensure that it’s in fact genuine. Being educated about the stones and aware of what’s on the market can prevent any unfortunate and unwanted transactions with scammers.
Here are a few important things to brush up on before your purchase. These tips can apply to buying anything online, sight unseen, or even from a craft fair, not just Tophatter:
Preparation and Communication: on Tophatter and other sites, you have time to peruse items and jot down questions beforehand. Tophatter lists items a week ahead giving you plenty of time to ask important questions to the seller. You can click on the seller’s name, then click on their website/shop or even directly contact them using the “Email Me” feature. If they don’t have a store listed or aren’t easily contacted via email, you may decide not to purchase from them. I wouldn’t! Your questions can include anything from the type of gem, to the metals used in the piece, to size or to what country the item is purchased from.
Know the Market
: this would require a few minutes of research on your part - however, the time spent research is well worth it. Check out sites like eBay, Amazon, alibaba.com
(a Chinese manufacture site) and more to look for that particular item or similar ones. There, you can double-check for prices, materials, value and compare until you get a pretty good idea of what you will be getting.
Basics about Gems:
Precious gems are diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and opals (pearls are also included here though they are not actually gems).
Semi precious gems are all the other ones like garnet, peridot, amethyst, citrine, etc. And the more earthy types like jaspers, turquoise, carnelians, onyx, quartz, etc.
If you are looking at a spending price of up to $200 for a ring, you can find precious gems, but they will be of lower quality. I bought a 14 inch strand of emeralds for $5 and they were pretty big. But they were dull, completely opaque, rough, cracked and needed a good tumble. They were uncut. To give you a good sense of what I mean, most likely if I started to tumble them tonight - they might be passable in about a year’s time!
You would never find a huge clear and transparent faceted emerald for that price range. It would cost 1000s of dollars. You might find some big arty stones, but they will be rough looking. Expect to pay between $20 and $40 retail, if the ring is set in silver. If set in a mystery metal or plate, expect to pay under $12 retail, though it’s really only worth a few dollars.
Same with rubies. They are completely opaque, rocklike and inclusions (imperfections and cracks) on the surface and inside the stone. These are not expensive and you can buy larger arty ones. A strand might run you about $35. A ring with sterling would be between $15 and $30. Silver-plated rubies can be had for a few dollars retail.
Sapphires are tiny. You will not find any larger than approximately 4mm in this price range. They grow that way, and after being cut, are even smaller. Good ones are clear and navy to royal blue and expensive. Industrial grade are almost black and completely opaque. Expect to pay a dollar or two if the metal is silver tone or plated.
Diamonds, expect a chip, an industrial chip they use for drill bits. Like the size of a head of a pin.
Opals contain a lot of water which gives them their distinct fiery glow. Expect to buy a very white, opaque opal with very little fire. These can be had for a few dollars. If you see a very large, transparent one with lots of color and fire and it’s selling for a $50+, expect it to be glass.
Blue fire opals are relatively new and were discovered in 2008, so don’t be fooled if the seller is claiming it’s vintage or antique. You cannot buy a nice large opal ring. It will be a D grade and with sterling, about $15. With silver plating, a dollar would be too much!
With transparent semi precious gems you are more likely to get a better deal because these stones are less expensive, transparent and faceted (though they will most likely contain inclusions), have good color (though they might be lab enhanced which is totally fine too) and are sizeable, but there are exceptions. With sterling, expect to pay $20 to $35 for a good sized stone. With silver plate or silver tone, a few dollars.
You can find gorgeous amethyst, citrine in varying rich shades of yellow to amber, green amethyst, milky chalcedony, blue opals, etc.
The exceptions are small stones. Certain gems will rarely be found large sized. Gems like peridot, garnet and tourmaline grow naturally in small batches. So if you see a big ring, it’s glass. Expect to buy 1/4 or smaller for these types of gems.
Manmade gems can be very pretty too but their colors will be too vivid and unnatural looking.
A manmade gem making the rounds on Tophatter is mystic quartz or mystic topaz. Topaz is expensive and the “gems” are just too perfect. So, if the retail price or bid is low - these are more likely glass and coated with an AB film. Under $10 for sterling. Worthless in silver plate or tone.
And then there is a huge category of arty gemstones, like jaspers, turquoise, carnelian, onyx, etc. These are my favorite and a totally great deal. These are usually pretty rough, not faceted, and handmade, set in sterling. They are large too. You can get these for under $20.
The rings made in China, Mexico, Tibet, etc. are most likely silver plate, even though they are stamped .925. The reason being that these countries do not regulate their precious metals. You could even be getting a mystery metal filled with who knows what. So that moves us to…
Basics about Precious Metals:
Right now, 14K gold is $1643 per troy ounce and sterling silver is $31.73 per ounce. These prices fluctuate daily. So expect a retail price accordingly for rings. If you see a 14K gold ring listed for $7 on Tophatter, you can bet it’s plate or gold tone. Silver has a distinctive look to it. Very rich and whitish silver. If it is very steel colored it most likely is not sterling.
Still, it is very hard to tell precious metals from pictures. The best you can do it to buy a testing kit. A silver testing kit can be found for about $5. A gold one is a little bit more expensive.
Testing and Guarantees:
Besides testing, you can also get your jewelry appraised and examined at your jewelers - the experts. They will weigh it, and examine it with a loupe. Sometimes they charge for this service but if you’re making a purchase/investment, it’s well worth it.
If you are buying purported genuine gemstones and precious metal rings, make sure to ask the seller if it comes with a guarantee.
Or, if you plan to purchase, take a screen shot of the listing and save it in a folder. Save all communication with the seller. That way, if your ring turns out to be a fake and you have just paid $200 for it, you can contact PayPal, send them the item description and a note from your jeweler, or photo of your test, to get ask for a refund.
By all means, these are only suggestions in finding and purchasing a nice genuine ring. But, you can still find all kinds of rings on Tophatter - it’s really up to you, the buyer, to decide the quality you want and at what price point. Hope this basic guide helps! - Sharon Nieburg