By Maureen Bay
How often have you been fooled?
There you are in the midst of a fancy party and here comes one of the local gals wearing an awesome, spectacular, and what appears to be, a drop-dead diamond necklace. You just had to ask! But no! She tells you that, of course, it’s not real – couldn’t you tell?
Don’t feel bad that you couldn’t tell real from faux. These days it’s increasingly difficult to detect genuine substances from lab grown synthetic gems. As the technology becomes better and better in synthesizing genuine substances, our ability to distinguish the differences becomes harder. Even as a professional with training and education in gemology, my skills have often been tested and challenged many times.
Take almost any precious gemstone. Diamonds are now being grown in the lab and marketed. Due to the high degree of similarity to natural ones, it takes special skills to spot them, especially if they are in an enclosed setting. Rubies and sapphires are also grown in the lab but can be easier to recognize as “not natural” due to the more obvious “un-natural” colors. Emeralds that are produced by man are also generally easier to discern simply because they are too perfect. Natural emeralds will have characteristic inclusions that are a dead giveaway.
This has been going on for a while. Even your great-grandmother’s strand of amber can easily turn out to be plastic or celluloid – and unfortunately, often is. It’s fairly easy to test the purity of metals, but when it comes to gemstones, man has figured out how to replicate just about everything in the lab. Even abundant materials, such as quartz, which is fairly inexpensive naturally, is often now being simulated … even cheaper!
I believe in full disclosure. I want to know exactly what I am selling and feel confident that I can stand behind it completely. It’s one reason I like to buy from a “face” and not just a computer screen. I also endeavor to carry items in my store that are from legitimate, nonconflict sources. It seems that you never get the whole story when you buy online from a faceless, nameless source.
As always I have a story! In the first decade of my business in Fair Haven, in the middle of the Christmas rush, I had a regular customer come in. She handed me a chunky gold ring with a very large round enclosed-set clear stone on the top. She said it was a 2-carat diamond and she wanted me to remove it for her. It would have to be actually cut out of the setting, so she had to leave it. After giving it a quick glance I gave her a receipt for her “diamond” ring. Two days later, when I had the time to closely examine it, I discovered that the “diamond” was in fact a cubic zirconia.
Of course, I called her immediately and told her. She said it was a diamond and disputed my honesty. I told her that I had not moved any of the metal on the ring and if necessary we would conduct metallurgical tests that would show that. She said that I would be hearing from her lawyer! Several weeks passed before I heard from her again. She was very apologetic. Apparently her husband, unknown to her, had taken the ring to New York and had the real diamond removed and replaced it with a cubic zirconia. She never saw or knew the difference.
Is there a moral here?
Buy your jewelry from someone reputable, knowledgeable and conscientious. There should be no mystery, no question. Faux is fine … as long as you know exactly what it is!
Maureen Bay, owner of Gem of An Idea at 740 River Road, is celebrating 30 years of being a jeweler in Fair Haven.