How To Purchase Gemstones on the Internet|
Author: John McQueen
So you've been looking to purchase a quality gemstone on the internet and you need some help determining what characteristics you should be looking for in a quality gem. This article is intended as a resource to help guide you through a successful gemstone purchase by avoiding many of the common pitfalls that some consumers become entangled. These pitfalls can often leave a sour taste in your mouth and make you a little head- shy about purchasing gems of various types online.
I am aware that many people have had bad previous gemstone purchasing experiences, and some, in my opinion, were downright awful. The common themes in their communications include:
*Didn't really "know" the seller as good as I should have before purchasing my gemstone...
*Color in hand was significantly different than the gemstone image shown online...
*Didn't read the "fine print" regarding my gemstone purchase...
*Wanted to return the gemstone and the seller charged a hefty re- stocking fee...
*Didn't understand the importance of clarity,tone, hue and saturation before making my gemstone purchase...
And the list goes on and on... If you have notbeen through an experience like this, either you're a really web-savvy consumer or you have just been plain lucky. Many gemstone consumers have thrown a lot of their hard-earned dollars into gemstones that are of significantly less value than the money they have spent. This is unfortunate for them and quite disappointing to the "good guys" within the gemstone industry.
How many times have you wanted to know that you are making the correct assessment of a potential acquisition? I have been asked this question frequently and I am amazed that a large percentage of consumers simply do not do the necessary homework before making a buying decision. Certainly not due to the lack of credible resources that are available to the consumer, many people simply let the "want" of an immediate purchase get ahead of their good judgment. Proceed with caution is always the best place to begin.
Let's start with a generic list of things to consider in the process of making a gemstone purchase. The "generic list" includes such items as the "5 W's," namely, Who, What, Where, Why, When. If your inquiry covers several or even all of these questions, you have made a good start in obtaining the necessary information you need in making a wise purchasing decision on your next gemstone.
The Gemstone "Who" and "Where"
Who you are considering doing business with and where they are located can tell you much about a gemstone retailer. Is the gemstone retailer headquartered domestically or are they a foreign company with an online presence? This fact is generally known/disclosed at the time you make payment, but not always. The whole foreign vs. domestic issue is worthy of another discussion altogether, but you need to decide in your own mind what you're most comfortable with. Some foreign companies use a domestic mail drop to ship their gemstones. On the surface, they appear to be a domestic company, which would willingly submit to FTC rules and regulations, many of which protect you as the consumer, but some foreign companies couldn't care less about these guidelines. So, it never hurts to ask the question. This will help you to avoid the smoke-and-mirrors game that many foreign sellers implement in their marketing strategy. I know of one company, in particular, marketing gemstones that has many concurrent reincarnations, as I like to call them, on the internet at the same time. They have many websites, all with different looks, and sell essentially from the same inventory. While this type of masked marketing is not in and of itself "bad" nor "dishonest," it sure makes it difficult to get the answer to these first couple of questions and creates confusion for many gemstone buyers. Who am I considering doing business with and where are they located? You might want to cat around on google a bit to find available information and maybe even get some references. Testimonials and referrals represent a major portion of our business and we willingly share our customer references/experiences on our site to make our reputation "real" for would-be clients. Good stuff! So, understanding who you are about to do business with and where they are located provides you with a foundation of knowledge from which to proceed in the process of obtaining your first/next gemstone.
The Gemstone "What"
The What question may be answered by simply taking a look at the overall quality range of gemstones the retailer is offering on their site. Does the gemstone retailer carry low-grade gemstones, high-grade, or a broad range of quality? This should speak volumes to you. There are many retailers that simply carry the lower grades of gemstones for a cheap price and show out the best of these grades as top-quality stones. When you view the pictures of these stones, you may think you are looking at top color, relative to other gemstones listed, when in fact you may still looking at run-of-the-mill, poorly colored stones that may be slotted a bit higher in the color range than the others. And yes, there are a LOT of these types of stones available for around $300/ct by a growing number of vendors. The statements regarding the quality of this material are often exaggerated and the pictures on these stones may not even be close to representing the actual item. Caveat Emptor, which is a Latin phrase meaning: "Buyer Beware!" Good advice for us all. Other considerations related to What include a thorough understanding of the retailer's "fine print."
The Gemstone "Why"
The Why question is really self- explanatory.... because you want to own a quality gemstone. Right? In addition, you probably want to try to understand why the company, whose gemstone you are viewing, is in the gemstone business. What I mean by this is...other than the obvious reason, to sell their product for a profit, do they appear to have a good business interest in the type of gemstone you are considering or does the seller just offer it as another line of gemstones on their site. Your interests would be best served by shopping with a retailer that has a good stake and large general emphasis in the type of material in which you have an interest. This will provide you with your best chance at viewing a nice collection of gems from which to choose and competitive pricing. Additionally, I recommend that you purchase from sellers that are more than happy to work with you on a custom order. If they are hesitant to do this, it may indicate that they are getting their gemstones from other retailers and don't want to bother with an order like yours because they simply can't turn it around quickly. It is then possible for you to find yourself purchasing a stone which is only close to what you really desire. Why settle for something "close" when you are getting ready to drop a chunk of hard-earned change on a fancy gemstone for yourself?
The Gemstone "When"
And finally, the When question deals with such inquiries as: When will my gemstone order ship and by what method (carrier)? Are there any extra fees when shipping gemstones? When do you restock your gemstone inventory? When is the best time of year to purchase a quality gemstone? You get the idea. By asking these types of questions, you get to know your gemstone retailer better and can pave the way for a long-term, successful relationship with your gemstone dealer.
In summary, it is important that you have a good understanding of the company from which you wish to make a gemstone purchase AND their quality and price are in keeping with your overall expectations. In our company's experience, we have found it amazing how much repeat business we have done with our valued clients over the years by simply providing answers to these basic questions.
Hopefully, you will make many wise gemstone purchases in the days, months and years to come. There are many types of gemstones available in the market today and you owe it to yourself to get the facts FIRST before making any additions to your gemstone collection. I encourage you to put this "purchasing model" in place to avoid the common pitfalls and disappointments of making incorrect buying decisions on your next gemstone purchase. Give it a try! You'll be glad you did.
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John McQueen is a long-time rockhound, lapidarist, internet entrepreneur and acclaimed freelance writer on various topics related to the gemstone and jewelry industry. For more information on purchasing fine gemstones on the internet, please visit his company's site dedicated to beautiful gemstones at www.eTanzanite.com