What to know when selling gemstones

What to know when selling gemstones © Own image

A golden ring, with a valuable bright red ruby. Even as a child, grandma always told us how valuable the ring and the stone, which she had already inherited from her grandmother.

Real gemstones and what looks like them

Time jump - now you are sitting with your precious gem with someone who knows about it and learn, albeit cautiously introduced, that the red stone on your ring is probably actually a ruby.

However, not one that took its origin from the earth. Rather, the stone comes from one of the experimental kitchens of the ingenious tinkerer Auguste Verneuil, who already developed a process for the artificial production of rubies and the materially related sapphires at the end of the 19th century.

After production by the Verneuil process had become suitable for mass production around 1910, stones in red and blue (ruby and sapphire) were produced on a large scale and set in rings, necklaces, brooches and other jewelry. In this way, the masses' ravenous appetite for precious stones could be satisfied - and at moderate prices.

And so the myth of the priceless family heirloom around grandmother's ring fades into something whose price is somewhere between the material value of the gold and its own ideal value.

Fake Gemstones: Imitation & Semi Precious Stones

After jewelry has always been an expression of the social status of the wearer, of course, just for that reason often cheated. Genuine gemstones were replaced with cheaper minerals or artificial imitations to make it possible for less affluent customers to afford "high-carat" jewelry.

Diamonds were thus replaced by other white stones such as rock crystals, lead crystal glass or rhinestones. Since the mid-1950s, it has also been possible to produce diamonds synthetically, whereby the artificial diamonds of newer generations are hardly distinguishable from real stones, even for experts.

The same thing happened with common colored stones. For the blue sapphire, just as for the ruby, synthetic stones were often used, which can be produced in the same flame fusion process invented by the above-mentioned Mr. Verneuil. But also glass imitations were often incorporated instead of real sapphires and rubies.

Emeralds were imitated with colored glass, peridot and verdelite - green tourmaline. Light blue aquamarine was replaced with spinel of the same color just after the Second World War, but often imitated only with glass.

In addition, in the fashion jewelry of the 19th and 20th centuries, stones of the quartz series - genuine as well as synthetically produced - were often used: violet amethysts, brown smoky quartz, yellowish citrine and also pale pink rose quartz and crystal-clear rock crystal adorned the ladies of the past decades and centuries.

Selling gemstones: What prices can be expected?

However, those who want to sell jewelry with gemstones in Austria often experience disappointment - even if they are genuine stones.

Price evaluation for set stones

If the gemstones for sale are set in jewelry, the price evaluation of the stones, especially aspects that are relevant for resale:

  • Quality and conservation of the stone
  • Value of the stone in the present condition
  • Resalability of the surrounding jewel
  • For old pieces: original condition or modified?

Prices when buying loose gemstones

If you want to sell loose gemstones, in addition to the size and quality of the piece, the demand for the particular stone in the particular cut determines the value. Every stone color and cut has its time and is subject to fashion. For this very reason, unfortunately, many stones, even if they are beautiful, are practically unsaleable.

To reuse an old stone, a goldsmith must design and make a piece of jewelry specifically for the stone. Because it is very unlikely that, conversely, the stone at hand corresponds exactly to the properties that a goldsmith is looking for just for a piece of jewelry.

If the stone or the surrounding piece of jewelry already has wear marks, minor damage or a cut that is no longer in demand due to its age, the purchase prices are set very low by the trade. Often gem dealers and jewelers refuse to buy a stone or piece of jewelry at all.

The main reasons for rejection by dealers or for low prices when buying as jewelry - prices barely above the material value of the precious metal - are all of an economic nature: The extremely high level of labor costs and the decentralized location of Austria in relation to the major diamond trading centers quickly make a gemstone purchase uneconomical due to the expense involved.

First and foremost, this concerns meleè goods, i.e. pieces with very small stones, as well as pieces with less valuable gemstones. For jewelers, it is cheaper to purchase new, graduated meleè goods from wholesalers than to buy old stones and refurbish them.
Since colored stones are often not calibrated cut, the probability that a particular stone will fit exactly into an existing setting as a repair stone is not very high.

What gems can be sold

Unlike gold and silver, there is no international reference price for gemstones. Such a price would hardly be possible, since each piece is unique. The value of individual stones is therefore not only measured by weight, purity, color and cut, but also by a certain subjectivity on all sides.

As a rule of thumb for the sale of gemstones, the more beautiful and larger, the easier it will be to find a buyer. Because from a certain size and quality gemstones are increasingly considered as an investment. However, it is also important that the stones are untreated. This does not mean that they should be uncut - on the contrary. But that they have not undergone any attempts at artificial "improvements", e.g. by heating. Especially in demand are the "big 3 color stones": ruby, sapphire and emerald.

Gemstone purchase & consulting in Vienna

Gold & Co founder Walter Hell-Höflinger is a sworn and court certified expert for precious metals & jewels, European gemmologist as well as expert member of the Austrian Gemmological Society.

You want to sell gemstones or pieces with stones?

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