An educated consumer is a gemstone vendor’s best kind of customer. You have taken the time to investigate the types of gemstones available in the market, you are aware of the common treatments that gemstones are routinely subjected to, and your expectations of price and availability are realistic. But what about the questions that make some jeweler or gem dealers flinch? Is there a way to vet the expertise of those from whom you are considering purchasing? Read on for some surprising facts that impact the gem trade today, including those questions some gem dealers don’t want you to ask!
Do you carry fair trade gemstones?
With sustainability issues and fair labor practices making the news weekly, more and more customers are interested in buying gemstones that are free from associations with oppressive government regimes, child labor, and ecological destruction. So this question seems like a fair one. Why would it ruffle the feathers of a gem dealer?
The answer is simple. At this time, there is no certification for fair trade gemstones. Very few gem dealers make their chain of custody protocols public. If someone is offering to sell you a fair trade gem and doesn’t offer any kind of documentation, you basically are just taking their word for it. Fair trade certification does exist. Coffee and apparel are two well known examples. But in the world market for gemstones, there is currently no third party fair trade certification.
What kind of treatment has this gemstone undergone?
While it is generally understood that many gemstones have their appearance altered to prepare them for sale, your local retailer actually might not be up on the specific kind of treatment a gemstone has undergone. Many gem wholesalers only disclose that their gems have been “enhanced” without specifically stating which type of enhancement has been used. So while the retailer may be aware that the gem they are selling is enhanced, your question about specific gem treatments might just stump them.
Are your diamonds conflict-free?
The controversy surrounding “conflict diamonds” is nothing new. By now, most people have heard about the trafficking of gemstones through illegal channels, the profits from which go to fund renegade militia intent on overthrowing legitimate governments, particularly in the Congo regions of Africa. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was established in 2003 to ensure that diamonds were traded legally and that profits were not diverted to fund civil wars. The KPCS was dealt a serious blow in 2011 when international advocacy group Global Witness withdrew its support, claiming that the certification process had failed. With such a stunning criticism from a non-governmental agency, you have to wonder if KPCS means anything at all. Even if your jeweler adheres to the Kimberley Process, they may be unaware of their diamond’s true origins after all.
Gemstone Buying Checklist
Here are the questions you should ask before finalizing a gemstone purchase
- Can I get an independent gemological laboratory certification report? While the gem dealer may charge a fee for facilitating this type of transaction, have the gem identified and certified by a lab is a smart thing to do before committing to the purchase.
- Can I have this gemstone appraised by a third party? Many jewelers and gem dealers will offer gemstone appraisal as part of the services they provide; however, it is a good practice to get the opinion of someone who does not have a financial interest in the sale.
- Can you verify the geographical origin of this gemstone? By asking this question, you are testing the seller’s knowledge of his or her vendors. The gem trade is very much global. A stone that is mined in Africa might be cut and polished in China before it is sold in the United States. Show that you are in the know by distinguishing between where a gemstone was mined and where is was cut and polished.
Are you prepared to start buying gemstones with confidence? What are the questions you wish you had asked before buying a gemstone? What will you do differently next time? Let us know if issues like fair trade, sustainability, and origin are important to you.