Buyers guide

If you are new to gemstones, this guide will help you find a gemstone to meet your needs.


What are you buying this gemstone for?
What kind of gemstone are you looking for?
What to look for in a great gemstone?
Why are gemstones treated?
How do I care for my gemstone?

What are you buying this gemstone for?

 

If you're buying a gemstone to be set in a piece of jewelry, not all gemstones are ideal for certain pieces of jewelry. Gemstones vary in hardness and can be too soft for a ring that will be worn on a daily basis (e.g. Tanzanite). However, softer gemstones can be used in jewelry that is worn occasionally for special events. Harder gems work well in bracelets and one can use almost any gemstone for pendants, earrings, pins and brooches.

Another consideration when buying a gemstone is calibration.  Most gemstones are sold in calibrated sizes to fit most standard jewelry settings.  Touchstone has a calibrated size chart which you can consult for this purpose.  Good jewelers can create a setting for any size stone, so if you decide to have a custom piece made, you do not need to worry about calibrated gemstone sizes.

What kind of gemstone are you looking for?

 

This is largely a personal decision.  Most buyers have a personal reason for buying a gemstone and can base their decision on their birthstone charts, an occasion, a favourite colour or even a favourite gemstone.

If you know what kind of gemstone you are looking for, click on the gemstone in the Gemstones A-Z drop down menu,  which will take you to the shop page containing all the results for that gemstone.  To fine tune your results, use the advanced search options to sort by type, colour, shape, size, weight or price. Touchstone has thousands of stock items, so learning how to narrow down criteria in our inventory will save you a lot of time.

By clicking on the image or the “more…” option of the selected gemstone, you will be taken to the page containing the detailed description and pricing.  Please note that all photographs are actual photos of the specific gemstone on sale, unless otherwise stated.  Touchstone only uses generic photos for those stock items with a very repeatable colour. Pay special attention to size as a 1 carat stone can look just as big as a 5 carat stone in a photograph.

To learn more about a gemstone that interests you, please visit our Gemipedia. The Touchstone Gemipedia provides detailed information on all of our gemstones, including other interesting facts to help you make the correct choice.

What to look for in a great gemstone?

 

There is no single grading system for coloured gemstones but they are valued according to the "4 C's" -colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. As there are more than 50 varieties of gemstones, each with its own characteristics, this is not surprising.

Of the 4 C’s, it is colour that is the most important single characteristic. Gemologists use specific sets of terms for describing the colour of gemstones: hue, saturation and tone. See the Colour Chart for some detailed advice on evaluating a gemstone’s colour.

Cut and clarity are also important as they affect the colour and brilliance of a gemstone. Coloured gemstones are typically graded according to a clarity scale, and every gemstone listing on the Touchstone Gems website will include the clarity rating for that particular gem. In general, gemstones with no visible inclusions are preferred, but in many cases, it is the inclusions that add character and individuality to a gem. Distinctive inclusions can help to identify the origin of a stone. So while it is true that the higher the clarity grade, the higher the value of the gem, inclusions that don’t interfere with the brilliance and sparkle of a gem don’t affect its value.

Why are gemstones treated?

 

A gemstone is treated or enhanced to improve colour. A treated stone is always less expensive than a similar untreated stone. Treated gemstones are gaining popularity because the supply of high quality gemstones is falling as mines are depleted. With consumer interest in gemstones increasing, fine gems are becoming scarce, and this scarcity increases prices.

The most common of these techniques is heat treatment.  This treatment improves gem colour through the use of high temperature and actually mimics the effects of nature as she creates gems through heat and pressure. Other kinds of techniques include fracture filling and the addition of beryllium to the heating process.

Most rubies and sapphires are now very rare in untreated form.  Natural untreated stones are so expensive that they out of the reach of most consumers.

A number of popular gemstones, such as tourmaline, spinel, amethyst and garnet are almost never treated.

How do I care for my gemstone?

 

Here are a few basic guidelines to keep your gems looking vibrant and new:

  • Keep your jewelry pieces in separate paper, silk or velvet cases or separate compartments to prevent damage from scratching.  Because gemstones vary in durability and hardness, by doing this you will prolong their luster and sparkle.
  • Many gemstones fade or discolor when exposed to direct sunlight and major shifts in temperature.  Store your gemstones out of direct sunlight in a controlled temperature.
  • Gemstones can eventually work their way loose so always check your jewelry before you wear it.  It is wise to remove your jewelry if you participate in sport or other activities.  Beaded-type necklaces like pearls will need to be restrung every 2 years (or more frequently if they are worn every day).
  • Gemstones lose their luster when exposed to everyday chemicals like chlorine and soap.  Remove your jewelry when doing housecleaning, bathing and while swimming.  Certain cosmetics and perfumes can also damage your gems and make them dull, so make sure you put your jewelry on after your have finished applying these.
  • Some gems, such as opal, have a significant water content, and have to be protected from dry air.

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