Category Archives: Consumer Alert

Is diamond pricing based solely on the 4 C’s of color, clarity, cut and carat weight?

Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon - GIA 4CsWhile the concept of the 4 C’s for diamonds was provided by GIA in 1953, and is a great industry standard today, there are additional factors to consider when pricing a diamond or other gemstone.

For example, the enhancement or treatment of a diamond (and gemstones) must be included as a price factor because it can have a significant impact on the price. Diamond treatments such as fracture filling and high heat + high pressure treatment did not exist prior to the 1980’s, but are common today. As are synthetic lab-grown (man-made) diamonds and look-a-likes, both have much less value than natural earth mined diamonds.

Transparency is also another price factor. Transparency is describes how clear, hazy, cloudy or opaque a gemstone is. It’s a separate factor from clarity. Hardly ever mentioned by retail jewelers, transparency has always been a value factor for colored gemstones, and it can be just as important as color in today’s diamonds.  Non-transparent diamonds are becoming more common in today’s color diamond market.

4CsSalespeople like a quick easy way of presenting gemstone pricing to their customers, so they use the 4 C’s.

The Jewelry Judge does not sell or buy gemstones or jewelry.

I provide you information on how gemstones are valued during your appraisal process. To do that, I am committed to providing you with complete, accurate, up-to-date information, in order to answer the question: What’s Your Jewelry Worth?

Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon Double CheckThat all being said:

Get a second opinion with a Jewelry Judge Double Check!

 

65Years-2018

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February Birthstone – Amethyst

Amethyst Rough and cutAmethyst is not only the February Birthstone, it is also used to celebrate the 6th and 17th wedding anniversary. Amethyst is the perfect color to provide warmth and strength during this winter month.

Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz. While amethyst is most commonly recognized as a purple color, the gemstone color range is a light pinkish violet to a deep purple.

Sometimes, they will have layers of color variations, so the way the gemstone is cut is important to the way the color shows through the top of the finished gemstone.

Amethyst stripes

Amethyst Ring3Amethyst jewelry has been found and dated as early as 2000 BC, and has been associated with many myths, legends, religions, and numerous cultures. Some historical accounts say that Saint Valentine had an amethyst ring carved with an image of Cupid. And for those familiar with Old Testament history, amethyst was one of the twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

mohs scale

Is it OK to have an Amethyst Engagement Ring?

Amethyst is appropriate for everyday wear, but its Mohs hardness of 7 means it will show wear over the years and may require re-polishing. Today, consumers make unconventional engagement ring choices, choosing birthstones or other colored gemstones rather than diamond. It’s a personal choice.

 

When looking to purchase Amethyst:

  1. Visit and consult the Jewelry Judge, who is trained and certified to ensure that the consumer gets the best information to make a great purchase.
  2. Check the color of the stone. Amethyst often has “stripes” or layers of color from how and when it was formed, so the cut and polish of the stone is important to show the overall color evenly. Avoid brownish or rust colored tints to the stone and be careful the color is not too deep or it can appear black in some lights.
  3. Look for clarity in an amethyst. Most gemologists will favor a richly colored stone with some minor inclusions (not eye-visible), since the color of this gem is so highly prized. In lighter colored amethysts, visible inclusions will greatly reduce the value of the gemstone.

During early history, amethyst was held to be one of the most precious gemstones, and it was the exclusive choice of clergy as a symbol for the deity of Christ. Today, availability of abundant supplies of amethyst allowed the commercialization and marketing to the general public.  Amethyst’s abundance means the price difference between large and small sizes is minimal, so it is a great gemstone for a statement piece. Larger rings, earrings or pendants can make a great addition to any jewelry collection. Smaller amethysts can be deeply and richly colored, making these pieces pop and get noticed.

Does Where an Amethyst is Mined increase it’s value?
Jewelers and dealers often tell consumers origin matters, because an amethyst from Siberia or Zambia might have a better color than amethyst from Brazil. Origin alone does not add or detract value to amethyst or any gemstone. The Jewelry Judge bases Value on the 4Cs of Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat size, which like diamonds helps determine the quality. Color is the most important value factor regardless of the country of origin for Amethyst and most gemstones.

What’s AAA Quality Amethyst?
Individual companies and dealers often create their own quality descriptions, like AAA, AA, A to denote the range of quality for their goods. No Standard quality grading scale has been accepted by the industry for amethyst or any colored gemstone. The Jewelry Judge uses the 4Cs for Diamonds to guide value for amethyst and all colored gemstones.

What are Enhancements or Treatments?

Gemstone treatments or enhancements refer to the way some gemstones are treated to improve their appearance or durability, or even change their color. Many gemstones are treated in some way (such as heat) to improve their color. The effects of some treatments may lessen or change over time and some treated gemstones may require special care.
Enhancements do affect the value of a gemstone, when measured against a comparable untreated gemstone.

Treatments and/or enhancements should always be disclosed by the seller, along with any special care that might be required. You can shop better by taking the time to learn how to buy jewelry. It can seem like a lot, but with a short consultation with the Jewelry Judge, you’ll be shopping like a professional in no time.

Here are a few basics to get your shopping jump-started:16-SimsBlue

What are natural gemstones?
Natural gemstones come from the earth and are mined worldwide. Some natural gemstones can be enhanced, which means sometimes they are treated in some way (such as heat) to improve their color.

What are imitation gemstones?
Imitation or simulated stones look like natural gemstones in appearance only. This includes tinted glass, cubic zirconia, moissanite or other material that resembles natural stones when treated. Laboratory-created and imitation stones should be clearly identified by the seller, but too often are not.

What are laboratory-created gemstones?
These stones, which can also be referred to as laboratory-grown, manufacturer-created, man-made, or synthetic, have essentially the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as natural gemstones (but not the value). Laboratory-created gemstones do not have the rarity or value of natural-colored gemstones. Although they are similar in many ways to natural gemstones, a professional gemologist like the Jewelry Judge will be able to recognize their difference with proper testing.

Here are four sure fire tips to assure a great purchase:

  1. Compare before you decide. We frequently help couples decide between two or three center diamonds . Often they appear quite differently under the microscope which is almost never on the sales counter in a jewelry store. Local jewelers will often hold a credit card for 24hrs while our clients bring in diamonds for our evaluation. This is called a pre-sale consultation and could save thousands of dollars.
  2. Trust but verify It’s not unusual for us to have a client bring in a $20,000 or $50,000 diamond that was purchased on the Internet. We authenticate and match the stone to the laboratory report that came with the purchase to assure everything is ‘kosher.’ Get a Jewelry Judge Double Check!
  3. Insure before the honeymoon We do not sell insurance, but can show our clients how to obtain no obligation complementary insurance quotes.
  4. Condition Check – Our laboratory instruments can detect small chips or fissures in a diamond that might have occurred during the stone setting process. It’s fairly common to find a chipped corner hidden under a prong that was squeezed to tightly. Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon Double Check

What Should You Do With Mom’s Jewelry?

Estate3 A parents death is a traumatic and difficult experience for those left behind.

Don’t let the estate settlement of your jewelry cause additional complexity or disharmony among your heirs.

We know jewelry is important to some and less important to others.

To some it is memories and a story that connects them to the dearly departed.

To others it represents a financial gift.

Protect Your Inheritance by ensuring you have fair market value appraisal reports for your estate jewelry and include a copy with your will. Designate an heir to receive each piece or have the estate sell the jewelry, since cash is always easier to fairly distribute.

Prevent misunderstandings and ill feelings. If you are in the process of settling an estate that includes jewelry, bring it in for a consultation, so we can help identify what is real and what is costume jewelry. Too often people discard items, thinking them fake when they are actually real. Some costume jewelry has value as collector items.

Don’t let some appraiser come in and cherry-pick the best pieces.

We Do Not Buy or Sell Jewelry!

Come in for a Jewelry Judge Consultation, call (713) 961-1432 or Book an Appointment On-Line Today!

Why is a Jewelry Appraisal like a Home Inspection?

Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon -3WhiteWhileYouWatch You need to know;

  • What you’re getting before you buy.
  • The features of the house and if any features reveal the need for repair or maintenance, before you make a commitment.
  • Comparable values of similar homes for sale, under contract or sold in the area.
  • if there are any ‘money traps’, was everything properly disclosed to you.
  • Assure you’re getting what you pay for in a house.
  • Know the price you paid is fair.

How much risk are you willing to take by undervaluing, or overvaluing your new home?

Think about what you are willing to pay for a home? $65,000?  $250,000? over a $million?

Now replace words ‘house’ and ‘home’ in the above text with ‘Diamond’, ‘Engagement Ring’ or ‘Estate Jewelry’.

And think about what an appraisal report could be worth to you…to your heirs….

As with a home inspection you expect a written report with accurate measurements, clear photographs, and detailed descriptions prepared by a qualified professional and delivered in a timely manner.

Batman

Arrive at your Jewelry Judge appointment with questions and concerns – You will leave with peace of mind.

Safeguard Your Jewelry

jewelry-judge-ben-gordon-group0Most seniors, both men and women, have had a life time to either inherit or receive several pieces of fine jewelry.  After years of accumulating fine jewelry and watches, the majority of a senior’s estate jewelry goes undocumented until it becomes a job for their children.  The burden of cleaning out closets, furniture, nick-knacks and keepsakes to be distributed among children, grandchildren, and favorite charities may also fall to your children.  Don’t leave your fine jewelry to chance!

1houseTransitioning from one home to another is stressful and often little things fall through the gaps in planning.  With jewelry it is often only after a loss that we recognize the importance of the piece.  The history, memory or story, whether a gift or family heirloom, it is wise to document your jewelry with an appraisal.

Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon recommends having an appraisal when jewelry is purchased to confirm the value and ensure you have not unknowingly purchased an item that was improperly identified or misrepresented.

jewelry-judge-ben-gordon-jewelry-box

When preparing to move, Ben recommends documenting fine jewelry, watches, diamonds and colored gemstones with an appraisal report.  An appraisal or consultation of fine jewelry, watches, diamonds, and colored gemstones is also important for insurance replacement, estate distribution, liquidation and both pre/post purchase confirmation.

Safety Tips When Moving:

  1. Before you move, make sure all your fine jewelry, watches and gemstones are insured.
  2. Keep it with you, Place it in a safety deposit box or Have a family member lock it away for you until you are settled.
  3. Seniors downsizing to a senior community, appraise and document your jewelry, to include who will inherit each piece for estate-planning purposes.
  4. If moving to a condo, apartment or senior community, check your renter’s insurance policy for what is covered and check other insurance companies, who specialize in insuring jewelry.
  5. Update appraisals every 3-5 years because of continually changing market values.

When it comes to fine jewelry, being under-insured, especially for emotionally meaningful
family pieces, can be devastating when it comes to theft, fire, flooding or other loss.

jj-64yearsJewelry Judge Ben Gordon provides gemstone and jewelry appraisals for insurance, probate and estate purposes, as well as consultation services for pre-purchases, for those wanting more information before buying jewelry on-line or from local stores.  Ben Gordon, Master Graduate Gemologist/Appraiser has been appraising jewelry in the Galleria area since 1975.  Ben brings over sixty-four years (64) experience to his business.

Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon is an “independent” appraiser, not affiliated with any retail establishment or jewelry manufacturer, and we do not buy or sell jewelry.  We represent the client, exclusively.  Our “While You Watch” appraising offers customers the opportunity to learn and participate in the appraisal procedure from beginning to end, providing the comfort of knowing that your jewelry never leaves your sight.

Pick Up & Delivery Available!  We provide pickup and delivery of your jewelry for valuation consultation or appraisals with a guaranteed 24 Hour turn around.  Senior discount available, know what you have and what your jewelry is worth, call us today!

Ben advocates fair pricing and helps his clients understand and protect their valuable assets.  His informative public awareness programs for interested groups and professional organizations provide numerous practical consumer tips.  For more information about speaking engagements or appraisals, click jewelryjudgebengordon.com or find him on the Houston Better Business Bureau website.

Diamonds and the “F” Word

loose-diamondperfectround.jpgWhen speaking of diamonds, the “F” word can mean Fracture, Fissure or Feather. These terms all describe naturally occurring characteristics within a diamond that affect its clarity.

Fractures are breaks in diamonds that are not parallel to the cleavage plane. Fractures are usually irregular in shape, making a diamond look chipped.

Fissure or Cleavages are cracks in a diamond that occur in a straight line. If the cracks reach the surface or run deep, the durability of the stone may be reduced with the possibility of the diamond breaking with age.

Feather
Feather

Feathers are cracks in the stone that resemble the design of feathers. The presence of feathers in a diamond usually does not affect the life of the stone unless and until the feather runs through a major length of the stone or shows major stress points where it can break.

Fractures, fissures and feathers cannot be polished out to enhance a stone, but they CAN be filled with a type of liquid glass containing lead (Pb). This process is somewhat like filling a crack in a car windshield.

Fracture Filled2
Fracture Filled

The imperfection is still there but it is just less visible to the naked eye. This “fracture filling” is known as “clarity enhancement” or “CE.” It makes a less perfect stone look better to the eye.

Filling these fractures does not strengthen the stone. In fact, if subjected to heat and pressure – such as when the diamond is reset, resized or cleaned – the stone can become damaged and even break. Even a slight tap in an unfortunate spot can ruin a treated diamond.

What does “CE” do to pricing and value?
“Clarity enhanced” or “fracture filled” diamonds should carry a lower price. They will still sparkle, but they are certainly less valuable and should be priced accordingly.

If you want to achieve the sparkle of a large diamond with high clarity, but the one you really want is beyond your budget, a fracture filled or ‘CE’ clarity enhanced diamond may be just the thing for you. Be aware though that such a diamond does not have the rarity or the intrinsic beauty of an untreated diamond and your price should reflect this.

A Fraudulent Practice?
Not necessarily. “Fracture filling” only becomes unethical when clarity enhancement is intentionally concealed and not disclosed at the point of sale.

Should the Jeweler Disclose Enhancements?

FTC Guidelines for the Jewelry Industry strongly state that “it is illegal for a Diamond Seller NOT to Disclose that a diamond has been Clarity-Enhanced by fracture-filling.

Customers should ask for a diamond grading report and verify that they understand exactly what they are paying for. Each term used in describing a diamond on the grading report should be discussed at the point of purchase.  A knowledgeable and trusted independent jewelry appraiser is needed when making important purchases.

What should I do?
When you are unsure, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a third party independent jewelry appraiser who is also a gemologist. If you have a concern about a recent diamond purchase, bring it in to the Jewelry Judge as soon as possible.

For the informed consumer, there is no reason to fear the “F” words. We are here to help you enjoy a fantastic and fun experience with your fascinating diamond purchase.

Note: A diamond grading report is not a guarantee of value, merely a description of the unique features of a specific diamond based upon laboratory examination – but that’s the subject of another article!

Read more at Changing the Natural Essence of the Diamond

Have the Jewelry Judge Evaluate Your Estate Jewelry

Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon provides appraisal and consultation services of Diamonds, Colored Gemstones, and Fine Jewelry for insurance, estate and division of property.

We evaluate estate jewelry, whether in a jewelry box;

 

Or, in a suitcase! Our Gem Lab or a location of your choice.

Ben+Suitcase

Ben advocates fair pricing and helps his clients understand and protect their valuable assets. His informative public awareness programs for interested groups and professional organizations provide numerous practical consumer tips.

His informative public awareness programs for interested groups and professional organizations provide numerous practical consumer tips.  For more information about appraisals, consultation services and speaking engagements, go to our website.

 

NOROVIRUS IS NOT THE ONLY CRUISE DANGER

Norovirus is an epidemic of gastroenteritis, happening all too often on cruise ships. Limit your exposure by:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables and ensure seafood is cooked thoroughly.
  • When you are sick, do not prepare food.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly and machine dry.

Pirate Virus is an epidemic of Tourists easily separated from their money.

16-CruiseBlue

Limit your exposure to overpaying for jewelry by avoiding:

Pirate Ploys

  • Inflated List Prices – Nothing says value like a price tag. Pirates inflate “list” prices on the tags, trying to lure you into thinking the jewelry is worth much more than it is. Then if you bargain they will reduce the price and still make a pirate’s profit.
  • Light Makes White – Bright lights make every diamond look better. Pirate shops may have special light bulbs to make a yellowish diamond glisten white.
  • Hide the Flaws – Pirates may hide flaws under the prongs of the setting. Under the prong, an I1 clarity may appear like a more valuable VS2. Learn more about the  4Cs.
  • Grade Bumping – Pirates exaggerate the grade. Pirates will be INACCURATE by one or two color and clarity grades since you do not know which lab definitions they use. Pirates like to provide a range, such as G-H color.
  • Laser Drilling – Pirate diamonds may have drill holes to hide dark carbon impurities and enhance the diamond clarity when viewed by the naked eye.
  • Fracture Filling – Pirates use inexpensive fracture filled diamonds, which make the flaws invisible, but the diamond is unstable and likely to break.
  • Synthetic Diamonds – “Natural” Lab Grown diamonds are everywhere! Especially on pirate ships where synthetics may get mixed-in with natural mined diamonds. Learn more about Synthetics.
  • CZ, Quartz or Moissanite – Diamond look-a-likes “simulants” can fool you and every pirate knows it. You might come home with a $12 cubic zirconia that cost you $2,000. It is amazing how these look-a-likes get mixed into pirate jewelry.
  • The 50% Off Sale – Pirates love Huge Sales (don’t you?). Don’t fall for it, pirates mark up everything, then mark them half-price during a sale. Liquidation and “going out of business” sales use the same ploy.

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If you want to enjoy the Bounty and avoid over priced Pirate Booty, come in for a Jewelry Judge Consultation before your cruise! We will educate you on trends and scams we are aware of, as well as arm you with the knowledge to make you an informed consumer.

Beware of buying diamonds, gemstones or jewelry while on a cruise. Enjoy your vacation, enjoy the food, company and souvenir T-Shirts, but avoid the pirate jewelry. Put the money you will have saved from not buying the pirate jewelry toward another holiday! Bring us along as your guests!

The Jewelry Judge Forensics to the Rescue!

We often see clients with jewelry purchase nightmares! Luckily the forensic evidence documented by a Jewelry Judge Appraisal Report may go a long way to resolve disputes and avoid going to court!  A case in point involves a center stone engagement ring with Cadillac* cut side diamonds shown here.

Following our original appraisal our client’s wife decided to change the design by replacing the side stones with baguettes. Per her request, her jeweler created a new setting with baguettes instead of the Cadillac cuts. Our client came to us with the re-designed ring for a revised and updated appraisal.

The jeweler told them the Cadillac cuts were less desirable than baguettes. But he knew a diamond supplier in New York who would take the side stones ‘off their hands’ in exchange for smaller baguettes and some cash. The jeweler charged $$$$ over and above the trade-in value. He was extremely slow in providing the finished design (a potential red flag for any custom jewelry work!).

The jeweler never described the quality of the replacement side diamonds, so the client was not aware of the fluorescence present in one of the replacement baguettes; nor was she aware that both side baguettes were a lower color grade than her original side diamonds. Furthermore, the original mounting was PT950 platinum and the new mounting was PT900 platinum which is a less costly material.

Receipt

Our Findings

When the gemologists at The Jewelry Judge examined the new ring design under the microscope, it was discovered that the center diamond had the GIA laser inscription hidden behind a prong and the diamond seating was poorly done. Several scratches were also present on this new mounting. The baguettes tested as a lower quality than the original Cadillac cut side diamonds that had been documented scientifically in our original appraisal report.

Armed with the Jewelry Judge appraisal report of their original ring; detailed photos and our written assessment; together with the newly documented observations and the updated valuation, our client requested the return of the original stones in their original ring design.

The jeweler argued defensively. But in the end, confronted by the written report documentation from The Jewelry Judge, he returned the original ring and refunded the client’s $$$$.

Case Settled

Our client was happy to be made whole with the return of the original ring – thanks to a Jewelry Judge Appraisal!

Protect your jewelry with a Jewelry Judge Appraisal Report and be sure to come back for periodic updates. This client was certainly happy they did!

Book an appointment online:  Book Appointment

Note: The Jewelry Judge does not buy or sell jewelry. We are ‘independent’ appraisers which means we avoid conflicts of interest by not carrying an inventory, not buying and not selling jewelry from or to our clients.  We represent our client’s interests exclusively!

*Cadallac cut is described elsewhere in the documentation as ‘shield’ shape also known as ‘step cut trapezoid.’

JJ-Court-gavel33Need an Expert Witness in court?

Read the Jewelry Judge Goes to Court.

Over 63 years of valuable experience in the jewelry industry. You don’t find that every day.

 

Germs – Not the Only Danger of Cruise Vacations

Clients come to us after a cruise vacation to obtain insurance appraisals on the jewelry they purchased. This story almost NEVER has a happy ending! We will continue to document cases like the following…

Our client traded her diamond earrings with .80 ctw stones (SI) for 1.75 ctw diamond earrings (I-2). That’s right I-2/3. Remember I stands for Inclusion. A clarity grade of I-2/3 means the diamond is of industrial quality – not worthy of fine jewelry. But this is not the most painful issue.

In addition to surrendering her pretty earrings, she paid an additional price of $20,000 for the privilege of purchasing the larger, but inferior quality earrings. Yes, size does count, but quality should trump size in most diamond purchases.

Is it a crime if you GIVE your jewelry and money to a Pirate? Maybe it’s not illegal, but is sure is a shame!

How could we appraise low quality stones for their replacement value when the client overpaid by thousands of dollars – maybe even tens of thousands? This is a real dilemma for appraisers and insurance companies as well.

Have fun with the costume jewelry and souvenir purchases and enjoy the vacation. Put the money you save from the diamond purchase toward another holiday! But please beware when buying diamonds while on a cruise!